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PLN Obtains Injunction Against Fulton County Jail in Censorship Suit

On February 4, 2008 the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta Division) granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by Prison Legal News over censorship at the Fulton County Jail.

PLN brought suit against Fulton County and Sheriff Myron Freeman on October 22, 2007 due to a mail policy that prohibited prisoners from receiving any books, magazines or newspapers other than religious materials. The same policy had been challenged in federal court in 2002 and found to be unconstitutional, yet the jail continued to enforce the policy and PLN subscriptions delivered to the facility were rejected and destroyed. [See: PLN, Dec. 2007, p.30].

At a January 31, 2008 court hearing, the defendants ?conceded that the old mail policy that was in effect? at the time the suit was filed was unconstitutional. However, because Sheriff Freeman had since instituted a new mail policy that allowed prisoners to receive publications, the County claimed the motion for preliminary injunctive relief was moot. PLN argued an injunction was necessary to prevent the jail from reverting to the old policy.

Applying the four-prong test set forth in Horton v. City of St. Augustine, 272 F.3d 1318, 1326 (11th Cir. 2001), the court held that PLN had already succeeded on the merits for the purpose of seeking a preliminary injunction, as the defendants conceded the old mail policy was unconstitutional; that PLN had demonstrated irreparable harm due to infringement of First Amendment rights; that upon weighing the balance of injury, there would be no harm to the defendants; and that prohibiting the jail from using an unconstitutional mail policy would serve the public interest.

Finding that PLN had met all the requirements for a preliminary injunction, U.S. District Court Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr. granted the motion. The Fulton County Jail was enjoined from using the old mail policy that prevented prisoners from receiving books and publications, and ordered to notify PLN and the court should it ?make any changes in the new mail policy.?

PLN will report the final outcome in this case. See: Prison Legal News v. Fulton County, USDC ND GA, Case No. 1:07-cv-2618-CAP.

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Related legal case

Prison Legal News v. Fulton County