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Federal Court Holds New Jersey Prisoner's PLN Denial Claim is Valid

On February 23, 2011, a federal court held that a New Jersey state prisoner's suit complaining of, among other issues, prison officials denying him access to Prison Legal News, stated a valid claim.

Raheem Taylor, a New Jersey state prisoner, was incarcerated at the East Jersey State Prison when he filed a grievance against guard Norman B. Knight. According to Taylor, Knight and other prison officials then retaliated against him with "a pattern of harassment and other adversarial behavior" including a false disciplinary action; opening and reading his legal mail outside his presence; delaying his legal mail; preventing him from having access to the law library and seizing and censoring Prison Legal News to which he subscribed. He filed a civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal district court complaining of the prison employee's behavior along with a motion to proceed in forma pauperis.

The court granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis and evaluated the claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The court denied Taylor's request for a preliminary injunction and dismissed several claims, but held that the "claims asserting First Amendment violations of retaliation, interference with his legal mail, and infringement of free speech and association related to receipt of a monthly newsletter regarding prison legal news will be allowed to proceed."

In evaluating the Prison Legal News denial claim, the court specifically noted that in Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521 (2006) the Supreme Court upheld the denial of newspapers, magazines, and photographs for a group of especially dangerous prisoners in long-term segregation. However, in this case, the record did not show that legitimate penological interests would be served by denying access to PLN. Therefore, that claim was allowed to proceed. See: Taylor v. Hayman, No. 10-4079 (FSH), U.S.D.C.-D. New Jersey, 2011 WL 735449.

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Related legal case

Taylor v. Hayman