University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Prison Legal News v. District of Columbia PC-DC-0026
Docket / Court 2008 CA 0004598 ( State Court )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Prison Legal News
Case Summary
On June 25, 2008, Prison Legal News (PLN), a non-profit monthly publication, filed this lawsuit against the District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Represented by attorneys from the Partnership for Civil Justice, PLN brought this ... read more >
On June 25, 2008, Prison Legal News (PLN), a non-profit monthly publication, filed this lawsuit against the District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Represented by attorneys from the Partnership for Civil Justice, PLN brought this action under the District of Columbia Freedom of Information Act (D.C. FOIA), D.C. Code ยง 2-537(a)(1), requesting a response to a request previously filed with the OAG without the charging of fees.

Specifically, on January 7, 2008, PLN had requested that the OAG release the initial claim or complaint and the verdict sheet, settlement, and/or general release filed in each case where the District of Columbia Department of Corrections paid more than $1,000 in damages, attorneys' fees, or sanctions from January 1, 2000, to December 31, 2007. PLN also sought a waiver of fees in the request. PLN sought to publish this information to inform the public on how the D.C. prison system is run and managed. The OAG denied the fee waiver request claiming that it was not in the interest of the OAG to waive copying costs associated with the request, and also refused to produce the records in electronic format, which would have eliminated any copying costs. PLN claimed that the OAG did not take into account the public interest in denying the fee waiver that PLN was eligible for under law. PLN sought declaratory and injunctive relief for the requested records without any fees, and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.

On September 2, 2008, the OAG filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the requested documents had already been made available to PLN. On January 13, 2011, PLN reported that they were able to obtain over 600 responsive documents from the OAG. However, PLN claimed that the delivery of the documents was caused by this lawsuit being filed, and thus moved for attorneys' fees and costs on June 8, 2011. On December 1, 2011, Judge Michael Rankin issued an order granting attorneys' fees and costs in the amount of $75,290 to PLN. Judge Rankin held that there was a "causal nexus" between PLN's lawsuit and the production of responsive documents, and thus PLN was entitled to attorneys' fees and costs under D.C. FOIA. The case was closed following Judge Rankin's order.

John He - 11/06/2015


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Required disclosure
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Funding
Record-keeping
Records Disclosure
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General
Plaintiff Description A non-profit monthly publication which reports on criminal justice issues and prison and jail-related civil litigation, with an emphasis on prisoners' rights.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Moot
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2011
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
2008 CA 004598 (State Trial Court) 12/01/2011
PC-DC-0026-9000.pdf | Detail
State Court Website
General Documents
Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief 06/25/2008
PC-DC-0026-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Prison Legal News
Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Fees and Costs 12/01/2011
PC-DC-0026-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Prison Legal News
Judges Rankin, D. Battle Court not on record
PC-DC-0026-0002 | PC-DC-0026-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Messineo, Carl L (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0026-0001 | PC-DC-0026-9000
Verheyden-Hilliard, Mara E (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0026-0001 | PC-DC-0026-9000
Defendant's Lawyers DeMarco, Juliane T. (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0026-9000
McKinley, Erica Taylor (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0026-9000
Nickles, Peter J. (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0026-9000
Valentine, George C. (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0026-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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