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Prisoner to Proceed with Civil Rights Claim for Comic Book Denial

By Robyn Hagan Cain on August 26, 2011 1:11 PM

Some people really love their magazines.

On Thursday, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found that a South Dakota prisoner who was denied delivery of a magazine has a right to file a civil rights claim against the prison for mail censorship.

Anthany Kaden, an inmate at the South Dakota State Penitentiary (SDSP), alleges that the prison's warden and staff violated the First Amendment by refusing to give him a magazine he had ordered because it was too violent. Kaden sued the prison under the Civil Rights Act seeking damages and the right to receive the magazine.

Kaden described the magazine, Shonen Jump, as "a Japanese Comic Book" which depicts cartoons that children watch on television. He further alleged that SDSP officials did not explain why the publication was rejected under the regulation. Kaden asserted that the prison allowed other magazines that depict violence, including WWE, Guns and Ammo, Karate, Football Weekly and Boxing. Kaden also stated that the prison allowed other inmates to receive materials which facilitated the creation of violent role-playing games.

The district court dismissed the case, finding that SDSP's regulation governing mail censorship was valid and that Kaden, as a matter of law, failed to show the rejection of his comic book rose to the level of a constitutional violation. Kaden appealed, arguing that it was at least plausible that denial of the comic book violated the First Amendment and that the district court should have at least required defendants to answer.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the allegations were sufficient to plausibly state a claim under the Civil Rights Act, and that there was a reasonable inference that SDSP's mail censorship policy was unconstitutionally applied to the comic book.

We're annoyed when one of our magazines is lost in the mail, but we don't actually care enough to call subscriber services, much less file a lawsuit over it. What do you think? Was Anthany Kaden's comic book temper tantrum warranted?

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