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Library Purge Deemed Unconstitutional

On October 16, 2000, West Virginia prisoner Roger Cline filed suit against William Fox who was the warden at St. Mary’s Correctional Center, the facility where Cline was housed. The complaint was filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 accusing Fox and his staff of 1st and 14th Amendment violations when they denied him access to certain adult-fiction reading materials. Citing DOC Policy Directive 503.00(III), Warden Fox claimed the materials barred were “obscene” in nature and were, therefore, prohibited.
Furthermore, Fox ordered the closure of the unit library and the screening of the library’s inventory to cull any books that violated the obscenity ban. The screening culminated in the purging of 21% of the library’s stock.

Cline’s attorney, Robert Bastress, Esq., of West Virginia University College of Law in Morgantown, argued the Policy Directive and the warden’s actions were unconstitutional in that they restricted Cline’s right to information by purging the library. Cline and Fox filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and, on May 7, 2004, the court granted Cline’s motion in regard to the purge. Additionally, the court enjoined the enforcement of P.D. 503.00(V)(P) and ordered that it be amended “in a manner consistent with this court’s orders and other governing federal law.” See: Cline v. Fox, et al., 319 F. Supp. 2d 685 (N.D.W.Va. 2004).

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Related legal case

Cline v. Fox, et al.