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Hook v. Arizona

filed: October 25, 1996.

EVAN ARTHUR HOOK, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
STATE OF ARIZONA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. D.C. No. CV-73-00097-CAM. Carl A. Muecke, District Judge, Presiding.

Before: Robert R. Beezer and David R. Thompson, Circuit Judges, and Irma E. Gonzalez, District Judge.*fn* Opinion by Judge Thompson.

Author: Thompson

THOMPSON, Circuit Judge:

The Arizona Department of Corrections (Department) moved in the district court to modify a consent decree to delete a provision which allowed state prisoners to receive three twenty-five pound packages each year during the December holiday season (holiday packages). The prisoners opposed this motion and moved to modify the decree to change the title of the list of people authorized to send holiday packages, and to permit inmates to possess and use "hot pots" in their cells to heat and cook food items.

The district court denied the Department's motion and granted the prisoners' motion. The court also appointed a special master to monitor compliance with the holiday package program.

The Department appeals. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1) and we reverse. We conclude the Department established that there had been a substantial change of circumstances warranting its requested modification of the consent decree to eliminate the holiday package provision. With regard to the prisoners' motion, we conclude there was no showing that maintenance of hot pots by the prisoners in their cells was intended to be part of the original decree, or that circumstances warranted the inclusion of such a provision. We do not reach the question whether the district court erred in modifying the decree to change the title of the list of people authorized to send holiday packages to inmates, and we conclude appointment of the special master has become moot.

FACTS

In 1973, certain prisoners filed a civil rights action alleging the Department's mail policies violated their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The prisoners alleged they had a constitutional right to subscribe to certain magazines, including Playboy and Bachelor Beat; to send letters to judicial officers and people who were not on an approved mailing list; and to receive letters from more than ten people. The complaint did not mention or assert the right to receive holiday packages or to have "hot pots."

The same year, the Department proposed comprehensive mail regulations. The prisoners and the district court accepted and approved the regulations as the consent decree. The decree allowed each prisoner to receive three twenty-five pound packages between December 10th and 31st of each year. Specifically, the decree provided:

Gift Packages - Incoming Residents at all adult correctional institutions, except while in the Diagnostic-Reception Centers, may receive gift packages from those persons whose names appear on the resident's approved visiting list.

No soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorants, cigarettes, cigars, tobacco, vitamins or medicines may be included in packages. Food items may be sent only at Christmas and may not be packed in glass containers. A limit of three (3) packages of twenty-five (25) pounds each per resident will be permitted at Christmas time (December 10-31).

In October 1992, the Department moved to modify the decree to eliminate the holiday package provision. Because the motion was filed so close to the holidays, the district court stated it did not have time to issue a decision before packages were to be received under the decree.

The district court delayed ruling on the Department's modification motion until April 1995, because the Department and the prisoners were engaged in settlement negotiations. During this time, the district court appointed a special master to investigate the Department's alleged violations of the decree and to monitor the Department's compliance with it.

Before ruling on the Department's modification motion, the district court required the special master to issue a report with recommendations pertaining to the holiday package provision. In October 1994, the district court adopted most of the special master's recommendations and ...


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