377 F.3d 655 (7th Cir. 2004), 03-2651, Lindell v. Frank

Docket Nº:03-2651, 03-2765.
Citation:377 F.3d 655
Party Name:Nathaniel LINDELL, Plaintiff-Appellant, Cross-Appellee, v. Matthew J. FRANK, [*] et al., Defendants-Appellees, Cross-Appellants, and Cindy O'Donnell, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:July 19, 2004
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 655

377 F.3d 655 (7th Cir. 2004)

Nathaniel LINDELL, Plaintiff-Appellant, Cross-Appellee,

v.

Matthew J. FRANK, [*] et al., Defendants-Appellees, Cross-Appellants,

and

Cindy O'Donnell, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

Nos. 03-2651, 03-2765.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 19, 2004

Submitted March 19, 2004 [**].

Motion Granted Aug. 13, 2004.

Page 656

Nathaniel Lindell, Boscobel, WI, pro se.

Jody J. Schmelzer (argued), Office of the Attorney General, Department of Justice, Madison, WI, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before RIPPLE, KANNE, and DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judges.

Page 657

DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judge.

Nathaniel Lindell, an inmate at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF), sued prison officials and staff alleging numerous civil rights violations. In a comprehensive order, the district court dismissed much of Lindell's complaint after screening it under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A but granted him leave to proceed in forma pauperis on seven claims. Later, in another thorough order, the court granted summary judgment for the defendants on six of the surviving claims, but it awarded Lindell injunctive relief on the final claim. The court found that the defendants had qualified immunity, however, precluding an award of damages on that claim.

On appeal Lindell challenges the grant of summary judgment for the defendants on the six claims he lost, as well as the refusal to award more than injunctive relief for the claim on which he prevailed. Lindell also challenges the dismissals of all but one of his claims screened out under § 1915A and contests a number of procedural rulings by the district court. In their cross-appeal, the defendants seek to overturn the award of injunctive relief to Lindell, arguing both that he was entitled to no relief at all and that the injunction framed by the district court is overly broad and thus violates the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), see 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(1). Although we concur with most of the district court's rulings, we conclude that one of Lindell's First Amendment claims dismissed at initial screening should have been allowed to proceed. We also agree with the defendants that the injunction entered by the court must be modified to bring it into conformity with the PLRA.

I

In light of the district court's careful consideration of each of Lindell's claims, we find it necessary to address only the single First Amendment claim that should have been allowed to proceed. In his complaint Lindell alleged that the defendants violated his right to free speech by "arbitrarily" confiscating picture postcards from his cell; he says that the defendants told him at the time that he could possess no more than five postcards at one time. Lindell does not describe the pictures on the confiscated postcards, but says only that they "were meant to convey a message." In dismissing this claim, the district court reasoned that, regardless whether Lindell had alleged a protected right to possess his postcards, the defendants' "policy" of allowing only five postcards in a cell at a time was reasonably related to the prison's security interest in limiting the number of items each inmate has in his cell.

When a prison regulation restricts a prisoner's First Amendment right to free speech, it is valid only if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests. Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89, 107 S.Ct. 2254, 96 L.Ed.2d 64 (1987); Kikumura v. Turner, 28 F.3d 592, 598 (7th Cir. 1994). There are four factors that courts must consider in determining whether a prison regulation is constitutional: whether the regulation is rationally related to a legitimate and neutral governmental objective; whether there are alternative means of exercising the right that remain open to the inmate; what impact an accommodation of the asserted right will have on guards and other inmates; and whether there are obvious alternatives to the regulation that show that it is an exaggerated response to prison concerns. Turner, 482 U.S. at 89-91, 107 S.Ct. 2254.

Although it might be possible to envision a security justification that would support the defendants' action, we believe that the district court acted prematurely in presuming

Page 658

such a justification. In his complaint Lindell did not concede that there even is such a prison policy limiting the number of picture postcards that can be possessed in a cell. To the contrary, he alleged that there was nothing in the prison rule book about postcards and that the defendants' confiscation of his postcards was arbitrary. Thus, at the outset we have a disputed issue of material fact: what exactly did the prison's policy provide, and what if any exceptions did it recognize?

It is impossible to evaluate the First Amendment implications of this case without the answers to those questions. We do not rule out, at this early stage, the possibility that the defendants might be able to show that Lindell's postcards were justifiably removed from his cell, but this determination cannot be made without knowing the reasons behind their removal. See Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 415, 94 S.Ct. 1800, 40 L.Ed.2d 224 (1974) (prison officials violate the First Amendment when for reasons unrelated to legitimate penological interests they engage in "censorship of ... expression of 'inflammatory political, racial, religious or other views' and matter deemed 'defamatory' or 'otherwise inappropriate.' "). Because this claim was dismissed at screening, the defendants were never required to explain the basis for confiscating some of Lindell's postcards, and in their brief in this court the defendants do not even address his argument that this claim should have been allowed to go forward. Accordingly, we vacate the district court's dismissal of this claim. In all other respects, we reject Lindell's arguments on appeal.

II

We turn now to the defendants' cross-appeal. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) has implemented a broad "publishers only" rule--a policy of allowing inmates to receive published materials only from a publisher or other commercial...

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