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MINIGAN v. IRVIN

August 18, 1997

FRANK MINIGAN, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
FRANK IRVIN, D. WOLFF, and T. MURRAY, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HECKMAN

DECISION AND ORDER

 The parties have consented to have the undersigned conduct any and all further proceedings in this case, including entry of final judgment, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Plaintiff and defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's motion is denied, and defendants' motion is granted.

 BACKGROUND

 On November 3, 1994, while he was confined at the Wende Correctional Facility maintained by the New York State Department of Correctional Facilities ("DOCS"), plaintiff was served a misbehavior report written by Corrections Officer D. Daniels. The misbehavior report stated that, "as a result of an investigation it has been determined that [plaintiff] has violated Rule 180.11 *fn1" by sending letters out through correspondences with instructions to Mrs. Frank Minigan to re-mail letters to Judge Louise Slaughter. *fn2" Also, included with these letters was inmate Minigan's inmate I.D. card, thus resulting in Rule violations 114.10 *fn3" and 116.10" *fn4" (Ex. attached to Item 12). The misbehavior report indicated that the incident occurred on November 2, 1994 (id.).

 On June 29, 1995, defendants moved pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In a decision and order dated February 14, 1996, this court granted defendants' motion to the extent it requested dismissal of plaintiff's due process claim, but denied defendants' motion to the extent it requested dismissal of the first amendment claim. See Minigan v. Irvin, 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2085, 1996 WL 80176 (W.D.N.Y. February 15, 1996).

 Both parties now move for summary judgment. According to plaintiff, the undisputed facts show that defendants interfered with his outgoing mail, in violation of his first amendment rights. Defendants contend that the opening of plaintiff's outgoing mail did not violate plaintiff's first amendment rights. Defendants also claim that they are entitled to qualified immunity.

 DISCUSSION

 I. § 1983: First Amendment Mail Obstruction.

 It is well-established under Supreme Court and Second Circuit holdings that prison inmates have a first amendment right in the free flow of their mail, both incoming and outgoing. Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 40 L. Ed. 2d 224, 94 S. Ct. 1800 (1974); Heimerle v. Attorney General, 753 F.2d 10 (2d Cir. 1985); France v. Coughlin, 1987 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3479, 1987 WL 10724 (S.D.N.Y. 1987). In order to accommodate this right, prison restrictions on inmate mail must be reasonably related to prison interests in security and order. Procunier v. Martinez, supra, 416 U.S. at 412; Heimerle, supra, 753 F.2d at 12; see also Davidson v. Scully, 694 F.2d 50 (2d Cir. 1982); Wolfish v. Levi, 573 F.2d 118 (2d Cir. 1978), rev'd in part on other grounds sub nom. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861 (1979).

 Permissible restrictions on an inmate's outgoing legal mail, a category which implicates the right of access to the courts, are extremely limited. Washington v. James, 782 F.2d 1134 (2d Cir. 1986). With respect to non-legal outgoing mail, "prison officials may open or read it but only if there is 'good cause.'" France v. Coughlin, supra, 1987 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3479, at *7, 1987 WL 10724 at *2 (quoting Heimerle, supra)(other citations omitted).

 In this case, the affidavits and exhibits submitted in support of defendants' motion for summary judgment establish that plaintiff's outgoing mail was opened for good cause pursuant to legitimate prison regulations and directives. DOCS Directives 4421 and 4422 establish the prison's policy and procedure for inspection of outgoing inmate correspondence. The constitutionality of this policy has been upheld repeatedly by courts in this circuit. See Webster v. Mann, 917 F. Supp. 185, 187 (W.D.N.Y. 1996)(Directive 4422 reasonably related to legitimate penological interests); Billups v. New York State, 885 F. Supp. 38, 41 (N.D.N.Y 1995)(Directive 4421 designed to further prison's legitimate penological interests in security and order); France v. Coughlin, supra, 1987 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3479, at *7, 1987 WL 10724, at *3 (addressing constitutionality of Directive 4422); Golden v. Coombe, 508 F. Supp. 156, 160 (S.D.N.Y. 1981)(directive allowing general outgoing mail to be inspected for contraband and, for good cause, read, "affords inmates a good deal more protection than is mandated by the case law").

 According to the affidavit of defendant Timothy J. Murray, who was the Deputy Superintendent in charge of the correspondence at the Wende facility during the relevant time period, plaintiff's letter "was deemed to have insufficient postage by the Correspondence Department" (Item 33, P 5). The letter was re-classified as incoming mail in accordance with Directive 4421(III)(B)(7) (id., P 6 & Ex. A). It was opened and inspected for contraband in accordance with Directive 4422(III)(G)(1) (see id., Ex. B).


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