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Old 02-27-2003, 04:58 PM
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Default Prison Legal News Settles Oregon Censorship Suit for $55,414.31

Seattle, Washington – February 21, 2003 – Prison Legal News’ federal lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) has been settled. Filed on April 2, 2002 in the United States District Court in Portland, Oregon, the lawsuit alleged the Oregon DOC was censoring Prison Legal News magazine, and informational brochures mailed to Oregon prisoners by standard (a.k.a., bulk mail) and media (book) rate mail. The lawsuit also alleged Prison Legal News was denied meaningful opportunity to contest the censorship by being denied notice of when it occurred. The lawsuit further alleged that prisoners were being required to pay for magazine subscriptions and books from their prison trust accounts. (See Prison Legal News v. Schumacher, USDC OR, Case No. 02-428-MA)

The parties agreed to settle the lawsuit after conducting written discovery, but prior to the filing of summary judgment motions.

The Oregon DOC agreed to deliver all mailings from Prison Legal News to Oregon prisoners regardless of the postal classification. It also agreed that Prison Legal News is an approved vendor for all Oregon prisons, that gift subscriptions are acceptable, and that the magazine can be purchased without any registration process by a prisoner. The Oregon DOC also agreed it would approve rule changes of the Oregon Administrative Rules to permit prisoners to receive catalogs for books and magazines. They also agreed Prison Legal News is entitled to notice of any censorship, and that any censorship can be appealed directly to the Oregon DOC's central mail administrator. The Oregon DOC retains the authority to censor any publication based on content. The Oregon DOC also agreed to purchase a two-year subscription to Prison Legal News magazine for the law library in the 13 prisons it administers, and prisoners in those prisons will be notified of its availability. The Oregon DOC also agreed to pay $39,914.31 in attorney fees and costs and $15,500 in damages. To ensure compliance with the settlement, the District Court retains jurisdiction for one year.

In exchange for those concessions and payments, Prison Legal News agreed to dismiss the lawsuit.

Prison Legal News had previously filed a federal lawsuit against the Oregon DOC over its ban on prisoners receiving magazines sent to prisoners at the bulk mail postage rate. After losing at the District Court level, Prison Legal News won on appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. See: Prison Legal News v. Cook, 8 F.3d 1145 (9th Cir. 2001). On remand to the District Court, Prison Legal News was awarded an injunction prohibiting the censorship of it mailings based on the postal classification of its mail, the requirement that the Oregon DOC provide it with the notice and opportunity to contest any censorship of its mail, and approximately $58,000 in attorney fees. Details of that case are available in the April 2001 issue of Prison Legal News magazine.

It was the failure of the Oregon DOC to abide by the District Court’s injunction in Prison Legal News v. Cook that served as the basis for the lawsuit filed on April 2, 2002. The injunction imposed on the Oregon DOC by that case is unaffected by the settlement.

Prison Legal News was represented by Marc Blackman of Ransom and Blackman in Portland, Oregon, and Michael Gendler of Gendler and Mann in Seattle, Washington. The damages they negotiated is believed to be the largest awarded in a prison censorship case involving a publisher in this country.

Prison Legal News is the largest circulation monthly publication in the United States focusing on conditions of prisoner confinement, the current state of law related to prisoner rights, and other prison related legal issues.
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