Recently, Pennsylvania politicians pushed prison censorship even further than usual, passing 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) 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.”
The Pennsylvania legislature and Governor Corbett wanted to use Mumia Abu-Jamal to score political points and passed a law that is clearly unconstitutional. Two weeks after the bill was signed by then Governor Corbett, Abolitionist Law Center, together with the Amistad Law Project and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law, filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Kane and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams to stop them from using the law to silence prisoners. Also represented by ALC are Prison Radio, the Human Rights Coalition, Kerry Shakaboona Marshall, and Robert Saleem Holbrook.
On Tuesday, 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 recently enacted Silencing Act unconstitutional.