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AZ Court Affirms Food Packages

In an Order dated April 7, 1995, United States District Judge C.A. Muecke ruled in Hook v. Arizona, No. CIV 73-97 PHX CAM, that Arizona inmates will continue to receive three 25 pound food packages at Christmas. Arizona inmates will also be allowed once again to have hot pots in which to prepare such foods. Inmate hot pots had been banned in a memo by ADOC Director Sam Lewis on January 31, 1994, although those inmates who already had hot pots were allowed to keep them. Regarding the hot pots, Judge Muecke ruled, "No orders, memorandums, instructions or regulations, or any directive to that effect, shall be issued by the ADOC in conflict with the prisoner's obtaining hot pots. This includes the Director's memorandum of January 31, 1994."

Arizona Department of Corrections Director Sam Lewis has complained in the media that inmates do not have a constitutional right to receive Christmas food packages. Answering this complaint in his Order, Judge Muecke stated, "ADOC entirely misses the point. As the Ninth Circuit pointed out, the ADOC consented to the Christmas package provision in the Consent Decree, so the `fault lies with the Department for including the provision as part of the Consent Decree.' Hook v. Arizona, 972 F.2d 1012, 1017 (1992). The issue is not whether the inmates have a constitutional right to Christmas packages but rather whether such a provision was included in the Consent Decree."

In the conclusion of his Order, Judge Muecke stated, "This Court has not forced the terms of this Consent Decree upon the parties. Instead, the parties placed the burden on themselves in settling this lawsuit with a Consent Decree. The parties' attorneys wrote every word of this Consent Decree many years ago. Both parties agreed to everything they wrote in the Consent Decree. This Court merely signed the agreement between the parties."

It is well known that Judge Muecke and Director Lewis have not enjoyed an amicable relationship. Governor Fife Symington got into the act by calling for a 12-year limit on all federal judges instead of their current lifetime appointment. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise in a state where legislators passed a law to ignore federal court orders regarding compensation of special masters appointed by the federal courts. The Arizona House of Representatives passed a measure last session calling for Arizona's secession from the Union, although it failed in the state Senate.

In an article in the May 12, 1995, issue of Arizona Capitol Times, Senate Minority Leader Peter Goudinoff said, "The crackpots are not all hidden away in small, Midwest towns or in the desert around Kingman -- they're sitting down at the state Legislature making public policy. It's dangerous when elected representatives refuse to accept the fundamental legitimacy of government. It sounds like anarchism, except that real anarchists don't believe in private property."

Speaking of Director Lewis in the conclusion of his Order, Judge Muecke stated, "This Court is quite concerned about the ADOC and Director Lewis' pattern of conduct in this lawsuit. (Instead of practical input to work out problems in the implementation of the Consent Decree, or suggesting language to reflect problems, or addressing matters in pleadings filed with the court, Director Lewis consistently speaks out to the media, provokes press reaction, and attempts to circumvent the law.) Director Lewis is supposed to be in charge of law breakers (inmates) but objects when this Court requires him to follow the law. Based on the record in this lawsuit, Director Lewis appears to believe that it is unfair for the Court to require him to follow court orders, to abide by the terms of the contract (the Consent Decree) his attorneys' wrote, or present sufficient evidence to support his motions filed with the court."

"At every conceivable opportunity, Director Lewis raises political issues that have nothing to do with this case. It is almost certain that upon issuance of this order Director Lewis will immediately protest that this Court wishes to run the state prisons and impose expensive obligations upon the state and the ADOC. Director Lewis may state that defendants followed the Court's requirement to file a motion to modify, but it was futile to do so because this Court denied the motion."

"Unfortunately for the ADOC and Director Lewis, based on an old and fundamental concept of law in the United States, the United States Supreme Court has required a party to present Sufficient Admissible Evidence of factual and legal changes in order for a court to grant a motion to modify. For whatever reasons, the ADOC, Director Lewis, and his attorneys, have failed to present the sufficient evidence to meet their burden required under the law."

As an example of the kind of evidence ADOC presented to the court, consider the following: "Defendants merely provide documented evidence of six incidents of contraband coming into the prison in 97,000 Christmas packages over four years."

Not to be outdone by Judge Muecke, Director Sam Lewis issued Management Order #29 on April 27, 1995, twenty days after Judge Muecke's Order, eliminating inmate banquets at all ADOC institutions, regardless of custody level. Banquets were traditionally held in ADOC to celebrate such occasions as Cinco De Mayo, Juneteenth, Fourth of July, and Native American Powwow. Coming as it does on the heels of Judge Muecke's Order, it is apparent that this action is retaliatory in nature.

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Related legal case

Hook v. Arizona