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Case Name Banks v. Beard PC-PA-0025
Docket / Court 2:01-cv-01956-TFM-RCM ( W.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization ACLU National (all projects)
Case Summary
On October 18, 2001, acting pro se, a prisoner in one of Pennsylvania's Long Term Segregation prison settings filed a complaint against the state's prison administrator in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, also seeking class action status for the case. Private ... read more >
On October 18, 2001, acting pro se, a prisoner in one of Pennsylvania's Long Term Segregation prison settings filed a complaint against the state's prison administrator in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, also seeking class action status for the case. Private counsel entered the case on plaintiff's behalf. On February 22, 2002, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Benson certified the case as a class action, defining the class as "current and future Phase 2 Long Term Segregation inmates who are confined or will be confined in Pennsylvania Department of Corrections prisons located within the venue of the Western Federal Judicial District of Pennsylvania." Prisoners in Long Term Segregation are those, typically, who have been expelled from Special Management Units for failure to modify their behavior. Plaintiff's complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief to modify the state prison administrative policies which denied to Long Term Segregation residents (in the most restrictive phase, Phase 2, of the program) all access to secular magazines and newspapers and to personal photographs. Under prison policy, these prisoners were allowed to have religious and law-related publications, but had to earn (through modified behavior) Level 1 classification status, which provided them the ability to have secular publications and personal photographs in their cells. Plaintiff, in his 42 U.S.C. § 1983-based lawsuit, asserted that his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated by the state's policy, which even precluded his receiving his subscription to the Christian Science Monitor newspaper.

The defendants contended their policy served legitimate penological purposes (behavior modification, rehabilitation, security, and safety), all of which were especially important in dealing with prisoners identified as particularly incorrigible. After discovery was completed, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment in September of 2002. On November 15, 2002, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert C. Mitchell recommended granting summary judgment in favor of the prison officials. In a January 10, 2003, unpublished order, District Judge Terrence F. McVerry adopted the magistrate's decision. The district court concluded that the state's policy did not offend the First Amendment, as the policy was rationally related to legitimate penological interests and was not an exaggerated response, in view of the particular intractability of Level 2 prisoners. Plaintiffs appealed.

On February 25, 2005, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the district court. Banks v. Beard, 399 F.3d 134 (3d Cir. 2005) (Circuit Judge Julio M. Fuentes). The panel's 2-1 decision found that the blanket prohibition on secular publications and photographs could not be upheld, in view of the possibly limitless length of a prisoner's administrative assignment to Phase 2 status and the absence of proof by the state that the problems it sought to avoid by its policy had existed, would exist without it, or could not be avoided by less restrictive alternative policies. The state's "hope" that its' policy successfully aided behavior modification rehabilitation had not been supported with evidence, in the context of the case. Judge Fuentes also observed that, because these prisoners had no alternative means to access the information, the state's justification for its policy would have to be especially weighty. The state's security concerns did not impress the panel majority, however, since other means of mischief were readily available to these prisoners so that denial of First Amendment access to information did not appreciably increase prison security. Then-Circuit Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr., dissented, contending the majority had failed to accord sufficient deference to prison administrators and misapplied U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

Pennsylvania sought certiorari, hoping that the Supreme Court would review the Third Circuit's decision. On November 14, 2005, the Supreme Court agreed to review the case. Beard v. Banks, 546 U.S. 1015 (2005). In addition to briefs from the parties, the ACLU, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, The Legal Aid Society, the People for the American Way Foundation, the American Friends Service Committee, and California Prison Focus, and the United States filed amicus curiae briefs with the Court. Additionally, counsel from the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project represented plaintiff at the Supreme Court.

On June 28, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Third Circuit's ruling. Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521 (2006) (Stephen G. Breyer, Justice). In a plurality opinion, Justice Breyer concluded that, with the case having been decided at the summary judgment stage, the Third Circuit did not accord sufficient deference to prison administrators' professional judgment. The prison administrator's affidavit and statement of non-disputed facts in support of the summary judgment motion, according to the plurality, did articulate evidence supporting a logical, reasonable linkage between the challenged policy and the state's penological interests. The plaintiff did not produce evidence contrary to the state's, but simply filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. In that context, the plurality determined the intermediate appellate court offered too little deference to the prison officials' judgment. Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, concurred in the result, writing a separate opinion favoring an analysis grounded in the observation that prison officials' disciplinary and supervisory policies were supported by the implied delegation of authority the officials possessed from the sentencing of criminals to prison and from the history of incarceration as punishment. Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsberg dissented, chiefly arguing that their colleagues erred in deciding that, as a matter of law on the limited record existing in the summary judgment context, no trial was required and the defendant was entitled to judgment. The case was remanded for further proceedings.

