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Monaghan v. Fitzpatrick

United States District Court, D. Maine

February 20, 2015

AMANDA MONAGHAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH FITZPATRICK, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION[1]

JOHN C. NIVISON, Magistrate Judge.

In this action, Plaintiff Amanda Monaghan challenges the constitutionality of a prison policy maintained by the Maine Department of Corrections, which policy permits the Department to bar all communication, including correspondence, between an inmate and the inmate's former domestic partner, if the Department concludes that it is appropriate based on certain criteria administered by its Director of Victim Services, subject to review by the Department's Commissioner.

The matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment. (Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 34; Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 44.) As explained below, after consideration of the parties' factual statements and their arguments, the Court denies both motions.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed suit on October 24, 2013. The operative pleading is Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, filed February 6, 2014 (ECF No. 19). The parties have entered the following stipulation:

This case is a matter of great public interest. The alleged injuries in this case are capable of repetition, yet may consistently evade court review because the terms of many prison sentences are often shorter than the timeframes of federal court litigation (including appeals). The State waives any defenses related to mootness.

(Stipulation, ECF No. 16.)

The No-Contact Policy[2]

Under ordinary circumstances, prisoners in the custody of the Maine Department of Corrections are permitted visits from family and friends. (Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts (PSMF) ¶ 161, ECF No. 35.) Department staff members supervise visits with prisoners. ( Id. ¶ 163.) Prisoner attacks on visitors are uncommon. ( Id. ¶ 165.)

On May 20, 2013, the Maine Department of Corrections adopted revised policies on prison visits and communications. In particular, the Department implemented as policy the directive that "a prisoner who is convicted of or otherwise known to have committed a domestic violence offense against a person " shall not be allowed to have contact with the victim through mail, telephone, or visits "without prior approval of the Commissioner, or designee." This policy is referred to hereafter as the "No-Contact Policy" or "the Policy." ( Id. ¶ 1.)

The No-Contact Policy was established at the discretion of the Department. ( Id. ¶ 7.) When applied, the Policy prevents all contact, including contact by mail and telephone, between a prisoner and an alleged victim of domestic violence. ( Id. ¶ 8.) Prisoners and their former domestic partners may request a waiver of the Policy. ( Id. ¶ 51.) From the inception of the Policy, the Department has denied most waiver requests.[3] ( Id. ¶ 9.) Where the Department has granted a full or partial waiver, both the inmate and the victim requested the waiver. (DSMF ¶ 76.) Prior to the adoption of the No-Contact Policy, the Department would attempt to block calls and mail if a victim requested no contact, if a court order prohibited contact. ( Id. ¶¶ 128-129.) With the No-Contact Policy, the victim is not required to make the request, and the Department will prevent contact even if the victim prefers contact. ( Id. ¶ 130; DOS ¶¶ 125, 130.)

Shortly after implementing the Policy, the Department determined that it would offer domestic violence programs to prisoners particularly in connection with the review of waiver requests, as an incentive for prisoners to participate in the programs. (DSMF ¶ 26.) Initially, the program was an eight-week program, which consisted of an introductory domestic violence program offered in some jails by certified community providers. After several months of discussions with community providers, Tessa Mosher, the Director of Victim Services, arranged for the implementation of the program at two facilities in late 2013. (DSMF ¶ 67.) In October 2013, Ms. Mosher sent an individual invitation to every prisoner who had applied for, but had not received a waiver, including Robert Hart. ( Id. ¶ 68.) In the letters of invitation, Ms. Mosher informed the prisoners that upon completion of the program, the Department would reconsider, but not necessarily grant, a waiver request.[4] ( Id. ¶¶ 68, 73.) The current program is a 26-week program.[5] ( Id. ¶¶ 70, 78.) The Department considers renewed waiver requests by prisoners who have participated in 13 sessions. ( Id. ¶ 78.)

When the Department was implementing the program, the Department's Commissioner (Joseph Ponte) received an e-mail from a unit manager within the Maine Department of Corrections (Luke Monaghan), in which e-mail the unit manager who oversees a unit with 250 prisoners expressed the following concerns about the No-Contact Policy: how to identify victims, how to know which telephone numbers to "block, " how to "track" related mail, whether to "grand-father" certain inmates, and how best to address certain "ethical and operational implications." (PSMF ¶¶ 23, 71-81, 172.)

The Department does not maintain written guidelines or standards that govern the Department's consideration of a waiver request. (PSMF ¶ 10.) However, Ms. Mosher developed a set of criteria that she applies, some of which she communicates to waiver applicants. (DOS ¶ 10.)

The primary criteria include the nature of the domestic violence and related crimes, looking at the seriousness, whether they are repeated and/or recent, and whether children were present; compliance with any court-ordered conditions of no-contact and participation in a certified batterer intervention program; the "health" of the relationship between the prisoner and the victim; compliance with the policy while awaiting the waiver decision; prisoner disciplinary and behavioral issues; participation in programming, including, if applicable, participation in a facility domestic violence program (not applicable in Hart's case at the time as these programs had not yet been instituted); length of incarceration; and content of the request letters. Other factors might be considered depending on the specifics of the individual case.

(DSMF ¶ 111.)

Robert James Hart

Plaintiff is a former domestic partner of Robert James Hart.[6] (PSMF ¶ 12.) Plaintiff is not incarcerated. ( Id. ¶ 23.) Mr. Hart has been incarcerated at the Maine State Prison in Warren, Maine. ( Id. ¶ 15.) Mr. Hart's incarceration is the result of an August 1, 2013, order revoking his probation and directing that he serve 18 months of a suspended sentence. (ECF No. 47-1, PageID # 717.)

Plaintiff has a child with Mr. Hart, and another child whom she considers to be Mr. Hart's step-child. (PSMF ¶¶ 13-14.) The Department refuses to permit Plaintiff to visit Mr. Hart at the prison and has denied visitation between the two from the beginning of Mr. Hart's term of incarceration. ( Id. ¶¶ 18-19.) With the exception of a brief call at the start of Mr. Hart's incarceration, the Department has refused all communication as well, including any contact by mail or telephone. ( Id. ¶ 20.) Although the Department asserts that another ground has arisen to justify the no-contact decision, the No-Contact Policy is an ...


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