352 F.2d 970 (8th Cir. 1965), 17951, Lee v. Tahash

Docket Nº17951.
Citation352 F.2d 970
Party NameJohn Alfred LEE, Appellant, v. Ralph H. TAHASH, Warden, Appellee.
Case DateDecember 01, 1965
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Page 970

352 F.2d 970 (8th Cir. 1965)

John Alfred LEE, Appellant,

v.

Ralph H. TAHASH, Warden, Appellee.

No. 17951.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

December 1, 1965

Page 971

John Alfred Lee, pro se.

Robert W. Mattson, Atty. Gen., of Minnesota, for appellee, with James N. Bradford, Special Asst. Atty. Gen., St. Paul, Minn.

Before JOHNSEN, VOGEL and MATTHES, Circuit Judges.

JOHNSEN, Circuit Judge.

Appellant, an inmate of the Minnesota State Prison, sought a declaratory judgment and an injunction against the Warden on the mailing regulations of the prison and particularly in respect to the returning to him of certain letters which he had attempted to have sent out. He contended that he was entitled to maintain the action under the provisions of 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 of the Civil Rights Acts as involving '* * * the deprivation of * * * rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws * * * of the United States.'

Judge Larson, after a hearing in which he provided appellant with representation of appointed counsel, granted appellee's motion to dismiss the suit for failure to state a claim and entered a judgment of dismissal. The memorandum of the court declared that as prison restrictions the regulations could not be held to be violative of any federal right of appellant either in their content, their application or their enforcement. We affirm the judgment of dismissal.

Restrictions on the extent and character of prisoners' correspondence and examination or censorship in relation thereto have always been regarded as inherent incidents in the conduct of penal institutions and the control of confinements, activities, preoccupations and other relationships therein.

As to the justiciability of this and other elements of sentence-execution generally, it is settled doctrine that except in extreme cases the courts may not interfere with the conduct of a prison, with its regulations and their enforcement, or with its discipline. See e.g., Harris v. Settle, 8 Cir., 322 F.2d 908, 910;

Page 972

Childs v. Pegelow, 4 Cir., 321 F.2d 487, 489; Sostre v. McGinnis, 2 Cir., 334 F.2d 906, 908; United States ex rel. Morris v. Radio Station WENR, 7 Cir., 209 F.2d 105, 107.

Attempts to have the courts deal with correspondence privilege in prisons are, as indicated, within this doctrine. Contrary to the apparent view of prisoners, and of appellant here, the privilege which an individual may enjoy on the outside of writing whatever letters he desires, on whatever subjects he sees fit, and to whatever persons he chooses, is not one to which the law gives an abstract reach into penal institutions. Cf. U.S. ex rel. Thompson v. Fay, D.C.N.Y., 197 F.Supp. 855, 856; Adams v. Ellis, 5 Cir., 197 F.2d 483, 484-485.

Thus the fact that prison authorities, whether federal or state, have refused to allow mailing of some particular letter or letters or to some particular person or persons does not of itself afford basis for a prisoner to try to get into the federal courts. Nor will the fact that particular refusals seem to him to constitute improper interpretation of the prison regulations, or erroneous judgment on the letters themselves, or different treatment in relation to them than he feels has occurred as to some other prisoner or prisoners, of itself give rise to any justiciability. Whether improper interpretation, erroneous judgment, or variant administration may be involved in the restriction of some particular correspondence is, without more, mere institutional incident and not matter of judicial domain.

In general, for there to be basis for a prisoner to seek judicial relief against penal-institution treatment, it must amount to unlawful administration of prison sentence. Carey v. Settle, 8 Cir., 351 F.2d 483.

To illustrate justiciability, unlawful administration can exist where there are aspects of institutional treatment of such character or consequences as to shock general conscience or to be intolerable in fundamental fairness. Id. Such treatment is entitled to be held to be within the ban of the Eighth Amendment as representing cruel and unusual punishment and so constituting unlawful administration of prison sentence. It may be observed in this connection that penal admeasurements made by general conscience and sense of fundamental fairness doubtless will not be without some relationship to the humane concepts and reactions of present-day social climate.

It will not ordinarily be possible to bring the actions of prison officials as to correspondence-privilege into this category of unlawful administration. Conceivably,...

