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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Prison Legal News v. Betterton PC-TX-0015
Docket / Court 2:12-cv-00699 ( E.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Post-PLRA Jail and Prison Private Settlement Agreements
Prison Legal News
Case Summary
On November 9, 2012, Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues, filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas against Upshur County, Texas, alleging violation of its rights to free speech and due process at the Upshur County Jail. On ... read more >
On November 9, 2012, Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues, filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas against Upshur County, Texas, alleging violation of its rights to free speech and due process at the Upshur County Jail. On October 10, 2013, the plaintiff filed a second amended complaint adding allegations of violations of the right to free press. PLN was represented by the Texas Civil Rights Project, as well as by lawyers who work for its umbrella organization, the Human Rights Defense Center. The plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief, along with nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages.

According to the complaint, PLN mailed copies of its monthly publication to jail prisoners, as well as copies of a book titled Protecting Your Health and Safety. The jail rejected approximately 90 of PLN's publications over a one-year period. The jail also rejected legal mail sent to prisoners by PLN. No notice was provided to the prisoners regarding the censorship of PLN's publications. The complaint alleges that the Upshur County Jail's prisoner handbook "contains no written criteria explaining when a publication will be rejected," and jail policy "does not provide a sender any notice or explanation when a book is censored."

On September 30, 2013, the district court (Judge Rodney Gilstrap) granted in part and denied in part the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. The court (Judge Gilstrap) found that modifications to the jail's "correspondence plan" were necessary in order to meet standards guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The court (Judge Gilstrap) ordered implementation of specific terms for rejecting correspondence.

The parties entered into a settlement agreement that was approved by the court on December 6, 2013. Under the agreement, the defendants agreed to adopt a new policy for correspondence and agreed to distribute publications such as Prison Legal News. The jail also agreed to provide notice to senders and prisoners, and an opportunity to appeal, when mail was censored or rejected.

Priyah Kaul - 10/16/2014


compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Mail
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action State law
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
42 U.S.C. § 1983
42 U.S.C. § 1981
Defendant(s) Upshur County Jail
Plaintiff Description Monthly publication about criminal justice matters, addressed to prisoners nationwide.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2013
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 ]

Links Prison Legal News Homepage
Prison Legal News
By: Prison Legal News
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:12−cv−00699 (E.D. Tex.) 11/01/2012
PC-TX-0015-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 11/01/2012
PC-TX-0015-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Prison Legal News' Motion for Preliminary Injunction 11/01/2012
PC-TX-0015-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order 09/30/2013 (E.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0015-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint 10/07/2013
PC-TX-0015-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Agreed Final Judgment 12/06/2013 (E.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0015-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Gilstrap, James Rodney (E.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0015-0004 | PC-TX-0015-0005 | PC-TX-0015-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Harrington, James C (Texas)
PC-TX-0015-0002
Hull, Alissa R (Texas)
PC-TX-0015-9000
Kelly, Sean W. (Texas)
PC-TX-0015-0003 | PC-TX-0015-0005 | PC-TX-0015-9000
Leatherbury, Thomas S. (Texas)
PC-TX-0015-0003 | PC-TX-0015-0005 | PC-TX-0015-9000
McCoy, Kimberly R. (Texas)
PC-TX-0015-0003 | PC-TX-0015-0005 | PC-TX-0015-9000
McGiverin, Brian Rolland (Texas)
PC-TX-0015-0001 | PC-TX-0015-0002 | PC-TX-0015-0003 | PC-TX-0015-0005 | PC-TX-0015-9000
Medlock, Scott Charles (Texas)
PC-TX-0015-0002 | PC-TX-0015-0003 | PC-TX-0015-9000
Weber, Lance (Vermont)
PC-TX-0015-0003 | PC-TX-0015-0005 | PC-TX-0015-9000
Wilson, Marissa Anne (Texas)
PC-TX-0015-0003 | PC-TX-0015-0005 | PC-TX-0015-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Hawkins, Robert Allen (Texas)
PC-TX-0015-0005 | PC-TX-0015-9000
Tristan, Stephen (Texas)
PC-TX-0015-9000
Weiland, S. Cass (Texas)
PC-TX-0015-0005 | PC-TX-0015-9000
Youngblood Grigson, Joanna (Texas)
PC-TX-0015-0005 | PC-TX-0015-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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