Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lee v. Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

December 21, 2017

TRACY LEE
v.
LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONS

         On Appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana No. C648139 Honorable William Morvant, Judge Presiding

          G. Ben Cohen Nishi L. Kumar New Orleans, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiff/ Appellee Tracy Lee

          Terri L. Cannon Angola, Louisiana Heather Hood Baton Rouge, LA Counsel for Defendant/ Appellant Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McDONALD, and CHUTZ, JJ.

          WHIPPLE, C.J.

         Defendant, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections ("the Department"), appeals a judgment of the district court, which reversed an earlier final decision of the Department in an administrative proceeding, wherein inmate Tracy Lee challenged the Department's rejection of four books received by Lee through the prison mailroom on the basis that the books contained sexually explicit material. For the following reasons, we reverse the judgment of the district court.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Tracy Lee is an inmate in the custody of the Department who is housed on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary ("LSP") located in Angola, Louisiana. Lee filed a grievance in accordance with the Corrections Administrative Remedy Procedure Act, LSA-R.S. 15:1171, et seq., contending that the LSP erroneously rejected four books[1] mailed to him on the stated basis that the publications contain nudity or sexually explicit material. The Department rejected Lee's grievance, citing Department Regulation C-02-0Q9 as prohibiting sexually explicit material in the interest of the safety of other inmates and staff.

         Thereafter, Lee filed a petition for judicial review in the district court pursuant to LSA-R.S. 15:1177, seeking: (1) immediate delivery of the disputed publications; (2) a cease and desist order ordering the Department to cease the taking of any publications from death row inmates on the sole basis that the materials contain sexually explicit material in written form only; and (3) an order holding the Department and its respective employees in contempt of court for their blatant disregard of prior court rulings that "definitively" decided the disputed issue herein. Lee attached two former commissioner recommendations and the related district court judgments, wherein the district court ordered the Department to release allegedly explicit publications, containing written words only, to death row inmates.[2] In response to Lee's petition, the Department filed a general denial and attached the administrative record and excerpts from the four disputed books that were withheld by the Department.

         Upon finding that the issues could be determined by brief in lieu of oral arguments, the commissioner reviewing the matter submitted a screening report to the district court, recommending that the Department's confiscation of publications from Lee should be reversed as arbitrary and in apparent violation of Lee's first amendment rights.

         Thereafter, the Department filed a traversal to the commissioner's recommendation, discussing at length how Regulation No. C-02-009, governing the prohibition of sexual explicit material in both pictorial and written form, is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests, including the security of the penitentiary, even when applied to a death row inmate, and arguing that accordingly, any first amendment right that Lee might have to sexually explicit material must fall in light of these legitimate penological objectives. In support thereof, the Department attached a copy of Irish v. Cain, 2009-1738 (La, App. 1st Cir. 3/26/10), 2010 WL 1170355, wherein this court found that Regulation C-02-009 was reasonably related to the Department's legitimate penological interest and thus, the Department's mailroom employees did not abuse their discretion in rejecting five books sent to a death row inmate that contained depictions of nudity and sexually explicit conduct.

         However, the district court thereafter rendered judgment in conformity with the commissioner's recommendation, reversing the Department's administrative decision as arbitrary and in violation of Lee's first amendment rights. The Department then filed the instant appeal, assigning the following as error:

(1.) The trial court erred in determining that the Department had no legitimate penological justification to disallow publications containing sexually explicit written words to a death row inmate.
(2.) The trial court erred in finding that the Department's decision was arbitrary and in violation of Lee's first amendment rights.
(3.) The trial court erred in assessing all costs to the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.