University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Prison Legal News v. County of San Diego JC-CA-0112
Docket / Court 3:14-cv-02417 ( S.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Prison Legal News
Attorney Organization Rosen, Bien, Galvan & Grunfeld
Case Summary
On October 10, 2014, Prison Legal News (PLN) filed a suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the County of San Diego. The plaintiff, represented by public interest and private counsel, sought declaratory relief, injunctive ... read more >
On October 10, 2014, Prison Legal News (PLN) filed a suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the County of San Diego. The plaintiff, represented by public interest and private counsel, sought declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages, claiming that the county's mail policies and practices in its jails violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, PLN claimed that the County's postcard-only mail policy and its book size limitation unconstitutionally limit PLN's ability to communicate with prisoners. Further, PLN contended that the County violated the Due Process Clause by failing to provide them with adequate notice and an opportunity to appeal these censorship decisions, and that by prohibiting the delivery of PLN's publications but allowing the delivery of the publications of others who are similarly situated, the County deprived PLN of equal protection under the law.

On May 7, 2015, the Court (Judge M. James Lorenz) granted in part and denied in part PLN's motion for a preliminary injunction requesting that the Court enjoin the County from continuing to enforce both the postcard-only mail policy and the soft-cover book size limitation, as well as a mandate that County comply with due process requirements. Finding that PLN had established a likelihood of success on the merits, the Court (Judge M. James Lorenz) ordered the County to suspend enforcement of the postcard-only policy for incoming mail no later than May 21, 2015, and to provide written notice and an administrative appeal process to senders and inmates when the County refuses to deliver publications and correspondence to inmates at the County's jails. The Court (Judge M. James Lorenz) denied PLN's motion to enjoin the book size restriction, concluding that PLN failed to establish a likelihood of success on its claim that the restriction violated its First Amendment rights.

On June 5, 2015, the County sought an interlocutory appeal in the 9th Circuit. On November 18, 2015, PLN and the County moved for a joint settlement. The county agreed to allow plaintiffs to receive both unsolicited and subscription non-postcard mail, as long as such material does not conflict with regular mail policy. The agreement also held that any time a piece of mail was not delivered, both the sender and the receiver would receive notice of the censorship, with information on how to appeal the decision to a person who is not the original censor. Both the interlocutory appeal and the original claims were dismissed with prejudice. The settlement agreement will remain enforceable until January 2021, at which time the defendant may file a motion to dismiss, contingent on a showing of substantial compliance.

Robert Lake - 06/01/2015
Carolyn Weltman - 02/28/2016


compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Mail
Search policies
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) County of San Diego
Plaintiff Description Prison Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center, is a monthly magazine that reports on criminal justice issues and prison and jail-related civil litigation.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Rosen, Bien, Galvan & Grunfeld
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
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2015 - 2021
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies After Decision: Implementation of Judicial Decrees in Correctional Settings
Written: Oct. 01, 1977
By: M. Kay Harris & Dudley P. Spiller (Temple University)
Citation: (1977)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

Docket(s)
3:14-cv-02417-L-NLS (S.D. Cal.) 05/18/2016
JC-CA-0112-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief Under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C §1983 and Damages 10/09/2014
JC-CA-0112-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction 05/07/2015 (S.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0112-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Motion [for Settlement Approval] 11/18/2015
JC-CA-0112-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Lorenz, M. James (S.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0112-0002 | JC-CA-0112-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Galvan, Ernest (California)
JC-CA-0112-0001 | JC-CA-0112-0003 | JC-CA-0112-9000
Neelakanta, Sabarish (Florida)
JC-CA-0112-0003 | JC-CA-0112-9000
Weber, Lance (Florida)
JC-CA-0112-0003 | JC-CA-0112-9000
Yelin, Jenny Snay (California)
JC-CA-0112-0003 | JC-CA-0112-9000
Yoo, Julia (California)
JC-CA-0112-0003 | JC-CA-0112-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Chapin, James M. (California)
JC-CA-0112-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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