According to the PACER docket sheet, after the case returned to the district court, another pro se prisoner attempted to join as a plaintiff by filing a motion seeking miscellaneous relief. We do not have a copy of the motion, but the district court denied it and the prisoner filed a notice of appeal; however, at the Third Circuit, the appeal was dismissed in an unpublished order on June 1, 2007, for failure to timely prosecute. Previously, the district court (Magistrate Judge Mitchell) issued its unpublished order on December 28, 2006, that the case was closed in view of the U.S. Supreme Court's earlier decision.

We have no information indicating further activity in the case.

Mike Fagan - 05/05/2008

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Administrative segregation
Disciplinary procedures
Disciplinary segregation
Loss or damage to property
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description All prisoners who are or will be confined in the Long Term Segregation Units of State prisons in the Western Judicial District of PA.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU National (all projects)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2007
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 The Oyez Project, Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. ___ (2006).
Posted: Jun. 28, 2006
By: Oyez Project (IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

3:06-cv-00253-TFM-LPL (W.D. Pa.) 05/14/2007
PC-PA-0025-9001 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
2:01-cv-01956-TFM-RCM (W.D. Pa.) 06/01/2007
PC-PA-0025-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion of the Court 02/25/2005 (399 F.3d 134)
PC-PA-0025-0006 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
[Order Granting Cert.] 11/14/2005 (546 U.S. 1015)
PC-PA-0025-0007 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Brief of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, et al. as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondents 01/01/2006
PC-PA-0025-0001 PDF | Detail
Brief for the Petitioner 01/05/2006
PC-PA-0025-0002 PDF | Detail
Respondent's Brief 02/16/2006
PC-PA-0025-0003 PDF | Detail
[Order Allowing the Solicitor General to Participate as Amicus Curiae] 03/06/2006 (547 U.S. 1001)
PC-PA-0025-0008 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Reply Brief for Petitioner 03/14/2006
PC-PA-0025-0004 PDF | Detail
[Opinion of the Supreme Court] 06/28/2006 (548 U.S. 521)
PC-PA-0025-0009 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Order [Dismissing Case] 06/01/2007
PC-PA-0025-0005 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Breyer, Stephen Gerald (First Circuit, SCOTUS)
Fuentes, Julio M. (Third Circuit)
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
Kennedy, Anthony McLeod (Ninth Circuit, SCOTUS)
Lenihan, Lisa Pupo (W.D. Pa.) [Magistrate]
McVerry, Terrence F. (W.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0025-9000 | PC-PA-0025-9001
Mitchell, Robert C. (W.D. Pa.) [Magistrate]
Roberts, John Glover Jr. (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
Scalia, Antonin (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
Souter, David Hackett (First Circuit, SCOTUS)
Stevens, John Paul (Seventh Circuit, SCOTUS)
Thomas, Clarence (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Feinstein, Stember (Pennsylvania)
Krakoff, Jere (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0025-0003 | PC-PA-0025-0006 | PC-PA-0025-0009 | PC-PA-0025-9000
Shubin, Andrew (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0025-0003 | PC-PA-0025-0009
Defendant's Lawyers Corbett, Thomas W. Jr. (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0025-0002 | PC-PA-0025-0004 | PC-PA-0025-0009
Fisher, D. Michael (Pennsylvania)
Knorr, John G. III (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0025-0002 | PC-PA-0025-0004 | PC-PA-0025-0006 | PC-PA-0025-0009
Koons, Calvin R. (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0025-0002 | PC-PA-0025-0004 | PC-PA-0025-0006 | PC-PA-0025-0009
Mericli, Kemal Alexander (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0025-0002 | PC-PA-0025-0004 | PC-PA-0025-0006 | PC-PA-0025-0009 | PC-PA-0025-9000
Rovelli, Louis J. (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0025-0002 | PC-PA-0025-0004 | PC-PA-0025-0009
Wilson, Tracey A. (Pennsylvania)
Other Lawyers Alexander, Elizabeth R. (District of Columbia)
Banks, Steven L. (New York)
Boston, John (New York)
Carbone, Charles F.A. (California)
Fathi, David Cyrus (District of Columbia)
Liu, Deborah (District of Columbia)
Marcus, Jonathan L. (District of Columbia)
Mincberg, Elliot M. (District of Columbia)
Monks, Jeffrey (District of Columbia)
Shapiro, Steven R. (New York)
Walczak, Witold J. (Pennsylvania)

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