In October 2014, Pennsylvania passed a law aimed directly at silencing imprisoned journalist and intellectual Mumia Abu-Jamal, while being phrased so broadly as to chill the speech of all prisoners and anyone who publishes their speech. The “Silencing Act” (also known as 18 P.S. § 11.1304) allowed 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.”
The Pennsylvania legislature and then-Governor Tom Corbett wanted to use Mumia Abu-Jamal to score political points by passing a law that was clearly unconstitutional. Two weeks after the bill was signed by Gov. Corbett, ALC, together with the Amistad Law Project and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law, filed suit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, against Attorney General Kane and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams to stop them from using the law to silence prisoners. ALC also represented Prison Radio, the Human Rights Coalition, Kerry Shakaboona Marshall, and Robert Saleem Holbrook.
On April 28, 2015, Chief Judge for the federal court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Christopher Connor, ruled in favor of plaintiffs in the consolidated cases of Abu-Jamal v. Kane and Prison Legal News v. Kane and held the Silencing Act unconstitutional.