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Case Name Prison Legal News v. Federal Bureau of Prisons PC-CO-0025
Docket / Court 1:15-cv-02184 ( D. Colo. )
State/Territory Colorado
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Prison Legal News
Case Summary
On October 1, 2015, Prison Legal News, a legal news magazine intended for inmates, filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The plaintiff sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons claiming that the U.S. Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence (ADX) ... read more >
On October 1, 2015, Prison Legal News, a legal news magazine intended for inmates, filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The plaintiff sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons claiming that the U.S. Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence (ADX) illegally censored the magazine, violating the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, the Administrative Procedure Act, and Bureau of Prison regulations. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant did not deliver certain issues of Prison Legal News to ADX prisoners or give them proper notice that the magazine would not be delivered. Apparently, the BOP's refusal to deliver the magazine was because the issues contained information related to legal proceedings involving ADX prisoners and staff. Plaintiffs contended that the refusal to deliver these issues served no legitimate penological interest, and that the improper notices deprived prisoners of the opportunity to appeal administratively. Plaintiff was represented by Northwestern Law School's clinic and by private counsel; it sought injunctive and declaratory relief.

The case was assigned to Judge Raymond Moore.

On February 23, 2017, pursuant to ADX's motion to dismiss, the Magistrate Judge Scott T. Varholak recommended that the motion be denied. He found that there was neither constitutional mootness, nor prudential mootness. Judge Varholak also found there were plausible First Amendment, due process, and APA claims. ADX appealed the recommendation to the district court. The District Judge Moore rejected the recommendations on March 28, holding that there was in fact a mootness problem because "ADX fundamentally revised its official policies and procedures with respect to review of publications" after the suit was filed. The court further found that the plaintiff's previously rejected issues were reviewed and delivered to inmates, mooting the need for injunctive relief. The court found that because the policies had changed, the plaintiff's concern for enjoining future conduct was also mooted.

The plaintiff moved to vacate the judgment the next day, arguing that the judgment was entered before the plaintiff could respond to ADX's objections to the Magistrate Judge's recommendations. The court granted the motion on August 14, 2017, renewing its review of the recommendations and objections.

On May 14, 2018, the plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment and the defendant moved for summary judgment. The plaintiff’s motion argued that there was no issue of material fact with regards to its First Amendment claims for the censorship of past issues, and the accompanying Fifth Amendment violation of due process claim based on the defendant’s failure to provide sufficient notice of the reason for the rejection of those issues. The defendant, meanwhile, argued that the issue was nonjusticiable since the court could grant nothing more than an advisory opinion, and any order pertaining to future issues would lack ripeness since it would be premised on unknown facts. The defendant also argued that the plaintiff failed to meet its burden in showing there was not a rational connection between a legitimate penological interest and the ADX’s newly implemented publication policies.

In September, Judge Moore denied the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment. 2018 WL 10466903. The court found that plaintiff’s claims rested on ADX’s past policy of censoring based on names of prison employees and that practice has since been changed. Although the plaintiff argued that a future warden may adopt a similarly restrictive policy, the issue as it before the court was moot. The judge also found that plaintiff’s claims arguing that ADX failed to inform Prison Legal News of the reasons for rejection lacked sufficient evidentiary support in the record. Pursuant to the Rules of Federal Procedure, the defendant proposed a bill of costs, although the plaintiff was granted a stay on this issue while appealing the district court’s order.

The plaintiff appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Tenth Circuit (Circuit Judges Matheson, Seymour, and Hartz) affirmed the lower court’s decision. Prison Legal News v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 944 F.3d 868 (10th Cir. 2019). The plaintiff’s claim sought declaratory and injunctive relief, not compensatory damages. Therefore, when the defendant altered their procedures for reviewing publishable materials, the plaintiff’s claim became moot. The Tenth Circuit acknowledged that the defendant bore a heavy burden to prove that the voluntary cessation exception to mootness does not apply, but found that the defendants met that burden.

The bill of costs appears to be an open issue, and therefore this case is still ongoing.

Amanda Kenner - 01/22/2017
Virginia Weeks - 03/24/2018
Justin Hill - 03/22/2020

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Ex Parte Young (Federal) or Bivens
Defendant(s) Federal Bureau of Prisons
Plaintiff Description Prison Legal News, a magazine, written by legal scholars, lawyers, and inmates describing legal proceedings affecting inmates.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 10/01/2015
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 ]

1:15−cv−02184−RM−NYW (D. Colo.)
PC-CO-0025-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/04/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-CO-0025-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/01/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Recommendations of United States Magistrate Judge [ECF# 62] (2017 WL 10619942) (D. Colo.)
PC-CO-0025-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/23/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 71] (D. Colo.)
PC-CO-0025-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/28/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 81] (2017 WL 10619904) (D. Colo.)
PC-CO-0025-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/14/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 126] (2018 WL 10466903) (D. Colo.)
PC-CO-0025-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 10/25/2018
Source: Westlaw
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 139] (944 F.3d 868)
PC-CO-0025-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/13/2019
Source: Westlaw
show all people docs
Judges Matheson, Scott Milne Jr. (Tenth Circuit) show/hide docs
Moore, Raymond Paul (D. Colo.) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0025-0003 | PC-CO-0025-0004 | PC-CO-0025-0005 | PC-CO-0025-9000
Varholak, Scott T. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-CO-0025-0002 | PC-CO-0025-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Fulham, Terra White (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Kiehl, Stephen William (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Mincberg, Elliot M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Mutamba, Masimba (Florida) show/hide docs
Neelakanta, Sabarish (Florida) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0025-0001 | PC-CO-0025-9000
Sandler, Alyson Rose (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Shapanka, Matthew S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0025-0001 | PC-CO-0025-9000
Shapiro, David M. (Illinois) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0025-0001 | PC-CO-0025-9000
Swanson, Peter Andrew (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0025-0001 | PC-CO-0025-9000
Weber, Lance Theodore (Florida) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0025-0001 | PC-CO-0025-9000
Weintraub, Addar (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0025-0001 | PC-CO-0025-9000
Zansberg, Steven David (Colorado) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0025-0001 | PC-CO-0025-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cook, Marcy Elizabeth (Colorado) show/hide docs
Cook, Clay C. (Colorado) show/hide docs
Prose, Susan Begesse (Colorado) show/hide docs
Turner, Kaitlin Brianne (Colorado) show/hide docs

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