In an opinion issued on June 9, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed that a federal trial court can order post-judgment monitoring to ensure compliance with a settlement and judgment that removed barriers between publishers and readers in state institutions.

The opinion stems from a case brought by Prison Legal News (“PLN”), a publisher of magazines and books.  PLN took legal action after learning that California prisons were placing arbitrary restrictions on access to books, magazines and newspapers, and that these restrictions were embodied in unconstitutional written regulations and policies.  Through its counsel, Sanford Jay Rosen, PLN contacted California authorities before filing suit.  After a year of negotiation, PLN prevailed, and California agreed to modify unconstitutional regulations and policies, and replace them with new policies that allowed prisoners free access to written materials, within reasonable limits needed for prison security.  The settlement included damages for PLN’s past lack of access to readers, and continued federal court supervision.

After cooperating briefly, the state argued that PLN could not be compensated for the attorneys fees and costs needed to ensure compliance with the judgment.  The Ninth Circuit rejected this argument, in a ruling that affirms the court’s discretion to make orders necessary to ensure that its judgments are complied with.  “This is an important First Amendment victory.  It is critical for the health of our society, and political system, that publishers have access to readers in all places and situations, including in state institutions,” said Ernest Galvan, who argued the case in the Ninth Circuit.  Sanford Jay Rosen, Kenneth Walczak, Blake Thompson, and Galvan briefed the case.   The Ninth Circuit also ordered that the trial court should receive evidence on whether continued federal court involvement is necessary to ensure the First Amendment rights protected by the judgment.

PLN has taken the lead in protecting the First Amendment rights of publishers to reach institutionalized readers, and has prevailed in free speech cases around the nation.  Rosen Bien & Galvan has been proud to work with PLN in several of these cases.  More information is available on PLN’s website, including an interactive map of PLN’s free speech victories.