Procunier v. Martinez

PETITIONER: Raymond K. Procunier, Director, California Department of Corrections, et al.
RESPONDENT: Robert Martinez, et al.
LOCATION: California State Prison, San Quentin

DOCKET NO.: 72-1465
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)

CITATION: 416 US 396 (1974)
ARGUED: Dec 03, 1973
DECIDED: Apr 29, 1974

W. Eric Collins - for appellants
William Bennett Turner - for appellees

Facts of the case

William Robert Martinez served the sentence in the California State Prison located in San Quentin, California. The Department of Corrections of the State established prescriptions that censored that correspondence could be referred to the criminal activity or were indecent, libelous, and offensive or others similar to the opinions of the officials. They also forbade students of law faculties and legal specialist to interrogate or interview the jailers.

Martinez together with others inmates brought a suit against the Department of Corrections of California because of the breach of their constitutional guarantees by such rules. As the regulations barred from sending or receiving some “inappropriate” letters that were contradicted with the freedom of speech. The district court confirmed the opinion of the plaintiff, but the officials from state authority filed the appellation.

The judges affirmed the previous court decision and found the prison`s rulings too broad and vague. The case brief in Procunier v. Martinez underlined that the free speech could be restrained only when it was necessary to protect the governmental or public interests which was not proven in this sue. The court ruled that the censorship of private mails infringed the constitutional norms under the First Amendment.

Also the case study in Procunier v Martinez proven that the prisoners possessed all the constitutional rights. The power of these guarantees could only be restricted adhering the due process requirements that when the letter was rejected would include: the notification of prisoner, the opportunity entitled to the author to protest that should be revised by another person that who declined the correspondence.


(1) Should a district court abstain from determining the constitutional validity of administrative rules established by the California Department of Corrections when there were state laws addressing the validity of such regulations?

(2) Does the Constitution compel California to give law students and legal paraprofessionals the full range of privileges accorded to attorneys in their meetings with inmates?

Media for Procunier v. Martinez

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 03, 1973 in Procunier v. Martinez

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 29, 1974 in Procunier v. Martinez

Warren E. Burger:

The disposition of 72-1465 Procunier against Martinez will be announced by Mr. Justice Powell.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

This case is here on appeal from a Three-Judge District Court from the Northern District of California.

The appellees, California prison inmates, brought a class action suit challenging regulations with respect to the censorship of inmate correspondence.

The regulation prohibited correspondence that magnified grievances, unduly complained or that expressed inflammatory views, or that otherwise contained inappropriate information.

The censorship of personal correspondence involves incidental restrictions on the right to free speech of prison inmates and also of those who correspond with them.

Censorship is justified only if the following criteria are met.

It must first further one or more of the substantial governmental interests, implicated in Prison Administration.

These are maintenance of security and order and the rehabilitation of inmates.

Also, the restrictions on correspondence must be no greater than is necessary to further the legitimate governmental interest involved.

We hold that the California regulations in question do not need that foregoing criteria and therefore, they unduly burden the right of free speech.

The case presented several other questions with respect to prison regulations which we have addressed in our opinion filed today with a click.

We think that the District Court’s disposition of all issues was correct and accordingly its judgment is affirmed.

Mr. Justice Douglas filed an opinion concurring in the results in which he was joined by Mr. Justice Brennan and Mr. Justice Marshall.

Mr. Justice Marshall filed a concurring opinion in which Mr. Justice Brennan joined and in part two of which Mr. Justice Douglas joined.