PHOENIX — A federal appeals court has ruled that Arizona prison workers violated an inmate’s constitutional rights by reading his outgoing mail.

In an opinion released Thursday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says the Arizona Corrections Department’s mail inspection policy interferes with the confidential relationship between a criminal defendant and their attorney.

The court was considering a legal challenge by death row inmate Scott Nordstrom. Nordstrom said an officer read his confidential letter to his attorney rather than simply scan it.

The 9th Circuit’s decision sends the case back to the district court that originally ruled in favor of the state.

Corrections Department spokesman Andrew Wilder referred questions about the ruling to the attorney general’s office, which declined to comment on the case.