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Spates v. Manson

decided: April 8, 1980.


Appeal by defendants from a summary judgment in the District Court for Connecticut based on a ruling by M. Joseph Blumenfeld, Judge, which approved a recommendation of Magistrate F. Owen Eagan directing defendants to file a plan for improved legal assistance to inmates of the State Correctional Institution at Somers. Dismissed for want of appellate jurisdiction.

Before Friendly and Feinberg, Circuit Judges, and Sifton, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Friendly

This action commenced on October 8, 1976, when Joseph Spates and two other inmates at the Connecticut Correctional Institution at Somers filed a pro se complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, charging various state correctional officials with denying their right to a constitutionally adequate law library and legal assistance in the prison.*fn1 The complaint sought "injunctive and declaratory judgment against the defendants, ordering said defendants to submit a policy statement in accordance with recent United States Supreme Court decisions regarding adequate researching materials, and functional legal assistance program(s)." (emphasis in original). After plaintiffs and defendants filed cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court appointed plaintiffs' present counsel to represent them. Counsel filed an amended complaint and motion for summary judgment. Shortly thereafter, another inmate at Somers, Harry Mayo, filed a pro se complaint also charging inadequacies in access to legal materials. This case was consolidated with the Spates action, and counsel in Spates was also appointed to represent Mayo.

The amended complaints in the consolidated cases articulated four causes of action, all alleging violations of plaintiffs' "right of access to the courts" guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The first cause charged the defendants with refusing "to provide and adequately maintain a comprehensive and up-to-date collection of state and federal reporters, statutes, digests, Shepard's and . . . other reference materials." The second cause alleged that the library hours and seating facilities were inadequate; the third that defendants refused to supply plaintiffs with sufficient stationery supplies and typewriting, photocopying, and notarial services. The final cause of action did not refer to the library, but rather charged the prison officials with failing "to provide any adequate legal staff or meaningful legal assistance to inmates . . . in habeas corpus, or civil rights actions."

The relief sought included declaratory judgment on all four counts, and an order requiring the defendants to improve the library collection by making specific purchases; open the library seven days a week for no less than forty hours a week; provide additional desks and seats in the library; supply prisoners with an unlimited amount of free legal paper, pens, pencils, and forms; make available fifteen typewriters and a photocopying machine; and increase notarial services. Plaintiffs also requested that the court develop a plan of furnishing legal assistance to prisoners in the form of a Prisoner Legal Services Program, legal training for inmates, and correctional librarians.

Information about the law library at Somers was provided in four affidavits filed by Paul Rosa, the prison librarian. The law library is located within the general library, and has tables and thirteen chairs. Six typewriters are available for inmate use, although Mayo avers that on "many occasions" he has been unable to a use a typewriter because of the many people waiting ahead of him. There is no photocopying machine. The library is open fifteen hours a week, and every other Tuesday it is open an additional two-and-one-half hours. It is closed on weekends and holidays, but inmates may check out a maximum of four volumes for use during such periods.

The amended complaints allege that the library lacked complete and up-to-date volumes in twenty-four different areas, ranging from Supreme Court reports and federal decisions to state law materials and assorted treatises. The library contains volumes from various publishers which, when combined, provide continuous coverage of decisions by the Supreme Court from 1800 to the present, although there is not a complete set from any one reporting service. When the complaint was filed there was a gap for the period 1966-1969, but according to one of Mr. Rosa's affidavits an order has been placed to fill this gap. In addition to the foregoing, volumes 326-420 of the United States reports are available on microfilm. The library has the paperbound edition of Federal Reporter second series, volumes 416-present, although there are large gaps in the coverage. For example, volumes 437-457 are listed as missing. The Federal Supplement, volumes 304-present, is also available in the paperbound edition, but again with gaps. The library receives new volumes of the Supreme Court Reporter, Federal Reporter second series and Federal Supplement as issued by the publisher. Volumes 10-present of the Criminal Law Reporter are also available although most of the volumes before volume 10 are missing.

The library contains a 1958 edition of the United States code, with only partial supplementation up to 1963. When the action commenced it contained several volumes of a 1961 edition of United States Code Annotated; more recently Mr. Rosa averred that the library has obtained a complete U.S.C.A. set with 1978 pocket parts.

The Connecticut Reports are on the shelves, but only portions of the Connecticut Supplement and Connecticut Circuit Court reports are available on microfilm. When the action was commenced there was one set of Connecticut General Statutes, with two missing volumes, and another complete set on microfilm. