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Case Name Prison Legal News v. Jones JC-TN-0006
Docket / Court 3:15-cv-00452 ( E.D. Tenn )
State/Territory Tennessee
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Prison Legal News
Attorney Organization Florida Justice Institute
Legal Services/Legal Aid
Case Summary
On October 6, 2015, Prison Legal News (PLN) filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee (Knoxville) against the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. PLN sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the defendant violated their First and Fourteenth ... read more >
On October 6, 2015, Prison Legal News (PLN) filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee (Knoxville) against the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. PLN sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the defendant violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to freedom of speech, due process, and equal protection by unlawfully censoring the books, magazines, and other mail they sent to inmates at the Knox County Jail. PLN claimed that from November 2014 to October 6, 2015, the defendant refused to deliver all publications and enveloped mail sent by PLN to prisoners at Knox County Jail, which censored PLN’s correspondence with inmates at the jail on matters of public concern. PLN also claimed that the defendant failed to inform them of the alleged violation of the jail's mail policy and depriving them of the opportunity to contest the decision. Represented by private counsel, PLN asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

On October 6, 2015, the plaintiffs filed a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.

On February 3, 2016, Judge Thomas A Varlan granted the plaintiff’s motion to stay the action until March 31, 2016, which suspended court proceedings so that the parties could engage in mediation. All other pending motions, including the plaintiff's Oct. 6 Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, were denied with leave to refile upon lifting the stay. Mediation efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, and the plaintiff did not refile their motion.

On October 13, 2016, the defendants filed an amended answer in which they admitted liability on the plaintiff’s First and Fourteenth Amendment claims, stating that the jail had revised their inmate mail policy to remove the restrictions that formed the basis for PLN’s constitutional challenges.

On June 26, 2017, the parties filed a joint stipulation agreeing that: 1) PLN’s claims against the defendants should be dismissed, and 2) PLN sustained $25,000 in compensatory damages as a result of the defendant’s unconstitutional practices and should be awarded that amount. They also agreed that these two stipulations resolved all issues in the case except for the plaintiff’s entitlement to injunctive relief, attorney’s fees, and costs.

The plaintiff moved for a permanent injunction to prevent the defendant from resuming their unconstitutional practices in the future. The defendant argued that their voluntary cessation of unconstitutional conduct was genuine and that returning to their old practices would be an irrational waste of county resources, given the cost of litigation. The court ruled in favor of the defendant, holding that the issue of injunctive relief was moot because the defendant carried its burden of showing it would not readopt its unconstitutional mail policy in the future.

The court noted that its denial of the plaintiff’s motion for permanent injunction did not close the case because the parties had yet to file motions concerning the plaintiff’s entitlement to attorney’s fees, the only remaining issue of the case.

The parties settled as to attorneys fees on April 4, 2018. The amount they settle for is private. The case is now closed.

Lakshmi Gopal - 10/26/2015
Nina Orteza - 10/23/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Mail
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Knox County Sheriff's Office
Plaintiff Description Prison Legal News, a nonprofit corporation focused on public education, prisoner education, advocacy, and outreach in support of the rights of prisoners and in furtherance of basic human rights.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Florida Justice Institute
Legal Services/Legal Aid
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Defendant voluntarily changed policy
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Filing Year 2015
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Prison Legal News Homepage
Prison Legal News
By: Prison Legal News
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
3:15−cv−00452−TAV−CCS (E.D. Tenn)
JC-TN-0006-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/21/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
JC-TN-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/06/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Defendants' Counter-Claims for Declaratory Judgment
JC-TN-0006-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/08/2016
Source: Bloomberg Law
Order (E.D. Tenn)
JC-TN-0006-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/03/2016
Source: Bloomberg Law
Order [ECF# 42] (E.D. Tenn)
JC-TN-0006-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/13/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 65] (E.D. Tenn)
JC-TN-0006-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/24/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 67] (E.D. Tenn)
JC-TN-0006-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/14/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Shirley, C. Clifford Jr. (E.D. Tenn) [Magistrate]
JC-TN-0006-9001
Varlan, Thomas A. (E.D. Tenn)
JC-TN-0006-0001 | JC-TN-0006-0003 | JC-TN-0006-0004 | JC-TN-0006-0005 | JC-TN-0006-0006 | JC-TN-0006-9001
Plaintiff's Lawyers Herzfeld, Tricia (Tennessee)
JC-TN-0006-0001 | JC-TN-0006-0002 | JC-TN-0006-9001
Lewis, Mary Eugenia (Tennessee)
JC-TN-0006-0001 | JC-TN-0006-0002 | JC-TN-0006-9001
Neelakanta, Sabarish (Florida)
JC-TN-0006-0002 | JC-TN-0006-9001
Ozment, Harry Elliot (Tennessee)
JC-TN-0006-0002 | JC-TN-0006-9001
Weber, Lance Theodore (Florida)
JC-TN-0006-0001 | JC-TN-0006-0002 | JC-TN-0006-9001
York, William Patrick II (Tennessee)
JC-TN-0006-0002 | JC-TN-0006-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Wigler, David S. (Tennessee)
JC-TN-0006-9001

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