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Berrigan v. Norton

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT


decided: November 26, 1971.

DANIEL BERRIGAN AND PHILIP BERRIGAN, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
J. J. NORTON, WARDEN, DANBURY FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION, UNITED STATES BUREAU OF PRISONS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES

Lumbard, Mansfield and Oakes, Circuit Judges.

Author: Oakes

OAKES, Circuit Judge:

This appeal is taken from the denial by District Judge Clarie of appellants' motion for a preliminary injunction in a suit involving first amendment and prison discipline questions.*fn1 Appellants are the well-known Roman Catholic priests who in autumn 1970 were confined in the Danbury, Connecticut, Federal Correctional Institution ("Danbury"), following their convictions in connection with the destruction of selective service records in Maryland during 1967 and 1968.

In late September 1970, various members of the clergy sent letters addressed to Warden J. J. Norton of Danbury, requesting that the Fathers Berrigan be allowed to make personal speaking appearances outside the prison on or around the times of the Feast of Assisi (Oct. 4) and Yom Kippur (Oct. 10). The letters asked that the priests be allowed to tape and send out their messages if personal appearances were impossible.*fn2 Between October 6 and 13 the warden replied that both the requested personal appearances and tape recording transmittals were contrary to Bureau of Prison procedures.

Appellants had apparently drafted a sermon for delivery,*fn3 but did not seek permission from the warden directly to deliver it in any way or to publish it. Rather, sometime after October 12, 1970, appellant Daniel Berrigan asked his caseworker, "They are not going to let us write sermons, are they?" The caseworker's reply, which constituted the only alleged "official" action in this case, was "I guess not," or "It seems not." At no time during that conversation was there any indication that a particular sermon had already been written or that appellants wanted to disseminate it. The caseworker knew that a request or requests for personal appearances or tape recordings had been refused by Warden Norton. Appellant Daniel Berrigan did not show the caseworker the sermon he had prepared because, according to his testimony below, "I think we had it in mind that the request would be turned down. And we also had in mind the necessity of a test case."

Appellant Philip Berrigan testified that he submitted a copy of the sermon to his caseworker on October 10, 1970.*fn4 A day or two later the caseworker wrote him that if he would "care to discuss it, please see me," but appellant did not pursue the matter further.

This suit was brought to enjoin Warden Norton from restraining appellants' dissemination of the particular sermon mentioned above, from in any way curtailing the exercise of appellants' first amendment rights, and from enforcing Bureau of Prisons "Policy Memorandum" 7300.14 on the subject of "Inmate Manuscripts," a memorandum which was in the process of revision when suit was brought and which, we are advised by the Government, has since been superseded by "Policy Statement" 7300.7A.*fn5

We do not reach the constitutional questions presented in the complaint, nor do we in any way seek to determine what limitations, if any, those in charge of federal correctional facilities properly may place upon inmates' freedom of expression, in the interests of internal prison security or otherwise. Judicial review of issues of as grave importance as these cannot rest upon a record as incomplete as that before us.

The trial court found, and it is not disputed here, that the appellants did not submit "any completed writing * * * for approval for publication" outside the prison. Assuming that a copy of the sermon was given by appellant Philip Berrigan to his caseworker, there was no concurrent or later request to the warden to disseminate it, although the caseworker had invited one of the appellants to discuss the matter with him. Consequently, publication or distribution of the manuscript has never been disapproved officially. The warden has never rejected the sermon for publication outside the prison, even though on cross-examination he did indicate reservations about one paragraph of the sermon. All that he has done is refuse requests by persons outside the prison to let appellants leave prison to speak, or, alternatively, to record on tape and send out a sermon or sermons of unspecified content.

Without having taken the necessary step of submitting the sermon to the warden, appellants ask us to construe the Bureau of Prisons Policy Memoranda as prohibiting the sermon in question, as void for indefiniteness, or to divine that publication of the sermon would not have been allowed by the warden. We have already said parenthetically (note 5 supra) that the Bureau of Prisons Policy Memoranda -- both the original and the revised versions -- on their face do not seem to prohibit dissemination of this sermon. While we are aware of the warden's testimony in the district court that he did not like or thought he "would have to object to" particular portions of one paragraph in the sermon*fn6 -- which he read for the first time after the hearing below had begun -- there is nothing in this record from which we can conclude with reasonable certainty that the sermon in question would have been rejected had it been submitted, or indeed that any request was made to the caseworkers to submit it to the appropriate prison authority for examination.

This being true, appellants have made an insufficient showing of any infringement of first amendment rights. And, at least from the present state of the record, the appellants do not appear to present a justiciable case or controversy. U.S.Const. art. III, ยง 2; Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.S. 103, 108, 89 S. Ct. 956, 22 L. Ed. 2d 113 (1969); see also Sanks v. Georgia, 401 U.S. 144, 151, 91 S. Ct. 593, 27 L. Ed. 2d 741 (1971). Denial of the "extraordinary remedy" of preliminary relief, as a matter of judicial discretion, 7 Moore, Federal Practice para. 65.04, at 1625 (2d ed. 1966), is not improper where there is no "clear showing of probable success and possible irreparable injury." Checker Motors Corp. v. Chrysler Corp., 405 F.2d 319, 323 (2d Cir. 1969) (emphasis original); Clairol Inc. v. Gillette Co., 389 F.2d 264, 265 (2d Cir. 1968); Societe Comptoir De L'Indus., etc. v. Alexander's Dep't Stores, Inc., 299 F.2d 33, 35 (2d Cir. 1962); see also Maas v. United States, 125 U.S.App.D.C. 251, 371 F.2d 348 (1966).

Judgment denying preliminary injunction affirmed.

Disposition

Judgment denying preliminary injunction affirmed.


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