A RBGG team led by Jeffrey Bornstein, Sanford Jay Rosen and Ben Bien-Kahn successfully resolved three important First and Fourteenth Amendment censorship cases that prohibited or restricted publishers from sending books and magazines to persons incarcerated in county jails in California’s Placer, Tehama and Napa Counties. The resolutions in these cases will protect RBGG’s client Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) and other third party publishers and book distributors from having their publications censored by jail officials if they were not pre-approved, and also ensures that publications will not be rejected if they contain staples.
The actions were brought on behalf of HRDC to ensure that its constitutional right to solicit subscribers for its publications, including Prison Legal News, would not be interfered with by these county jails.
All three cases were all filed in early 2020 and were fully resolved by the end of June 2020, except for subsequent litigation over attorney fees in the Napa case. The settlements will also apply to other publishers and not just HRDC. Bornstein remarked that the resolutions “were comprehensive, quickly obtained and represent fundamental fairness and accord with black letter First Amendment and Due Process precedent.”
On March 28, 2021, Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero ruled that Napa County must pay HRDC and its attorneys $255,925.00 in attorneys’ fees and $808.35 in costs. This is the full amount that had been billed to the County at plaintiffs attorneys’ full 2020 hourly billing rates. Napa County had aggressively opposed HRDC’s fee requests. In an encyclopedic opinion, Judge Spero decided all the legal issues in HRDC’s favor under both California and federal law. By comparison, Tehama and Placer County settled HRDC’s fees claims simultaneously with their agreements to end their unconstitutional practices, paying HRDC and its attorneys a fraction of what Napa County now must pay.