Opinions Relating to Orders - 2018

Dahne v. Richey

JUSTICE ALITO, with whom JUSTICE THOMAS and JUSTICE KAVANAUGH join, dissenting from denial of certiorari. Does the First Amendment require a prison to entertain a prisoner grievance that contains veiled threats to kill or injure a guard? Or may the prison insist that the prisoner rewrite the grievance to eliminate any threatening language? In this case, respondent Thomas Richey, an inmate currently serving a sentence for murder in Washington state prison, submitted a written prison grievance complaining that a guard had improperly denied him shower privileges. His grievance not only insulted the guard, referring to her as a “fat Hispanic,” but contained language that may reasonably be construed as a threat. Specifically, the grievance stated: “It is no wonder [why] guards are assaulted and even killed by some prisoners. When guards like this fat Hispanic female guard abuse their position . . . it can make prisoners less civilized than myself to resort to violent behavior in retaliation.” App. to Pet. for Cert. 109a–110a. The prison refused to entertain the grievance, but permitted Richey to refile his complaint with the offensive language omitted. Richey refused to comply and instead submitted a second grievance that repeated much of the original language, adding, “[i]t is no wonder why guards are slapped and strangled by some prisoners.”