On Appeal from the Western District of Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh D.C. Civ. No. 83-2508.
Seitz, Stapleton, Circuit Judges, and Broderick, District Judge.*fn*
The defendants, Pennsylvania prison officials, appeal the order of the district court entering judgment in favor of plaintiff George Rahsaan Brooks, an inmate at the State Correctional Institute at Pittsburgh, S.C.I.P. Brooks appeals the award of damages. This court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 (1982).
On August 1, 1983, Brooks wrote a letter to Ms. Connie Craig, Coordinator of the Prisoners Branch of the NAACP, complaining that a female prison guard had searched one of his visitors in a very seductive manner. In the letter Brooks asserted that the guards should not be permitted to search visitors without probable cause.
Defendant Andolina filed a misconduct report against Brooks charging him with insolence or disrespect towards a staff member. The report stated that the basis of the charge was the letter to Craig, and that Brooks's claim of an improper search was both false and defamatory.
Prison officials held a hearing on Andolina's charge on August 19, 1983. At the hearing, the female guard testified that the allegations in Brooks's letter were totally false. In addition, she testified that she had received training on search procedures. Brooks was not permitted to present any witnesses on the ground that he failed to comply with the new witness request procedure adopted shortly before charges were filed against him. The hearing committee found that Brooks's statements were false and defamatory, and that he was guilty as charged. The hearing committee sentenced him to thirty days punitive segregation.
After unsuccessfully pursuing an appeal through the prison system, Brooks filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1982) in the district court, alleging that the prison officials had violated his federal constitutional rights. The district court referred the action to a magistrate.
After holding an evidentiary hearing, the magistrate concluded that the disciplinary action violated Brooks's first amendment rights. The magistrate rejected the defendants' attempt to justify the action as a security measure, noting that there was no mention of security concerns in the charge or at the prison hearing. The magistrate thus found that the only reason for disciplining Brooks was because he had written the letter. In addition, the magistrate recommended that the district court find that Brooks was deprived of his procedural due process rights as a result of prison officials' refusal to allow him to present witnesses. Finally, the magistrate recommended that Brooks receive only nominal damages because he did not present any proof of actual damages. The district court adopted the findings and recommendations of the magistrate in full.*fn1
In Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 413, 40 L. Ed. 2d 224, 94 S. Ct. 1800 (1974), the Supreme Court established that
Prison officials may not censor inmate correspondence simply to eliminate unflattering or unwelcome opinions or factually inaccurate statements. Rather, they must show that a regulation authorizing mail censorship furthers one or more of the ...