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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Prison Legal News v. Lehman PC-WA-0008
Docket / Court 01-1911 ( W.D. Wash. )
State/Territory Washington
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On November 27, 2001, Prison Legal News (PLN) and Rollin A. Wright filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. PLN claimed that the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) violated its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights ... read more >
On November 27, 2001, Prison Legal News (PLN) and Rollin A. Wright filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. PLN claimed that the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) violated its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights through its mail policy. PLN was a Washington non-profit corporation that published materials of interest to inmates. The DOC prohibited the receipt by inmates of non-subscription bulk mail and catalogs and did not provide notice to inmates when this type of mail was rejected for delivery. The DOC also had a policy related to third-party legal materials, requiring them to consist of judicial opinions or other official court documents and requiring they be stamped "approved third-party legal materials" by correctional staff. In order to receive this stamp, materials needed to comply with a policy prohibiting any information that could create a risk of "violence and/or physical harm."

This was the fourth case since 1996 brought by PLN against the DOC. The previous cases are Miniken v. Walter, 978 F.Supp. 1356 (E.D. Wash. 1997) (PC-WA-011), MacFarlane v. Walter, No. 96-cv-03102-LRS (E.D. Wash. 1997) (PC-WA-012), and Humanists of Washington v. Lehman, No. 97-cv-05499-FDB-JKA (W.D. Wash. 1999) (PC-WA-013).

On June 17, 2003, the district court (Judge Robert S. Lasnick) held that the DOC's policies regarding bulk mail and catalogs violated the First and Fourteenth amendments. The DOC was permanently enjoined from prohibiting delivery of catalogs based only on the fact that they are catalogs and from prohibiting the delivery of bulk mail based only on the fact that the mail was sent at a standard rate. On the damages claim, the court held that the defendants, thirteen prison officials, were entitled to qualified immunity. Prison Legal News v. Lehman, 272 F.Supp.2d 1151 (W.D. Wash. 2003). The court also concluded that summary judgment was not appropriate for the claim regarding third-party legal materials because there were issues of fact appropriate for trial. The court limited its finding of qualified immunity to issues resolved in summary judgment; therefore, defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity regarding the third-party legal materials.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Judge Arthur Alarcon) affirmed the district court on all issues on February 1, 2005. Prison Legal News v. Lehman, 397 F.3d 692 (9th Cir. 2005). Judge Lasnick approved a settlement on the damages issues on August 8, 2005. Defendants agreed to pay $390,000 to PLN. The injunction remained in place.

Angela Heverling - 04/17/2006

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Washington DOC
Plaintiff Description Nonprofit corporation that published and distributed prison-related publications suing state corrections department’s policymaking employees, challenging constitutionality of department’s inmate mail directive
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2003 - n/a
Filing Year 2001
Case Closing Year 2005
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

  Prison Legal News Homepage
Prison Legal News
By: Prison Legal News
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

01-1911 (W.D. Wash.)
PC-WA-0008-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/08/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order Regarding Motions for Summary Judgment (272 F.Supp.2d 1151) (W.D. Wash.)
PC-WA-0008-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/17/2003
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (397 F.3d 692)
PC-WA-0008-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/01/2005
Source: Google Scholar
Stipulation Judgment and Order of Dismissal With Prejudice [ECF# 161] (W.D. Wash.)
PC-WA-0008-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/05/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Alarcon, Arthur Lawrence (Ninth Circuit)
Lasnik, Robert S. (W.D. Wash.)
PC-WA-0008-0001 | PC-WA-0008-0002 | PC-WA-0008-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ford, Timothy D. (Washington)
PC-WA-0008-0001 | PC-WA-0008-0003
Wing, Jesse (Washington)
PC-WA-0008-0002 | PC-WA-0008-0003 | PC-WA-0008-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Inglis, Shannon Elizabeth (Washington)
PC-WA-0008-0002 | PC-WA-0008-0003 | PC-WA-0008-9000
Judge, Daniel J. (Washington)
McLachlan, Mary C. (Washington)
PC-WA-0008-0001 | PC-WA-0008-9000
Murphy, Carol A. (Washington)
PC-WA-0008-0002 | PC-WA-0008-0003 | PC-WA-0008-9000
Myhra, Kasey C. (Washington)
PC-WA-0008-0002 | PC-WA-0008-9000
Other Lawyers Bringman, Joseph E. (Washington)
Powers, Steven R. (Oregon)

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