On November 10, 2011, an Oregon Department of Corrections inmate filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff, proceeding without a lawyer, alleged that the defendant, Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC), violated his free speech and due process rights, and his Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment, as well as the Oregon Constitution. The case arose when ODOC rejected and returned a letter that the plaintiff sent to another inmate at Oregon State Penitentiary because of a picture the plaintiff had drawn on the front of the envelope. The plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief as well as monetary damages.
The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, and assigned to District Judge Marco A. Hernandez. On January 2, 2012, Judge Hernandez denied the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order. Barrett v. Williams, 2012 WL 10897 (D.Or. 2012)
On August 27, 2012, the State filed a motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff did not respond and on February 22, 2013, the District Court dismissed the case. Barrett v. Williams, 2013 WL 686966 (D.Or. 2013). On March 23, 2013, the plaintiff sought reconsideration; he explained that he had missed the prior deadline because he was being transferred from New Mexico Department of Corrections to Florida Department of Corrections on the filing date and could not access to his legal documents during the transfer.
On May 27, 2013, the Court granted the plaintiff's motion for reconsideration and re-opened the defendants' motion for summary judgment.
On November 14, 2013, the District Court denied summary judgment in part and granted it in part. The Court held that plaintiff's due process rights were not violated because the plaintiff was provided notice and a right to appeal. The Court also held that the defendants' rejection of the plaintiff's letter was not in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights, and denied the plaintiff's claim for damages. However, the District Court allowed the rest of plaintiff's free speech claim, addressing the regulation going forward, to proceed. Barrett v. Williams, 2013 WL 6055247, (D.Or. 2013)
On December 2, 2013, the plaintiff sought reconsideration from the Court's November 13, 2013, ruling, which denied him damages. On December 16, 2013, the plaintiff filed a motion for appointment of counsel. On February 26, 2014, the Court granted the plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel but denied his motion for reconsideration from the Court's November 13, 2013, ruling. Specifically, the Court held that the Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity for money damages because the rights the plaintiff asserted were not clearly established. Barrett v. Williams, 2014 WL 795801, (D.Or. 2014)
Following a February 19, 2015, one-day trial, on March 30, 2015 the District Court issued Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law. The Court held that the defendants' incoming mail policy of blocking a form of expression--artwork on an envelope-- violated inmates' and their correspondents' First Amendment rights. Barrett v. Premo, 2015 WL 1477902 (D.Or. 2015). On May 14, 2015, the Court enjoined the State from enforcing a blanket ban on artwork on the front of envelopes coming into its prisons. The Court also awarded the plaintiff reasonable attorney fees in an amount to be determined.
The defendant had 30 days to appeal, but as of July 8, no notice of appeal had been filed. So the case seems to be ongoing only with respect to attorneys' fees.Beth Richardson - 07/08/2015