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AL Control Unit Ban on Publications Not Moot Or Ripe

The defendants prohibited administrative segregation prisoners from receiving publications by
subscription. When sued, they agreed to allow a subscriptions to newspapers and magazines up
to a total of four. However, they put in their regulation an apparent limitation to inmates "who
have been authorized while housed in general population." Everyone agreed that no such
restriction was intended. At 1325-26:

At this juncture, one may reasonably wonder why this phrase is disputed. Can the DOC not
agree to strike the phrase out of the amended regulation in order to conclude this case? The
DOC's answer is "no." A prison official at some point wrote this phrase, whatever its intended
meaning. In defendants' view, that ought to be good enough for the court and the plaintiff, who
should defer to the officials most knowledgeable about running the prison. . . . Can the plaintiff
not then ignore the phrase, since it is not currently being enforced to restrict the right to
publications? The plaintiff's answer is "no." Plaintiff argues that the phrase has been, and may
be in the future, misinterpreted and used to do mischief by those applying the amended

The court is obliged to afford complete relief. The magistrate judge recommends that the
court enter a separate declaratory judgment striking down the former policy, without declaring
the remaining offending phrase. At 1326: "The reason for this is not--in this particular
instance--deference to prison officials. There is no apparent policy decision to defer to in this
case. . . ." But there is no immediate threat that it will be used against the plaintiffs, so the
controversy is not ripe.

The case is not moot either. Voluntary cessation of allegedly illegal conduct doesn't moot a case.

Also, the named plaintiff, though now out of administrative segregation, has been in it through
most of his life sentence, and it is reasonable to expect that he may return. The deprivation is
therefore capable of repetition, yet evading review. See: Spellman v. Hopper, 142 F.Supp.2d 1323 (M.D.Ala. 2000).

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Related legal case

Spellman v. Hopper

JOHN SPELLMAN, Plaintiff, v. JOE HOPPER, et al., Defendants.



142 F. Supp. 2d 1323; 2000 U.S. Dist.

April 20, 2000, Decided

April 20, 2000, Filed, Entered

PRIOR HISTORY: [**1] Adopting Magistrate's Document of March 20, 2000, Reported at: 2000 U.S. Dist.

DISPOSITION: Plaintiff's objections OVERRULED; Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge ADOPTED, APPROVED and AFFIRMED; Plaintiff's Motion For Ruling On Injunctive Relief, filed December 8, 1999, DENIED AS MOOT.

COUNSEL: For Plaintiff: Rhonda Brownstein.

For Defendants: Andrew W. Redd, Alice Ann Byrne.

JUDGES: Ira DeMent, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE. Magistrate Judge Susan Russ Walker.


OPINION: [*1324]


This cause is now presented to the court on the Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, filed March 20, 2000 and Plaintiff's objections, filed April 13, 2000.

The court has carefully read the recommendation and objections and is of the opinion that said recommendation is well taken and is due to be adopted, approved and affirmed. It is, therefore,

CONSIDERED and ORDERED as follows:

1. That Plaintiff's objections be and the same are hereby OVERRULED;

2. That the Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge be and the same is hereby ADOPTED, APPROVED and AFFIRMED;

3. That Plaintiff's Motion For Ruling On Injunctive Relief, filed December 8, 1999, be and the [**2] same is hereby DENIED AS MOOT;

4. That a DECLARATORY JUDGMENT for Plaintiff shall be entered separately; and

5. That the Parties are hereby DIRECTED to meet and confer to attempt to resolve attorney's fee issues in this case without further litigation on or before May 3, 2000. Counsel for Plaintiff shall file a pleading titled "Notice Concerning Conference On Attorney's Fee Issues," no later than May 5, 2000, which shall indicate whether a resolution was reached.

DONE this 20th day of April, 2000.

Ira DeMent