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Case Name Hanrahan v. Mohr PC-OH-0035
Docket / Court 2:13-cv-01212 ( S.D. Ohio )
State/Territory Ohio
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Speech and Religious Freedom
Attorney Organization ACLU Affiliates (any)
Case Summary
This is a case about the right of media access for five prisoners involved in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) prison uprising in April 1993. After 11 days of rioting, one guard and nine prisoners were murdered, as well as many injuries and tens of millions of dollars of damage. Four ... read more >
This is a case about the right of media access for five prisoners involved in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) prison uprising in April 1993. After 11 days of rioting, one guard and nine prisoners were murdered, as well as many injuries and tens of millions of dollars of damage. Four prisoners were sentenced to death for their involvement in the riot and classified as restricted population inmates. Journalists sought in-person interviews with the prisoners for the twentieth anniversary of the riot. On December 9, 2013, five prisoners from the SOCF and four media outlets filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The plaintiffs sued the Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) and ODRC's Communications Chief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the prison’s interview policies violated their rights under the 1st and 14th Amendments. Represented by the ACLU of Ohio, the plaintiffs sought a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from denying in person media access to the prisoner plaintiffs and requiring a specific and appealable factual basis for any denial with a right to an evidentiary hearing before the court, as well as attorney’s fees and costs. They claimed that they should have been allowed media interviews and that the defendants’ restrictions on media and public access to information were unreasonable. Their interview requests were denied in part due to the anticipated content of the interviews and the potential impact on crime victims.

After filing their answer, the defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings on March 18, 2014. The plaintiffs responded to this motion and, following the defendant’s reply, Chief Judge Edmund A. Sargus denied the defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings on March 31, 2015. The court held that the plaintiff’s claims were within the statute of limitations, they had not failed to exhaust their administrative remedies, they had standing due to their adequately pled particularized injury, and that, at the pleadings stage, the court was unable to dismiss on a failure to state a claim since it could not yet determine if the “terms of access are reasonably imposed” or if the prisons at issue provided “substantial press and public access to the prison.” 2015 WL 1476551. The Law Offices of Vasvari & Zimmerman took over the representation of the plaintiffs from the ACLU of Ohio on July 6, 2015.

On March 24, 2017, Chief Judge Sargus granted in part and denied in part the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The court granted summary judgment against four of the prisoner plaintiffs, holding that the defendants had applied a reasonable and content-neutral policy in denying interviews with these plaintiffs and that there was no evidence that the defendants had treated the four dismissed prisoner plaintiffs differently than other restricted population inmates. The court denied summary judgment against the remaining plaintiffs. They were the media plaintiffs and one prisoner who was not a restricted population inmate. 2017 WL 1134772.

Three days later, the court stayed the case pending the outcome of court-ordered mediation. The remaining plaintiffs filed a request to lift the stay, to continue the scheduled mediation, to reconsider summary judgment, and to allow limited discovery. Chief Judge Sargus granted the continued mediation and waited to rule on the lift of the stay lift, reconsideration of summary judgment, and allowance of discovery until after mediation on June 21, 2017.

On July 13, 2017, defendant ODRC voluntarily modified its media policies in order to remedy the surviving injuries. They removed “victims issues that would present a concern” and “the nature of the interview” from consideration when determining whether to approve media interview requests. In August 2017, all of the media plaintiffs' requests to interview the remaining prisoner plaintiff were approved. Chief Judge Sargus denied the plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration of summary judgment and motion to compel discovery on September 21, 2017. He granted the plaintiff’s motion to strike the jury demand.

The defendants moved for a dismissal of the case as constitutionally moot, arguing that the plaintiffs had fully obtained all of the relief they could receive from this case. On November 28, 2017, Chief Judge Sargus granted the defendants' motion and held that the plaintiffs did not have a live, concrete controversy.

On December 27, 2017, the plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Circuit Judge Julia Smith Gibbons affirmed the partial grant of summary judgment and the later motion to dismiss on September 26, 2018. She held that because the media plaintiffs may now interview the prisoner plaintiff, they no longer need an injunction to prevent the defendants from denying interviews based on the fact that the prisoner plaintiff was involved in the SOCF prison uprising. Chief Judge Gibbons also noted that other than declaratory and injunctive relief, the plaintiffs sought attorney’s fees, but a request for attorney’s fees was not enough to save a case from being dismissed as moot. Attorney’s fees were denied and the case was dismissed as moot. 2018 WL 4611039. The ruling of the district court was affirmed and a mandate issued on October 18, 2018. The case is closed.

Zoe Van Dyke - 11/07/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Conditions of confinement
Disparate Treatment
Visiting
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
Plaintiff Description Five prisoners involved in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) prison uprising in the April 1993 and media outlets requesting interviews with the prisoners
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Affiliates (any)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Defendants Changed Policy
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 12/09/2013
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
S.D. Ohio
10/18/2018
2:13-cv-01212-EAS-EPD
PC-OH-0035-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
S.D. Ohio
12/09/2013
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PC-OH-0035-0001.pdf | Detail
S.D. Ohio
03/31/2015
Opinion and Order [ECF# 17] (2015 WL 1476551)
PC-OH-0035-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ohio
03/24/2017
Opinion and Order [ECF# 37] (2017 WL 1134772)
PC-OH-0035-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ohio
06/21/2017
Opinion and Order [ECF# 43]
PC-OH-0035-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ohio
09/21/2017
Opinion and Order [ECF# 62] (2017 WL 4221458)
PC-OH-0035-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ohio
11/28/2017
Opinion and Order [ECF# 67] (2017 WL 5900557)
PC-OH-0035-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
08/02/2018
Opinion
PC-OH-0035-0006.pdf | Detail
show all people docs
Judges Deavers, Elizabeth Preston Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-OH-0035-9000
Gibbons, Julia Smith (W.D. Tenn., Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0035-0006
Sargus, Edmund A. Jr. (S.D. Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0035-0002 | PC-OH-0035-0003 | PC-OH-0035-0004 | PC-OH-0035-0005 | PC-OH-0035-0007 | PC-OH-0035-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Atzberger, Jennifer Martinez (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0035-0001 | PC-OH-0035-9000
Dennis, Drew S (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0035-0001 | PC-OH-0035-9000
Hardiman, James L. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0035-0001 | PC-OH-0035-9000
Levenson, Freda J. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0035-9000
Peters, Jonathan (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0035-0001 | PC-OH-0035-9000
Vasvari, Raymond V. Jr. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0035-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Goldstein, Judith B. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0035-9000
Johnson, Caitlyn Nestleroth (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0035-9000
Worly, Mindy Ann (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0035-9000

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