Case: Muhammad v. Pitcher

2:91-cv-76489 | U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan

Filed Date: Nov. 29, 1991

Closed Date: Sept. 21, 1994

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

Plaintiff, an inmate at the Standish Correctional Facility in Michigan brought a Section 1983 suit pro se in the Eastern District of Michigan against the Michigan Department of Corrections challenging its policy of treating mail from the State Attorney General's Office as regular mail rather than confidential legal correspondence. Represented by private counsel, he requested damages, an injunction, and a declaratory judgment. On September 17, 1991, in accordance with a Michigan Department of …

Plaintiff, an inmate at the Standish Correctional Facility in Michigan brought a Section 1983 suit pro se in the Eastern District of Michigan against the Michigan Department of Corrections challenging its policy of treating mail from the State Attorney General's Office as regular mail rather than confidential legal correspondence. Represented by private counsel, he requested damages, an injunction, and a declaratory judgment.

On September 17, 1991, in accordance with a Michigan Department of Corrections policy directive, plaintiff requested in writing that prison staff open his legal mail only in his presence. On October 9, 1991, a mail room staff opened mail addressed to Plaintiff that was clearly marked as having come from the State Attorney General's office. That letter did not actually contain any confidential correspondence. Defendants opened the letter pursuant to a February 7, 1991 Department of Corrections memorandum stating that mail to inmates from the Attorney General's Office need not be treated as legal mail, and thus need not be treated as confidential. The memorandum explained that there is no requirement of confidentiality in correspondence with that office, or any prosecutor, because they represent the state. Plaintiff's suit complained that this policy violated his constitutional rights. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The district court (Judge Avern Cohn) for the Eastern District of Michigan granted partial summary judgment to defendants on the issue of availability of damages. The court granted partial summary judgment awarding declaratory relief to the plaintiff ruling that the opening of such mail outside of Plaintiff's presence was unconstitutional. Defendants appealed that decision.

On appeal, the defendants raised two arguments, both of which the Sixth Circuit (Judge Nathan R. Jones) found unpersuasive. Muhammad v. Pitcher, 35 F.3d 1081 (6th Cir. 1994). First, they contended that plaintiff had no cognizeable interest in maintaining confidentiality regarding mail from the State Attorney General's Office as that office represents the prison and is adverse to the inmates. The Sixth Circuit rejected this argument, and noted, as had plaintiff and the lower court, that the Attorney General's Office frequently provides legal assistance to prisoners. The court also found defendants' argument that mail from the inmate to the Attorney General's Office may be confidential, but mail from the Attorney General to the inmate was not meritless as a matter of common sense, authority from other circuits, and in comparison to the Federal Bureau of Prisons guidelines.

Defendant's second contention was that because the piece of mail that was opened was not confidential, plaintiff suffered no actual prejudice. The Sixth Circuit noted that such an argument overlooks the chilling effect that policy would have on inmates' First Amendment Rights, and said that the actual content of the letter opened is not relevant in the determination of the constitutionality of the practice. The court held that the chilling effect amounted to present injury by creating a roadblock to the redress of legal problems and that the policy was prejudicial because, it would to confidential and non-confidential correspondence alike.

The Sixth Circuit then applied the four-factor Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), test to determine if the regulation was reasonably related to legitimate penological interests. Based on that analysis, the court concluded that the regulation regarding mail from the Attorney General's Office was not related to any legitimate penological concern, and therefore was unconstitutional, thus affirming the district court.

Judge Siler dissented, stating that the plaintiff had not shown a constitutional violations and moreover, that the issue was not ripe, as the prison officials did not actually read any confidential correspondence from the Attorney General to the Plaintiff. He argued that the regulation was related to the reasonable penological interest of preventing contraband from entering the prison, and therefore was reasonable.

The docket for this case obtained from PACER indicates that on October 6, 1994, plaintiff amended his application for attorneys fees and costs. After briefing, Judge Avern Cohn granted plaintiff's application and entered a judgment of $9,956.70 against defendants.

