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PLN in Court

Since PLN started in 1990 we have been censored in prisons and jails around the country. We have always attempted to resolve censorship issues administratively, but in cases where the goal was to keep PLN out of prison at any cost, that obviously wasn't possible. We have aggressively challenged censorship around the country and have won most of our battles. I would like to thank all the fantastic attorneys who have represented PLN in censorship litigation over the years. Thanks also go to those attorneys who volunteered to represent us in suits that we wound up not having to file after all. A brief summary of PLN's closed cases are:

WA Parole Suit: In 1994 Ed Mead and Paul Wright sued the Washington Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board challenging their order that Ed have no contact with any felons for the purpose of publishing PLN. In an unpublished ruling, judge Robert Bryan of Tacoma upheld the ban. The case was dismissed as moot by the Ninth circuit when, after three years, Ed was discharged from ISRB supervision. The suit was sponsored by the ACLU of Washington. Frank Cuthbertson and Mike Kipling represented the plaintiffs. See: Mead v. ISRB.

WA Bulk Mail Ban: When Airway Heights Corrections Center opened in 1994 it banned all third and fourth class mail. In l996 PLN subscribers Don Minikin and Don MacFarlane filed suit against the practice. In a published ruling, Minikin v. Walter, 978 F. Supp. 1356 (ED WA 1997) the ban was struck down as unconstitutional. In another, unpublished ruling, MacFarlane v. Walter, another judge also struck down the ban. Mickey Gendler represented Don Minikin on behalf of the WA ACLU. In addition to an injunction the court awarded attorney fees, costs and damages.

UT Jail Publication Ban: In 1995 a PLN subscriber was transferred to the Box Eider county jail in Utah, which banned all publications. PLN and another publisher filed suit challenging the ban. Soon after filing the jail settled, paying damages and attorney fees and changing their policy. Brian Barnard represented PLN in this suit. See: Catalyst v. Box Elder County.

MI Book Ban: In 1998 the Michigan DOC banned our book, The Celling of America: An Inside Look at the U.S. Prison Industry, from all of its prisons claiming the book incited violence. PLN, Common Courage press and two prisoners filed a class action suit challenging the ban. Michigan prison officials settled soon afterwards, paying damages, costs and attorney fees, removing the book from their banned book list and revamping their censorship procedure. The plaintiffs were represented by Dan Manville. See: PLN v. Ransom.

WA Censorship Litigation: In 1997 PLN filed suit, with other plaintiffs, challenging a Washington DOC ban on third class mail, gift subscriptions, bans on magazine articles, photocopies and court rulings, limits on newspaper articles, etc. In early 200, the WA DOC settled the suit by changing its mail censorship policies and paying attorney fees and costs for the plaintiffs. The suit was sponsored by the ACLU of Washington. The plaintiffs were represented by Mickey Gendler and Joe Bringman. See: Humanists of Washington v. Lehman.

The following lawsuits are still pending as we go to press:

UT Bulk Mail Suit: In 1997 the Utah DOC attempted to ban third class mail. PLN sued and the ban was quickly rescinded with an agreement to settle. The case is still pending as the parties await a ruling to obtain guidance on administrative exhaustion for Utah prisoners under the PLRA. PLN is represented by Brian Barnard. See: PLN v. Haun.

UT Jail Bulk Mail Ban: In 1998 the San Juan county jail in Utah refused to deliver PLN to a jail prisoner subscriber because it was sent third class mail. PUT filed suit challenging the rule. The case is in discovery. PLN is represented by Brian Barnard. See: PLN v. San Juan County.

OR Bulk Mail Ban: Since 1.991 the Oregon DOC has banned third class mail from its prisons. In 1998 PLN filed suit challenging the ban. We lost in the district court and the case is currently on appeal to the Ninth circuit. PLN was represented in the district court by Alison Hardy and Marc Blackman. On appeal it is represented by Sam Stiltner. See: PLN v. Cook.

AL Gift Subscriptions: The Alabama DOC prohibits its prisoners from getting gift subscriptions to publications. Prisoners are forced to buy subscriptions from their prison trust accounts. PLN filed suit in 1999 challenging the practice. The case is currently awaiting a decision on the party's cross motions for summary judgment. PLN is represented by Rhonda Brownstein and Catherine Smith of. the Southern Poverty Law Center. See: PLN v. Haley.

WA Nazi Guard Censorship: The May, 1999, issue of PLN was censored in all Washington prisons because it contained an investigative expose of Nazi and white supremist guards employed by the Washington DOC. PLN filed suit in late 1999 and the district court dismissed the case soon afterwards. The case is currently on appeal to the Ninth circuit. PLN is represented by Frank Cuthbertson. See: PLN v. Lehman.

Public Disclosure: In the course of investigating stories I frequently file PDA requests with various state agencies. The Washington DOC has a long record of refusing to comply with state disclosure laws in its attempts to cover up its misfeasance and misconduct. After being denied documents relating to staff misconduct and prison industries PLN filed suit. The case is pending in Thurston county superior court. PLN is represented by David Bowman. See: PLN v. Washington DOC.

PLN has no litigation budget. We rely on counsel willing to represent us on contingency or pro bono. The cases we filed directly impact the free speech rights of PLN and our subscribers. In most cases we are attacking broader censorship practices that have a wider impact beyond the immediate parties to the suit. We report the filing and conclusion of our lawsuits in PLN. Unfortunately, we have more in the works.

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