First Amendment

Federal judge awards $802K in attorney fees and costs in case over jail mail

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A federal judge’s ruling last year that an Oregon county had violated the First Amendment by restricting jail mail to postcards resulted in a $15,000 payment to the plaintiff, Prison Legal News.

But the payment by Columbia County to the Human Rights Defense Center monthly magazine is dwarfed by a Monday award of $802,000 to cover attorney fees and costs for Prison Legal News in the civil rights case. All but about $38,000 of that amount covers fees for lawyers and paralegals.

Prison Legal News had sought $848,670.50, the Oregonian reports, and U.S. District Judge Michael Simon awarded 90 percent of that amount.

Attorney Steve Kraemer represented the county. “We were surprised and disappointed in the amount of attorney fees awarded, especially considering the sheriff only enacted the postcard policy after receiving reliable and accurate information that similar policies had been held constitutional in other states,” he said in an email to the newspaper.

The county, which hasn’t yet decided whether to appeal the attorney fee award, had offered at the outset to settle the case for $21,000. However, it wasn’t willing to agree up front to an injunction banning the postcard-only policy, according to the plaintiff.

See also: “Postcard-only jail mail policy is unconstitutional, federal judge rules”

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