Miller v. Downey, No. 17-1507 (7th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Between 2012 and 2013, the Kankakee, Illinois Detention Center prohibited inmates from receiving any newspapers. While awaiting trial on bank robbery charges, Miller’s family bought him a $279 subscription to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin to help him with his case. Deeming the Law Bulletin a newspaper, jail officials precluded Miller from receiving it. Miller challenged the jail’s prohibition and confiscation of the publication and sought to recover the subscription fee. The district court addressed the broader question of whether the jail’s ban on all newspapers offended the First Amendment, upheld the newspaper ban, and awarded the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The district court erred in reaching and resolving such a broad constitutional question. Miller’s claim was that Law Bulletin was a legal publication, not a newspaper; the record was not fully developed as it pertains to the jail’s restriction on legal publications. The court noted that the Center had no law library, and while inmates had access to an electronic database with Illinois legal resources, there was a dearth of material on federal law in the jail. The court further noted that the district court had not addressed Miller’s due process claim.