Summary Authors

Sherrie Waldrup (9/7/2005)

People


Judge(s)

Cohn, Avern Levin (Michigan)

Jones, Nathaniel Raphael (Ohio)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Manville, Daniel E. (Michigan)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Isom, Deborah K. (Michigan)

Norton, Terry L. (Michigan)

Olivieri, Linda M. (Michigan)

Sugierski, Chester S. Jr. (Michigan)

Judge(s)

Cohn, Avern Levin (Michigan)

Jones, Nathaniel Raphael (Ohio)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Manville, Daniel E. (Michigan)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Isom, Deborah K. (Michigan)

Norton, Terry L. (Michigan)

Olivieri, Linda M. (Michigan)

Sugierski, Chester S. Jr. (Michigan)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

2:91-cv-76489

Docket (PACER)

Nov. 3, 1994

Nov. 3, 1994

Docket

92-02364

Reported Opinion

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

35 F.3d 1081, 1994 U.S.App.LEXIS 26230

Sept. 21, 1994

Sept. 21, 1994

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

Last updated July 22, 2022, 3:14 a.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link
1

ORDER by Magistrate Paul J. Komives, for plaintiff Rakim A. Muhammad to proceed in forma pauperis (lp) (Entered: 12/04/1991)

Nov. 29, 1991

Nov. 29, 1991

2

COMPLAINT filed, si (lp) (Entered: 12/04/1991)

Nov. 29, 1991

Nov. 29, 1991

3

ORDER by Magistrate Paul J. Komives, directing service without prepayment of cost and authorizing US Marshal to collect costs after service is made (lp) (Entered: 12/04/1991)

Nov. 29, 1991

Nov. 29, 1991

4

ACKNOWLEDGMENT of service of summons and complaint by defendant Terry A. Pitcher - received on 12/16/91 - answer due 1/5/92 for Terry A. Pitcher (LS) (Entered: 01/10/1992)

Jan. 8, 1992

Jan. 8, 1992

5

ACKNOWLEDGMENT of service of summons and complaint by Dorothy Stiller, Laura Siers - received on 12/16/91 - answer due 1/5/92 for Laura Siers, for Dorothy Stiller (LS) (Entered: 01/10/1992)

Jan. 8, 1992

Jan. 8, 1992

6

APPEARANCE for defendants of attorney Deborah K. Isom (LS) (Entered: 01/10/1992)

Jan. 9, 1992

Jan. 9, 1992

7

MOTION by defendant to extend time to file responsive pleading with brief and proof of mailing. (LS) (Entered: 01/10/1992)

Jan. 9, 1992

Jan. 9, 1992

8

ORDER by Judge Avern Cohn granting motion to extend time to file responsive pleading by Laura Siers, Dorothy Stiller and Terry A. Pitcher [7-1] (LS) Modified on 02/07/1992 (Entered: 01/10/1992)

Jan. 9, 1992

Jan. 9, 1992

9

MOTION by plaintiff to dispense , and for preliminary injunction with brief and affidavit. (LS) (Entered: 01/14/1992)

Jan. 13, 1992

Jan. 13, 1992

10

MOTION by plaintiff Rakim A. Muhammad to conduct oral hearing re: preliminary injunction with proof of mailing. (LS) (Entered: 02/14/1992)

Feb. 13, 1992

Feb. 13, 1992

11

MOTION by defendants to dismiss , and for 56(b) summary judgment with brief, affidavit, attachments and proof of mailing. (LS) (Entered: 03/10/1992)

March 9, 1992

March 9, 1992

12

MOTION by plaintiff for summary judgment with brief, attachments and proof of mailing. (LS) (Entered: 03/13/1992)

March 11, 1992

March 11, 1992

13

ORDER by Judge Avern Cohn, referring to Magistrate Virginia M. Morgan , this case for all pretrial proceedings (LS) (Entered: 03/13/1992)

March 11, 1992

March 11, 1992

14

AFFIDAVIT by defendant Terry A. Pitcher (LS) (Entered: 03/13/1992)

March 12, 1992

March 12, 1992

15

RESPONSE by plaintiff to motion to dismiss [11-1], or for 56(b) summary judgment by Laura Siers, Dorothy Stiller, and Terry A. Pitcher [11-2] with proof of mailing. (LS) (Entered: 03/17/1992)

March 16, 1992

March 16, 1992

16

REPORT and recommendation by Magistrate Virginia M. Morgan that motion for 56(b) summary judgment by Laura Siers, Dorothy Stiller, and Terry A. Pitcher [11-2] should be granted with proof of mailing. (LS) (Entered: 04/01/1992)

March 25, 1992

March 25, 1992

18

REPORT and recommendation by Magistrate Virginia M. Morgan that motion to conduct oral hearing re: preliminary injunction [10-1], motion to dispense [9-1], and for preliminary injunction by Rakim A. Muhammad [9-2] should be denied with proof of mailing. (LS) (Entered: 04/07/1992)

