FJI Sues Florida Department of Corrections to Stop Censorship of Prison Legal News

Back in 2003, the FDOC began to censor the magazine Prison Legal News—a monthly publication of legal news, analysis, and commentary on the prison system—on the basis of certain advertisements that appear in PLN.  During that litigation, the FDOC amended the relevant rule and assured the court they would no longer censor the magazine, and the case was dismissed as moot.  Several years later, despite these assurances, the FDOC resumed censorship of the magazine for the same reasons.  FJI has filed another lawsuit, alleging that this censorship violates PLN’s First Amendment rights.  We filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, and the case is ongoing.

February 2015 Update: After the Court denied both parties’ motions for summary judgment, a bench trial was held in January 2015.  A decision from the Court is pending.

September 2015 Update: The District Court has issued an Order from the bench trial.  Unfortunately, the Court concluded that PLN’s First Amendment rights had not been violated.  However, the Court held that PLN’s Due Process rights had been repeatedly violated because the FDOC failed to provide timely and adequate notice to PLN when its magazine was censored.  The Court issued an injunction requiring the FDOC provide the required notice so that PLN could have the opportunity to appeal the censorship of its magazine.  PLN has appealed the First Amendment ruling to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

December 2015 Update: PLN has filed its Opening Brief to the Eleventh Circuit.  The brief was authored by former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, a partner at Washington, D.C.-based Bancroft PLLC.  On appeal, Clement noted that Florida, “alone among the fifty States, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and every county jail in the country, is violating Prison Legal News’s First Amendment rights by impounding every issue of its magazine based on the publication’s advertisements.” PLN’s journal is sent to prisons in all states and to federal facilities, including the federal supermax ADX prison in Florence, Colorado, without being censored due to its ad content. “There is simply no logical fit between the FDOC’s renewed censorial zeal and the current evidence that would justify its alone-in-the-nation censorship of a publication uniquely focused on the plights and rights of prisoners,” PLN argued in its appellate brief.

PLN is asking the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the district court’s judgment as to the First Amendment censorship claim, to affirm the court’s ruling as to the due process claim and to expand the latter to ensure PLN receives individualized notice when the FDOC censors issues of its monthly publication.

PLN has issued a Press Release to announce the filing of the brief.

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