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Tenth Circuit Upholds Colorado DOC's Confiscation of Books, Legal Documents

Colorado state prisoner Wendel Wardell, Jr. appealed the dismissal of his pro se 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action filed against the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) after Fremont Correctional Facility personnel confiscated reading materials mailed to him from an unauthorized source. The dismissal was affirmed on appeal.

CDOC officials confiscated books and two legal documents from the Library of Congress and the Colorado State Archives pursuant to a policy that dictated procedures for receiving such materials, which specifically prohibited items sent by someone on another prisoner's visitation list. Wardell brought suit claiming First Amendment violations for his loss of legal materials and due process violations for being deprived of property without an opportunity to challenge the deprivation, as he was paroled from the CDOC after the confiscation occurred. The district court dismissed his complaint and he appealed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit denied the due process claims for failure to timely object to a magistrate's recommendation of dismissal. The appellate court held that since Wendell had access to the prison law library, no First Amendment violation occurred. The Court further determined that the challenged CDOC's policy served a legitimate penological interest. See: Wardell v. Duncan, 470 F.3d 954 (10th Cir. 2006).

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Related legal case

Wardell v. Duncan