United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division
O. Hickey United States District Judge
the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 20.
Plaintiff has filed a response. ECF No. 26. Defendants have
filed a reply. ECF No. 30. The Court finds this matter ripe
case concerns the constitutionality of the postcard-only
policy in force at the Union County Detention Center
(“UCDC”) in Union County, Arkansas. Plaintiff
Human Rights Defense Center (hereinafter
“Plaintiff” or “HRDC”) is a
not-for-profit organization that seeks to “educate
prisoners and the public about the destructive nature of
racism, sexism, and the economic and social costs of prisons
to society.” ECF No. 1, ¶ 10. HRDC, through its
publishing project Prison Legal News (“PLN”),
publishes a 72-page monthly magazine entitled Prison
Legal News: Dedicated to Protecting Human Rights. ECF
No. 1, ¶ 17. Plaintiff states that Prison Legal
News is widely distributed to approximately 2, 600
correctional facilities across the United States, including
facilities in all fifty states. ECF No. 1, ¶ 18.
Plaintiff states that PLN also publishes and/or distributes
various books “designed to foster a better
understanding of criminal justice policies and to allow
prisoners to educate themselves about related issues, such as
legal research, how to write a business letter, health care
issues, and similar topics” that may be of interest to
prisoners. ECF No. 1, ¶ 19. Plaintiff claims that it
also sends prisoners informational brochure packets and
important judicial opinions. ECF No. 1, ¶ 20.
alleges that the UCDC mail policy only allows UCDC inmates to
“receive 3x5 or 4x6 postcards as incoming mail.”
ECF No. 1, ¶ 23. Plaintiff contends that this policy
“effectively [bans] all enveloped correspondence, books
and magazines sent by HRDC and others” to UCDC inmates.
ECF No. 1, ¶ 22. Plaintiff states that since June 2017,
Defendants have “censored” at least fifty-three
items sent by Plaintiff to UCDC inmates and that in many
instances these items have been returned to Plaintiff via the
“Return to Sender” service of the United States
Postal Service. ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 24, 25. Many of these
returned items were marked as follows:
Union County Sheriff's Dept.
Return to Sender
Reason: Post Cards Only
ECF No. 1, ¶ 24.
claims that Defendants failed to provide a penological
justification for the rejection of HRDC materials, failed to
give “meaningful notice” of the rejection, and
failed to provide Plaintiff with an opportunity to challenge
the rejection of HRDC materials. ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 26,
27. Plaintiff claims it “has a right under the Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to receive notice
and an opportunity to object and/or appeal Defendants'
decisions to prevent HRDC's mail from reaching prisoners
held in the UCDC” and that the UCDC postcard-only
policy violates these rights. ECF No. 1, ¶ 45. Plaintiff
also claims that these “restrictions on written speech
sent to prisoners at the UCDC are not rationally related to
any legitimate penological interest and violate HRDC's
First Amendment right to communicate its speech with
prisoners.” ECF No. 1, ¶ 28.
sues the individual Defendants in both their official and
individual capacities and seeks declaratory relief,
injunctive relief, nominal damages and compensatory damages.
ECF No. 1, ¶ 42. Plaintiff also seeks punitive damages
against the individual Defendants in their individual
capacities. ECF No. 1, ¶ 42.
instant motion, Defendants move the Court to dismiss
Plaintiff's individual capacity claims, asserting that
the individual Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.
whether a defendant is entitled to qualified immunity
requires a two-step inquiry. Jones v. McNeese, 675
F.3d 1158, 1161 (8th Cir. 2012). First, the court must
determine whether the plaintiff has alleged a deprivation of
a constitutional right. Cox v. Sugg, 484 F.3d 1062,
1065 (8th Cir. 2007). If so, the court must decide whether
the implicated right was clearly established at the time of
the deprivation. Jones, 675 F.3d at 1161 (citing
Parrish v. Ball, 594 F.3d 993, 1001 (8th Cir.
2010)). “Clearly established” means “[t]he
contours of the right must be sufficiently clear that a
reasonable official would understand that what he is doing
violates that right.” Id. (quoting
Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640, (1987)).
For a right to be clearly established, ...