University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Prison Legal News v. Cook PC-OR-0004
Docket / Court 98-1344 ( D. Or. )
State/Territory Oregon
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Speech and Religious Freedom
Case Summary
On October 29, 1998, the Prison Legal News and inmates in Oregon prisons filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon against the Oregon Department of Corrections and several of its officials. The plaintiffs, who were represented by the Oregon Law ... read more >
On October 29, 1998, the Prison Legal News and inmates in Oregon prisons filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon against the Oregon Department of Corrections and several of its officials. The plaintiffs, who were represented by the Oregon Law Center and private counsel, sought injunctive relief as well as damages, alleging that the defendants' mail policy, as applied to subscription non-profit publications, violated due process and the First Amendment rights of both the inmates and the non-profit publisher.

The mail policy prohibited the receipt of standard rate mail, which was the postage rate used by non-profit organizations. The inmates were not given notice that mail had been rejected, nor were they given the opportunity to contest the rejection. The inmate plaintiffs had subscribed to the newsletter, but did not receive it, because it was mailed by standard postage rate.

The defendants' moved for summary judgment and the plaintiffs' made a cross-motion for summary judgment. On September 13, 1999, the District Court (Judge Malcolm F. Marsh) granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and denied the plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment.

The plaintiffs appealed. On February 7, 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Judge Robert R. Beezer) reversed the District Court's grant of summary judgment and remanded the case. Prison Legal News v. Cook, 238 F.3d 1145 (9th Cir. 2001). The court held the policy of rejection of subscription non-profit organization mail, because it was sent by standard rate postage, violated the First Amendment rights of the inmates and the non-profit organization. It reasoned that the speech in the newsletters was core protected speech. The court further held that the defendants violated the inmates' right of due process by failing to provide the inmate plaintiffs with notice and opportunity to contest the rejection of the mail in question. The defendant officials, however, were entitled to qualified immunity.

On August 7, 2001, the District Court (Judge Marsh) entered an order, which provided that the mail policy was unconstitutional, as applied to subscription non-profit organization mail, that the defendants were permanently enjoined from enforcing the mail policy against subscription mail from non-profit organizations, and that the defendants were required to provide the recipients of rejected subscription non-profit mail with notice and opportunity to contest the rejection. The plaintiffs' were awarded attorneys' costs and fees.

The case is closed.

Kaitlin Corkran - 06/19/2006


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Male
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
General
Mail
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Oregon Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Prisoners and publisher of non-profit newsletter challenging corrections department's policy of prohibiting receipt of standard rate mail, including subscription non-profit organization mail
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 Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 2001 - n/a
Case Closing Year 2001
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)
98-1344 (D. Or.) 01/13/2003
PC-OR-0004-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Reported Opinion 02/07/2001 (238 F.3d 1145)
PC-OR-0004-0002 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Opinion and Order 08/07/2001 (D. Or.)
PC-OR-0004-0001 PDF | Detail
Judges Beezer, Robert R. (Ninth Circuit)
PC-OR-0004-0002
Graber, Susan (Ninth Circuit)
PC-OR-0004-0002
Marsh, Malcolm Francis (D. Or.)
PC-OR-0004-0001 | PC-OR-0004-9000
Rymer, Pamela Ann (C.D. Cal., Ninth Circuit)
PC-OR-0004-0002
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Blackman, Marc D. (Oregon)
PC-OR-0004-9000
Hardy, Alison (Oregon)
PC-OR-0004-9000
Stiltner, Samuel J. (Washington)
PC-OR-0004-0002 | PC-OR-0004-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Hutchins, Christina M. (Oregon)
PC-OR-0004-0002
Londahl, Jan Peter (Oregon)
PC-OR-0004-9000
Williamson, Leonard W. (Oregon)
PC-OR-0004-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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