UCI Law Appellate Litigation Clinic Wins First Amendment Rights Appeal


UCI Law students in the Appellate Litigation Clinic won an important appeal implicating the First Amendment rights of prison journalists. 3L students Chaplin Carmichael and Samantha Abraham represented Kevin Sawyer, an award-winning prison journalist writing from San Quentin Prison. Prison authorities confiscated notes Mr. Sawyer had taken on such materials as "The Trial" by Franz Kafka alleging that his notes related to the Black Guerilla Family (BGF), a well known prison gang. Mr. Sawyer also claimed that prison authorities threatened to retaliate against him. A federal district court granted summary judgment for the prison authorities upholding the confiscation. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court on all issues and remanded the case for further proceedings on the confiscation and retaliation claims and found that Mr. Sawyer was entitled to additional discovery. The decision endorsed Mr. Sawyer’s First Amendment rights notwithstanding the deference owed to prison authorities under established law. Adjunct Professor Paul Hoffman served as the attorney supervisor on this appeal. The new UCI Law Civil Rights Litigation Clinic will represent Mr. Sawyer on remand.