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Case Name Human Rights Defense Center v. Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority JC-VA-0015
Docket / Court 1:18-CV-00013 ( W.D. Va. )
State/Territory Virginia
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Case Summary
On March 28, 2018, Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing prisoners access to information about their civil and legal rights, filed a complaint against the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority, the Superintendent of the Jail Authority, and ten ... read more >
On March 28, 2018, Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing prisoners access to information about their civil and legal rights, filed a complaint against the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority, the Superintendent of the Jail Authority, and ten unnamed Jail Authority employees in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. HRDC brought the claim under 42 USC §1983, alleging that the Jail Authority’s mail policy had violated HRDC’s First Amendment right to free speech and Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. HRDC, represented by its own counsel and by private litigators, sought injunctive relief, both compensatory and punitive monetary damages, and attorney fees.

Specifically, HRDC claimed the defendants were censoring and refusing to deliver educational material HRDC was sending to prisoners. Furthermore, HRDC claimed the defendants were enacting these policies without consistently notifying HRDC of their decision when they blocked information and without offering any way to appeal decisions to block material from prisoners.

HRDC moved for a preliminary injunction on March 29, 2018. Judge James P. Jones granted the preliminary injunction on July 3, 2018, preventing the defendants from continuing to censor and block prisoners’ access to HRDC’s educational materials. 2018 WL 3239299.

HRDC filed an amended complaint on February 18, 2019 that added additional allegations of censorship. A few months later, on April 12, 2019, HRDC filed a motion for summary judgment and a permanent injunction. In response, the Jail Authority and the Superintendent filed a motion for summary judgment. The Jail Authority also filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, and the Jail Authority employees filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Shortly thereafter, on April 26, 2019, HRDC filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of its claims against the Jail Authority employees. The court accordingly denied the employees' motion on May 15, 2019 and dismissed the claims against them.

On June 5, 2019, the court granted in part and denied in part both motions for summary judgment, finding that the Jail Authority violated HRDC's First Amendment rights by prohibiting prisoners from receiving books that hadn't been preapproved and by banning magazines altogether, but that the Superintendent was protected by qualified immunity from HRDC's First Amendment Claim. 396 F.Supp.3d 607. The court also found that both the Jail Authority and the Superintendent violated HRDC's Fourteenth Amendment due process rights by rejecting or confiscating HRDC mailings without adequate notice or justification or an opportunity to appeal the decision. The court scheduled a jury trial to assess damages and a hearing to determine injunctive relief.

Before the trial could be held, the parties agreed that the Jail Authority defendants would pay HRDC $1,500.00 in compensatory damages.

More than nine months later, on March 25, 2020, the court granted HRDC's motion for a permanent injunction, finding that a permanent injunction was necessary to protect HRDC's First Amendment rights and ensure that the Jail Authority does not reoffend. 448 F.Supp.3d 581. The injunction allowed the Jail Authority to reject publications for legitimate penological reasons, but required the Jail Authority to notify the sender(s) of the rejection and afford the sender(s) an opportunity to appeal. The injunction went into effect on the same day the court's order was filed.

The court also awarded HRDC reasonable attorneys' fees in the amount of $225,563.14. 2020 WL 4934603.

Sarah Reasoner - 01/30/2019
Christiana Johnson - 04/16/2020
Becca Rogers - 12/20/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Education
Mail
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority
Superintendent
Plaintiff Description Human Rights Defense Center is a non-profit organization who works to provide legal and educational resources to incarcerated persons
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Attorneys fees
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Filed 03/28/2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
W.D. Va.
08/24/2020
1:18-cv-00013
JC-VA-0015-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
W.D. Va.
03/28/2018
Complaint [ECF# 1]
JC-VA-0015-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Va.
07/03/2018
Order Granting Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 37] (2018 WL 3239299)
JC-VA-0015-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Va.
07/03/2018
Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 38]
JC-VA-0015-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Va.
02/18/2019
Amended Complaint [ECF# 54 (& 54-1 to 54-2)]
JC-VA-0015-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Va.
06/05/2019
Opinion and Order [ECF# 96] (396 F.Supp.3d 607)
JC-VA-0015-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Va.
03/25/2020
Opinion and Order [ECF# 129]
JC-VA-0015-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Va.
08/24/2020
Opinion and Order [ECF# 140]
JC-VA-0015-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Jones, James Parker (FISC, W.D. Va.) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0015-0002 | JC-VA-0015-0003 | JC-VA-0015-0004 | JC-VA-0015-0005 | JC-VA-0015-0006 | JC-VA-0015-9000
Sargent, Pamela Meade (W.D. Va.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
JC-VA-0015-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Chapman, Thomas Stephen (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0015-9000
Douglass, Sean Michael (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0015-0001 | JC-VA-0015-0007 | JC-VA-0015-9000
Hentoff, Thomas Goodman (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0015-0001 | JC-VA-0015-0007 | JC-VA-0015-9000
Johnson, Bruce E.H. (Washington) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0015-0001 | JC-VA-0015-0007 | JC-VA-0015-9000
Kelly, Chelsea Teresa (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0015-0001 | JC-VA-0015-9000
Marshall, Daniel (Florida) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0015-0001 | JC-VA-0015-0007 | JC-VA-0015-9000
Mutamba, Masimba (Florida) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0015-0001 | JC-VA-0015-0007 | JC-VA-0015-9000
Neelakanta, Sabarish (Florida) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0015-0001 | JC-VA-0015-0007 | JC-VA-0015-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Londos, Katherine Cabell (Virginia) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0015-9000
Schnetzler, Nathan Henry (Virginia) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0015-9000

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