MEDIA RELEASE: Preliminary Injunction Filed to Prevent “Silencing Act” from Stopping Prisoners’ Speech

January 8, 2015 – A motion for a preliminary injunction was filed today in the ongoing lawsuit, Abu-Jamal v. Kane, challenging a Pennsylvania censorship law intended to silence Mumia Abu-Jamal and others convicted of personal injury crimes.

The Abolitionist Law Center, Amistad Law Project, and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law filed the preliminary injunction motion today to stop enforcement of the law. The law firms represent Mumia Abu-Jamal, Prison Radio, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal, Kerry “Shakaboona” Marshall, Robert L. Holbrook, Donnell Palmer, Anthony Chance, and Human Rights Coalition in the lawsuit filed November 10, 2014 against Attorney General Kathleen Kane and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU) filed a similar lawsuit and preliminary injunction today.

The Silencing Act, also known as 18 P.S. § 11.1304, allows the Attorney General, county District Attorneys, and victims of personal injury crimes to bring a lawsuit in civil court against the person convicted of the personal injury crime to enjoin conduct that “perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime on the victim”. The actions that could prompt a lawsuit include “conduct which causes a temporary or permanent state of mental anguish.”

“This law is unconstitutional,” said David Shapiro of MacArthur Justice Center. “The facts are on our side and the law is on our side. The ‘Silencing Act’ targets a huge amount of constitutionally protected speech based on who is speaking.”

After a prerecorded commencement speech by journalist and prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal was played for graduates at Goddard College in Vermont, the Pennsylvania legislature passed and outgoing Governor Corbett signed into law the “Silencing Act” on October 21st, 16 days after the commencement speech.

Abu-Jamal has spent 33 years in prison, 29 of which were in solitary confinement on death row after being convicted at a 1982 trial that Amnesty International said “failed to meet minimum international standards safeguarding the fairness of legal proceedings.”

Robert L. Holbrook, who is serving a death by incarceration (life without parole) sentence he received as a child, had this to say about the law: “there are people in prison who will stop writing, stop publishing, stop speaking out because of this law.”

“Silencing prisoners is one more way of dehumanizing them,” said Amistad Law Project Policy Director Nikki Grant. “We need the voices of the marginalized to shed light on injustice.”

 

Plaintiffs’ Brief in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction in Jamal v. Kane

 

Contact:

Noelle Hanrahan                  globalaudiopi@gmail.com                                                      415-706-5222

Bret Grote                              bretgrote@abolitionistlawcenter.org                                    412-654-9070

Ashley Henderson                ashley@amistadlaw.org                                                          215-310-0424

David Shapiro                       david.shapiro@law.northwestern.edu                                  312-503-0711

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