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$34,000 Settles Nevada Prisoner's Suit

by Lonnie Burton

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal filed by a Nevada state prisoner as moot after it ruled he had settled his case following judgment. The judgment marked a third win for this prison rights litigant, each resulting in a monetary award.

Christopher A. Jones filed suit against Nevada prison officials after staff confiscated a letter from his cell at the Ely State Prison. The letter called upon fellow prisoners to work together in support of a previous class-action suit Jones filed. Following the 2000 search, Jones was charged with violating prison rules prohibiting "organizing, encouraging, or participating in a work stoppage or other disruptive demonstration or practice." At his hearing, Jones was ordered to leave the room for being "disruptive" for repeatedly requesting a copy of the letter to review prior to the hearing. Hearings officer Mark Drain refused to let Jones see the letter, found Jones guilty and sanctioned him with 180 days segregation, 90 days loss of the telephone, and forfeiture of the letter.

Jones' internal appeals were denied, and he filed suit in federal court alleging violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. On cross-motions for summary judgment, some of Jones' claims were dismissed, while the court granted summary judgment for Jones on other issues. The case proceeded to a damages trial, and a jury awarded Jones $11,002 in nominal and punitive damages. The state agreed to pay another $23,000 in attorney's fees and costs.

Because of this agreement, known as an "Accord and Satisfaction," Jones' appeal to the Ninth Circuit on the issues he lost on summary judgment were mooted, according to that court's June 10, 2013 ruling.

Jones is an active prison rights litigant, and a successful one at that. In addition to this $34,000 award, he has also received a $9,101 judgment against Nevada prison officials in federal case no. 3:08-cv-537-LRH-VPC (Jones v. McDaniel et al.). Another case he filed regarding an unconstitutional disciplinary proceeding netted him an additional $6,000. See Jones v. Sgt. Zimmer, Case no. 2:12-cv-01578-JAD-NJK.

Jones sought a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court over the Ninth Circuit's dismissal of his appeal. That petition was denied on March 31, 2014.

See: Jones v. McDaniel, 717 F.3d 1062 (9th Cir. 2013), cert. denied; Jones v. Drain, et al., U.S.D.C. (NV) Case no. 3:05-CV-0278-RAM.

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Related legal cases

Jones v. McDaniel

Jones v. Drain