On November 10, 2014, the plaintiffs filed this lawsuit in the Middle District of Pennsylvania under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Pennsylvania state law against the Pennsylvania Attorney General and the District Attorney of Philadelphia. The plaintiffs--incarcerated prisoners, Prison Radio, Human Rights Coalition, and an unincorporated network of educators--requested injunctive relief, a declaratory judgment, and attorney fees; they alleged that the defendants violated their free speech rights.
One of the plaintiffs is Mumia Abu-Jamal; he was incarcerated for killing a police officer. Abu-Jamal was invited by the undergraduates of Goddard College to give the fall 2014 commencement speech via recording. (Prison Legal News, which soon got involved in the litigation, was going to record the speech and relay it to the college.)
In response to this invitation, on October 4, 2014, the Pennsylvania legislature passed the Revictimization Relief Act, 18 P.S. § 11.1304, an amendment to Pennsylvania's Crime Victims Act, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 11.10. The act allowed, in part, for attorneys and victims of personal injury crimes to enjoin those convicted of the crime from conduct that "perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime on the victim."
On January 8, 2015, Prison Legal News simultaneously filed a verified complaint and a motion for preliminary injunction in an initially separate action. (Prison Legal News v. Kane, Docket 1:15-cv-45). PLN added to the First Amendment argument an argument that the Act was impermissibly vague. The District Court (Chief Judge Christopher C. Connors) consolidated these actions. The records for both are in this Clearinghouse entry.
On January 23, 2015, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the Revictimization Act, and that the First Amendment issue was not ripe for adjudication.
In an opinion dated March 6, 2015, the District Court (Chief Judge Christopher Conner) granted the District Attorney's motion, but not the Attorney General's similar motion. The Court reasoned that the District Attorney had promised not to enforce the act pending a determination of its constitutionality, but the Attorney General's refused to disavow enforcement. Jamal v. Kane, 2015 WL 999194 (M.D.Pa)
Next, on April 28, 2015, the Court granted the plaintiffs' motion for declaratory relief, declaring the Revictimization Relief Act violated the plaintiffs' free speech rights, and was impermissibly vague, and permanently enjoining its enforcement. Jamal v. Kane 2015, WL 1932236 (M.D.Pa) A declaratory judgment was entered on April 30, 2015.
It appears that the defendants decided not to appeal (no notice of appeal appears as of June 16, which is more than 30 days after the judgment); that leaves only the attorneys fees issues open in the district court. Beth Richardson - 06/14/2015