March 31, 1992

March 31, 1992

19

OBJECTIONS by plaintiff to report & recommendation [18-1] (LS) (Entered: 04/13/1992)

April 7, 1992

April 7, 1992

20

OBJECTIONS by plaintiff to report & recommendation [16-1] with proof of mailing. (LS) (Entered: 04/13/1992)

April 7, 1992

April 7, 1992

ATTORNEY added for Rakim A. Muhammad - Daniel E. Manville (LS) (Entered: 04/17/1992)

April 15, 1992

April 15, 1992

21

ORDER by Judge Avern Cohn of assignment of counsel, Daniel Manville as counsel for plaintiff. (LS) (Entered: 04/17/1992)

April 16, 1992

April 16, 1992

22

APPEARANCE for plaintiff of attorney Daniel Manville with proof of mailing. (LS) (Entered: 04/17/1992)

April 16, 1992

April 16, 1992

23

APPEARANCE for Terry A. Pitcher, Dorothy Stiller, and Laura Siers of attorney Chester S. Sugierski Jr. (LS) (Entered: 05/05/1992)

May 4, 1992

May 4, 1992

attorney Terry L. Norton and Deborah K. Isom for Laura Siers, Dorothy Stiller, and Terry Pitacher terminated (LS) (Entered: 05/05/1992)

May 4, 1992

May 4, 1992

24

MOTION (rule 56(b) by defendants for summary judgment with attachments. (LS) (Entered: 05/05/1992)

May 4, 1992

May 4, 1992

25

OBJECTIONS by plaintiff to report & recommendation [16-1] with proof of mailing. (LS) (Entered: 05/14/1992)

May 13, 1992

May 13, 1992

26

NOTICE by the court of hearing on objection by Rakim A. Muhammad [25-1] (LS) (Entered: 06/08/1992)

June 5, 1992

June 5, 1992

OBJECTIONS to report and recommendation hearing held - Judge Avern Cohn - Court Reporter: Tappert (jc) (Entered: 07/10/1992)

July 6, 1992

July 6, 1992

27

MOTION by plaintiff for order to produce a free coy of court records (LS) (Entered: 07/10/1992)

July 9, 1992

July 9, 1992

28

MEMORANDUM and order by Judge Avern Cohn granting granting claim for damages and denying declaratory judgment and injuntive relief [11] by defendants. (LS) (Entered: 07/21/1992)

July 20, 1992

July 20, 1992

29

MOTION by plaintiff for summary judgment with proof of mailing. (LS) (Entered: 08/05/1992)

Aug. 4, 1992

Aug. 4, 1992

30

RESPONSE in opposition by defendants to motion for summary judgment by Rakim A. Muhammad [29-1] with proof of mailing. (LS) (Entered: 09/03/1992)

Sept. 2, 1992

Sept. 2, 1992

32

REPLY by plaintiff to motion response by Laura Siers, Dorothy Stiller, and Terry A. Pitcher [30-1] to motion for summary judgment with proof of mailing. (LS) (Entered: 09/09/1992)

Sept. 8, 1992

Sept. 8, 1992

MOTION hearing held on motion for summary judgment by Rakim A. Muhammad [29-1] - disposition: t.u.a. - Judge Avern Cohn - Court Reporter: Tappert (jc) (Entered: 09/28/1992)

Sept. 21, 1992

Sept. 21, 1992

33

MEMORANDUM opinion and order by Judge Avern Cohn granting motion for summary judgment by Rakim A. Muhammad [29-1] with attachments. (at) (Entered: 09/30/1992)

Sept. 29, 1992

Sept. 29, 1992

34

JUDGMENT entered by Judge Avern Cohn for Rakim A. Muhammad against Terry A. Pitcher, Dorothy Stiller, Laura Siers that the opening of mail not in the presence of plaintiff is unconstitutional with proof of mailing. (at) (Entered: 09/30/1992)

Sept. 29, 1992

Sept. 29, 1992

35

MOTION by Daniel E. Manville for plaintiff Rakim A. Muhammad for attorney fees and costs with brief, declaration of fees, attachments and proof of mailing. (LS) (Entered: 10/08/1992)

Oct. 7, 1992

Oct. 7, 1992

36

APPEAL by defendants Terry A. Pitcher, Dorothy Stiller and Laura Siers of orders [33-1] and [34-1] to USCA - FEE: PAID - Receipt #: 284871 (lb) (Entered: 10/20/1992)

