Columbia County Sheriff's Deputy Austin Marquette admitted to illegally searching inmate legal mail outside the presence of the inmate in a write-up last year. I have since lost the second page, but I have uploaded the first. In the lost page Marquette described going into my cell when I was not there, noticing several envelopes clearly marked legal mail, and feeling them to see if he could feel anything that was obviously not paperwork. When he found my coffee and radio, which I technically was not supposed to have, he wrote me up for contraband.
The law at the time in the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit already clearly established that inmates have a legal right to be present whenever legal mail or work product is inspected. See Mangiaracina v. Penzone 849 F.3d 1191 (9th Cir. 2017):
"We recently addressed prisoners legal mail rights in Nordstrom, 762 F.3d 903. In that case, a prisoner alleged that he had written a letter to his criminal attorney and that a correctional officer, instead of inspecting the letter in Nordstroms presence before sealing and sending it, stood in front of him and read the letter. We held that this event, though isolated, sufficiently alleged a violation of Nordstroms Sixth Amendment right to counsel.Although the case concerned improper reading rather than improper opening of legal mail, we noted that the practice of requiring an inmate to be present when his legal mail is opened is a measure designed to prevent officials from reading the mail in the first place. Id. at 910 (citing Wolff, 418 U.S. at 577)...We therefore now clarify that, under Nordstrom, prisoners have a Sixth Amendment right to be present when legal mail related to a criminal matter is inspected...Defendants argue that this case is distinguishable from Nordstrom because Mangiaracina does not allege that jail officials ever read his mail. But indeed, how could he? If the practice of opening legal mail in the presence of the prisoner is designed to prevent correctional officers from reading it, then the natural corollary is that a prisoner whose mail is opened outside his presence has no way of knowing whether it had been (permissibly) inspected or (impermissibly) read."
My practice of hiding my contraband in my legal material had a couple of purposes. First, legal material is less likely to be inspected if the inmate is removed from his cell for a shakedown because inspecting it out side of his presence is illegal. Second, if an unlawful inspection results in an incident report the inmate then has written proof that the officer broke the law. In this case I lost my contraband but I gained knowledge that my legal material was being illegally searched while I was not in the cell.