On September 7, 2011, Prison Legal News (PLN), a publisher that publishes magazines and other material concerning criminal justice issues, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District of Arizona against Pinal County, the Sheriff of Pinal County in his official capacity, and twenty unknown county agents in their individual capacity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Arizona Constitution. Plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, claimed that defendants had adopted and implemented mail policies and practices that restricted the right to free expression held by PLN and its subscribers as protected by the United States and Arizona Constitutions. Plaintiffs sought declaratory relief, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, and damages.
Specifically, PLN argued that, on dozens of occasions, defendants had prohibited subscribers and correspondents from receiving mail sent by PLN. PLN argued that defendants had undertaken this suppression of speech without any reference to, or justification in, safety concerns or other correctional necessities. These actions violated PLN's freedom of speech, press, and association under the First Amendment and its right to due process of law and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article II, Sections 4 and 6 of the Arizona Constitution.
On March 11, 2012, PLN filed an amended complaint naming as defendants numerous county agents who had engaged in handling and processing inmate mail. These agents were variably named in their individual or individual and official capacities as Pinal County sergeants.
On July 6, 2012, PLN filed a motion for partial summary judgment, permanent injunction, and declaratory judgment. On August 15, 2012, defendants filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment. On March 20, 2013, District Court Judge G. Murray Snow granted in part, denied in part, and deferred in part all pending motions. Prison Legal News v. Babeu, 933 F. Supp. 2d 1188 (D. Ariz. 2013). The court denied PLN's request for a permanent injunction that it may send materials into jail and have it received by addressees because of the deference to which prison officials are entitled. The court noted that PLN could easily change their materials in a way that they might come to pose security or management concerns. The court also ruled that the defendants' following policies violated the due process clause: (1) banning newspapers or magazines, (2) allowing publications only from four specific retailers, and (3) failing to provide notice of rejection and an opportunity to appeal. It did not address defendants' publisher-only rule at this time.
On May 1, 2013, District Court Judge Snow addressed the remaining portion of PLN's motion for permanent injunction on the issue of the jail's publisher-only rule. Under this rule, the jail would only admit materials that came directly from a recognized publisher, distributor, or authorized retailers that could be independently verified. The court ruled that because the jail was no longer applying this rule on an ad hoc basis but rather had established a written policy, as well as a training and review process for mailroom staff, PLN had failed to show that its materials were likely to be denied.
On September 19, 2014, the parties filed a stipulation for entry of judgment for nominal damages. The parties further stipulated that they would attempt to resolve PLN's claims for attorney's fees and costs under 42 USC §1988, and Defendants' claims for taxable costs pursuant to Rule 68 Fed.R.Civ.P. by stipulation. On September 23, 2014, District Court Judge Snow granted the parties' stipulation and awarded PLN nominal damages in the amount of $243.Richard Jolly - 10/28/2014