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AHCC Bulk Mail Ban in Miniken Settled

In the February, 1998, issue of PLN we reported Miniken v. Walter, 978 F. Supp. 1356 (ED WA 1997). In that ruling the court held that the Airway Heights Corrections Center's (AHCC) in Washington, ban on third class mail was unconstitutional as applied to Prison Legal News . The court awarded the plaintiff $31 in damages and $4,339 in attorney fees and costs. The defendants appealed the summary judgement ruling against them and the plaintiff appealed the attorney fee award.

On October 20, 1998, the parties settled the case and dismissed the appeal and cross appeal. The defendant prison officials agreed to change their mail policies to include a new definition: "Subscription Mail: A magazine, journal, publication, or other periodical which is addressed to an individual inmate pursuant to a subscription or other individualized request from the inmate to the publisher." The mail policy will also state: "'Subscription mail' shall not be rejected based on the mailing rate by which it is sent to the inmate."

The defendants also agreed to revise their mail policy to specify that: "Subscription mail which meets institutional requirements will be delivered to the addressee regardless of the mail classification by which it is sent. If subscription mail is rejected, the inmate will receive notification pursuant to WAC 137-48-050."

The defendants paid Miniken the $31 in damages assessed by the court, and Miniken agreed to drop his claim for punitive damages, which had been stayed by the court pending the outcome of the state's appeal. The defendants also agreed to pay the original $4,339 in attorney fees and costs assessed by the court and an additional $1,339.84 in attorney fees and costs incurred since the initial judgement was issued.

The settlement does not preclude Miniken from applying for enforcement of the district court's Injunction nor waive any claims from the violation of the injunction, if they occur.

Readers should note that the settlement is unpublished and, by its terms, applies only to the AHCC. Another lawsuit, Humanists of Washington v. Lehman, is challenging the ban on third class mail imposed on other Washington prisons after the DOC vainly tried to justify the ban in this case. PLN is a plaintiff in that suit. Seattle attorney Mickey Gendler represented Miniken on behalf of the Washington ACLU. PLN would like to express its appreciation to the Washington ACLU, Mr. Gendler and Mr. Miniken for challenging the AHCC bulk mail ban which has allowed prisoners at that prison to receive PLN . See: Miniken v. Walter, Ninth Circuit Case No. 97-35913, 97-36072.

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Related legal case

Miniken v. Walter

The settlement is available in the briefbank.