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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 October 17, 2014, PLN moved for preliminary injunction. 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.

On May 18, 2016, the Court granted the parties' joint motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a), which governs voluntary dismissal. Magistrate Judge Nita L. Stormes retained jurisdiction over all disputes between the parties arising out of the settlement agreement, including the interpretation and enforcement of its terms. Both parties consented to the Magistrate Judge's jurisdiction. The case was dismissed on February 7, 2018, with the Magistrate Judge retaining jurisdiction over the settlement agreement. The case is ongoing for settlement purposes. As of April 10, 2020, there have been no further entries in the docket.

Robert Lake - 06/01/2015
Carolyn Weltman - 02/28/2016
Elizabeth Heise - 10/16/2018

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Preliminary relief denied
Preliminary relief granted
Required disclosure
Search policies
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
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
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2015 - 2021
Filed 10/10/2014
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Prison Legal News Homepage
Prison Legal News
By: Prison Legal News
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

3:14-cv-02417-L-NLS (S.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0112-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/07/2018
Source: 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 [ECF# 1]
JC-CA-0112-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/09/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 43] (S.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0112-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/07/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Motion [for Settlement Approval] [ECF# 60]
JC-CA-0112-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/18/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Lorenz, M. James (S.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0112-0002 | JC-CA-0112-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Galvan, Ernest (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0112-0001 | JC-CA-0112-0003 | JC-CA-0112-9000
Neelakanta, Sabarish (Florida) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0112-0003 | JC-CA-0112-9000
Weber, Lance Theodore (Florida) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0112-0003 | JC-CA-0112-9000
Yelin, Jenny Snay (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0112-0003 | JC-CA-0112-9000
Yoo, Julia (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0112-0003 | JC-CA-0112-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Chapin, James M. (California) show/hide docs

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