Hill v. Pa. Dept. of Corr.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court dealt in its original jurisdiction with Smart Communications’ preliminary objection in this prisoner litigation. Smart Communications is a private contractor hired by the Department of Communications to sort incoming and outgoing prisoner mail. Here, an inmate’s wife sued for lost and damaged mail she sent to her incarcerated husband. Smart Communications filed preliminary objections claiming that it was not a state actor. The Commonwealth Court disagreed and held that “Smart voluntary assumed the obligation to perform that traditional state function of prison mail screening and, as a result, it acts under color of state law for purposes of Section 1983.” The Court also ruled that the plaintiff sufficiently supported her complaint by alleging a pattern and practice of mail interference sufficient to assert a constitutional violation of their First Amendment right to correspond by mail.

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