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87 practice notes
  • 66 Cal.2d 282, 10257, In re Allison
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court of California
    • March 28, 1967
    ...(368 U.S. 862, 82 S.Ct. 105, 7 L.Ed.2d 59), and subsequent federal decisions are in accord (see, e.g., Lee v. Tahash (8th Cir. 1965) 352 F.2d 970, 973--974; Roberts v. Pepersack (D.Md.1966) 256 F.Supp. 415, 433--434; United States ex rel. Wakeley v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (E.D.Pa.1965......
  • 186 S.E.2d 220 (W.Va. 1972), 13127, State ex rel. Pingley v. Coiner
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
    • January 25, 1972
    ...may not interfere with the conduct of a prison, its regulations and their enforcement, or with its discipline. Lee v. Tahash, (8th Cir.), 352 F.2d 970. See Harris v. Settle, (8th Cir.), 322 F.2d 908; Childs v. Pegelow, (4th Cir.), 321 F.2d 487; Sostre v. McGinnis, (2nd Cir.), 334 F.2d 906; ......
  • 429 S.W.2d 374 (Ky. 1968), Workman v. Commonwealth
    • United States
    • Kentucky Court of Appeals of Kentucky
    • June 14, 1968
    ...of conscience and the principles to be applied to the individual case without a lot of attention to ancient authorities. Lee v. Tahash, 352 F.2d 970, 972 (8th cir. 1965). The next approach is likewise one of conscience but the test pits the offense against the punishment and if they are fou......
  • 349 F.Supp. 211 (S.D.Tex. 1972), Civ. A. 71-H-570, Guajardo v. McAdams
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit Southern District of Texas
    • September 25, 1972
    ...Two cases considered basic to this point are Ex parte Hull, 312 U.S. 546, 549, 61 S.Ct. 640, 85 L.Ed. 1034 (1941), and Lee v. Tahash, 352 F.2d 970 (8th Cir. 1965). In the former the Supreme Court held invalid a state regulation which required that habeas corpus petitions be submitted to pri......
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86 cases
  • 66 Cal.2d 282, 10257, In re Allison
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court of California
    • March 28, 1967
    ...(368 U.S. 862, 82 S.Ct. 105, 7 L.Ed.2d 59), and subsequent federal decisions are in accord (see, e.g., Lee v. Tahash (8th Cir. 1965) 352 F.2d 970, 973--974; Roberts v. Pepersack (D.Md.1966) 256 F.Supp. 415, 433--434; United States ex rel. Wakeley v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (E.D.Pa.1965......
  • 186 S.E.2d 220 (W.Va. 1972), 13127, State ex rel. Pingley v. Coiner
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
    • January 25, 1972
    ...may not interfere with the conduct of a prison, its regulations and their enforcement, or with its discipline. Lee v. Tahash, (8th Cir.), 352 F.2d 970. See Harris v. Settle, (8th Cir.), 322 F.2d 908; Childs v. Pegelow, (4th Cir.), 321 F.2d 487; Sostre v. McGinnis, (2nd Cir.), 334 F.2d 906; ......
  • 429 S.W.2d 374 (Ky. 1968), Workman v. Commonwealth
    • United States
    • Kentucky Court of Appeals of Kentucky
    • June 14, 1968
    ...of conscience and the principles to be applied to the individual case without a lot of attention to ancient authorities. Lee v. Tahash, 352 F.2d 970, 972 (8th cir. 1965). The next approach is likewise one of conscience but the test pits the offense against the punishment and if they are fou......
  • 349 F.Supp. 211 (S.D.Tex. 1972), Civ. A. 71-H-570, Guajardo v. McAdams
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit Southern District of Texas
    • September 25, 1972
    ...Two cases considered basic to this point are Ex parte Hull, 312 U.S. 546, 549, 61 S.Ct. 640, 85 L.Ed. 1034 (1941), and Lee v. Tahash, 352 F.2d 970 (8th Cir. 1965). In the former the Supreme Court held invalid a state regulation which required that habeas corpus petitions be submitted to pri......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Constitutional rights of prisoners
    • United States
    • Military Law Review Nbr. 55, January 1972
    • January 1, 1972
    ...Supp. 209 ID. Maas. 19711, whieh requires priaen ofleisla to justify B r e h a d to mail B letter to new8 media. 'E.&, lee Y. Tahaah, 352 F.2d 970 (5th Cir. 1965) (12 eorreapondentz); Fvsaa Y. Taylor, 168 F. Supp. 302 1M.D. Pa. 1958) lrefuani of authorities ta forward inmsite'a mail to ......