116 F.3d 351 (8th Cir. 1997), 96-2469, Williams v. Brimeyer

Docket Nº:96-2469.
Citation:116 F.3d 351
Party Name:Harold D. WILLIAMS, Appellee, v. Larry BRIMEYER, sued as Larry Brimyer; John Sissel; and Erma Heiken, sued as Irma Heiken, Appellants.
Case Date:June 25, 1997
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Page 351

116 F.3d 351 (8th Cir. 1997)

Harold D. WILLIAMS, Appellee,


Larry BRIMEYER, sued as Larry Brimyer; John Sissel; and

Erma Heiken, sued as Irma Heiken, Appellants.

No. 96-2469.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

June 25, 1997

Submitted Feb. 12, 1997.

Rehearing and Suggestion for Rehearing En Banc Denied Oct.

15, 1997.[*]

Page 352

Layne M. Lindebak (argued), Assistant Attorney General, Des Moines, IA, for appellants.

Patrick E. Ingram (argued), Iowa City, IA, for appellee.

Before RICHARD S. ARNOLD, Chief Judge, and HANSEN and MORRIS SHEPPARD ARNOLD, Circuit Judges.


Harold Williams, an inmate at Iowa Men's Reformatory, brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against prison officials when he was denied two pieces of incoming mail he had ordered from the Church of Jesus Christ Christian. The District Court 1 awarded him $1.00 in compensatory damages and $500.00 in punitive damages from each of two defendants, and ordered that Williams be allowed to receive, read, and possess the materials he sought. The State of Iowa appeals that decision, and we affirm.


Harold Williams wrote away twice to the Church of Jesus Christ Christian ("CJCC") requesting that CJCC publications be sent to him at the Iowa Men's Reformatory ("IMR"). The publications were entitled, "Church of Jesus Christ Christian: Prison Ministries" and "Notice Pertaining to Civil Rights." In both instances, the mail room clerk at IMR withheld the publications from Williams, sending him instead contraband notices informing him that he could not receive the CJCC materials. 2

Page 353

Williams brought this case to challenge the handling of the CJCC materials he ordered. He believes that he should have been able to receive them and that prison officials denied him the materials under a complete ban of all materials from the CJCC. A blanket ban on CJCC materials, without review of their individual content, would violate the First Amendment. Murphy v. Missouri Dep't of Corrections, 814 F.2d 1252, 1257 (8th Cir.1987).


The District Court found that, at the time Williams was denied CJCC materials, prison officials at IMR were imposing a blanket ban on publications from CJCC. The Court held defendants John Sissel and Erma Heiken liable for denying Williams these materials, and awarded Williams $500.00 in punitive damages from each of them.

Prison officials withheld CJCC materials from Williams on two occasions. The first denial occurred in September 1993. When Williams received a contraband notice instead of the CJCC information he expected, he asked Heiken, the mail room clerk who signed the contraband notice, why. She informed him that CJCC materials had been denied by the Iowa Department of Corrections. 3 Williams then asked how he could appeal the denial. Heiken told him he could either have the material destroyed or sent outside the prison to a third party. Williams then filed a grievance with the prison's grievance officer, contending that the prison had a blanket ban...

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