Oct. 15, 1992

Oct. 15, 1992

39

TRANSCRIPT order form by defendants Terry A. Pitcher, Dorothy Stiller and Laura Siers regarding appeal notice [36-1] requesting transcript(s) of: NONE (lb) (Entered: 10/20/1992)

Oct. 15, 1992

Oct. 15, 1992

37

PROOF of mailing of notice of appeal to USCA, Chester Sugierski, Jr. and Daniel Manville (lb) (Entered: 10/20/1992)

Oct. 20, 1992

Oct. 20, 1992

38

CERTIFIED copy of appeal notice by Laura Siers, Dorothy Stiller and Terry A. Pitcher [36-1] and docket transmitted USCA (lb) (Entered: 10/20/1992)

Oct. 20, 1992

Oct. 20, 1992

40

STATEMENT of issues by defendants with proof of mailing (lg) (Entered: 10/29/1992)

Oct. 26, 1992

Oct. 26, 1992

41

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT from USCA of receipt of appeal notice by Laura Siers, Dorothy Stiller, Terry A. Pitcher [36-1] - appeal case # 92- 2364 (mb) (Entered: 11/10/1992)

Nov. 9, 1992

Nov. 9, 1992

42

RECORD of appeal notice by Terry A. Pitcher, Dorothy Stiller, Laura Siers [36-1] consisting of: 1 volume(s) of pleadings 0 transcript(s) 0 deposition(s) transmitted to USCA - appeal case # 92-2364 (RH) (Entered: 08/04/1993)

Aug. 4, 1993

Aug. 4, 1993

43

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT from USCA of receipt of record [42-1] regarding appeal notice by Terry A. Pitcher, Dorothy Stiller, Laura Siers [36-1] - appeal case # 92-2364 (lh) (Entered: 08/18/1993)

Aug. 17, 1993

Aug. 17, 1993

45

SLIP opinion from USCA affirming the decision of the District Court - appeal case # 92-2364 - record not returned (lt) (Entered: 10/12/1994)

Sept. 23, 1994

Sept. 23, 1994

44

AMENDED APPLICATION by plaintiff Rakim A. Muhammad for attorney fees and costs with brief in support, declaration of Dan Manville, attachments and proof of mailing (lt) (Entered: 10/07/1994)

Oct. 6, 1994

Oct. 6, 1994

46

MANDATE from USCA affirming the decision of the District Court - appeal case # 92-2364 - record not returned (ls) (Entered: 10/27/1994)

Oct. 20, 1994

Oct. 20, 1994

47

BRIEF by defendants' in opposition to motion by plaintiff Rakim A. Muhammad for attorney fees and costs [35-1] with brief, exhibits and proof of mailing (ls) Modified on 10/27/1994 (Entered: 10/27/1994)

Oct. 21, 1994

Oct. 21, 1994

49

RECORD of appeal notice by Terry A. Pitcher, Dorothy Stiller, Laura Siers [36-1] returned from USCA - appeal case # 92-2364 (Jc) (Entered: 11/01/1994)

Oct. 24, 1994

Oct. 24, 1994

48

REPLY brief by plaintiff to response to motion by Daniel E. Manville for plaintiff Rakim A. Muhammad for attorney fees and costs [35-1] with certificate of service (Jc) (Entered: 10/31/1994)

Oct. 27, 1994

Oct. 27, 1994

50

ORDER by Judge Avern Cohn granting application for attorney fees and costs by Rakim A. Muhammad [44-1] (Jc) (Entered: 11/07/1994)

Nov. 3, 1994

Nov. 3, 1994

51

JUDGMENT entered by Judge Avern Cohn for Rakim A. Muhammad against Terry A. Pitcher, Dorothy Stiller, Laura Siers for $9,956.70 with proof of mailing (Jc) (Entered: 11/07/1994)

Nov. 3, 1994

Nov. 3, 1994

Case Details

State / Territory: Michigan

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: Nov. 29, 1991

Closing Date: Sept. 21, 1994

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Inmate alleging correctional facility treated inmate mail from State Attorney General's Office as ordinary mail, rather than as legal mail

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: Yes

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Michigan DOC, State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Freedom of speech/association

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Damages

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Order Duration: 1991 - 1994

Issues

General:

Mail

Type of Facility:

Government-run