On July 31, 2013, Prison Legal News, represented by private and in-house counsel, filed this lawsuit in the Eastern District of Virginia. PLN sued the Virginia Beach Correctional Center (VBCC) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages. PLN claimed that VBCC ...
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On July 31, 2013, Prison Legal News, represented by private and in-house counsel, filed this lawsuit in the Eastern District of Virginia. PLN sued the Virginia Beach Correctional Center (VBCC) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages. PLN claimed that VBCC has been censoring the monthly publication, books, and other correspondence that the plaintiff has sent to prisoners. PLN alleged violations of the first and fourteenth amendments for failure to provide timely notification and adequate reasons for disapproval decisions, loss of rights to communicate with willing recipients, and failure to conduct an independent review of censorship decisions.
PLN claimed that since August 2011, it had sent prisoners in custody of VBCC sample and monthly issues of Prison Legal News, information brochure packets, a book titled Protecting Your Health, and copies of Clement v. California Department of Corrections. Prior to April 2012, the prisoners were permitted to receive these publications from PLN. However, starting in April 2012, PLN began receiving returned items it had mailed to prisoners at VBCC stamped or handwritten with "Return to Sender," "Not Here," or "Refused." According to the Mail Restriction Forms given to the inmates, the items had been censored because the advertisements contained "sexually explicit material" and ordering forms with prices, which are not permitted at VBCC.
On December 8, 2014, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on the issue of banning ordering forms with prices. The court took the challenge to sexually explicit materials ban under advisement and denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment related to PLN's alleged due process violations. Additionally, the court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on PLN's claims seeking money damages due to the defendant's qualified immunity. 2014 WL 6982470.
During the litigation, the defendants revised their policies on banning "sexually explicit" publications and the appeals process regarding censorship decisions.
On March 31, 2015, the court granted PLN's original motion for summary judgment regarding the defendant's former policy of banning "sexually explicit" publications. The court permanently enjoined the defendants from reverting to their former policy. The court also granted PLN's second motion for summary judgment regarding the claim the defendant's former publication review policies failed to provide adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard as to censorship decisions. The court permanently enjoined the defendants from reverting to these former policies as well. 2015 WL 1487190.
On May 4, 2015, the parties settled and the court approved the joint consent order. The parties settled all issues except attorney's fees, which they asked the court to resolve. On September 8, 2015, the court awarded $85,189 in attorney's fees and $8,731.10 in litigation expenses. 2015 WL 5285736.Anna Jones - 11/21/2015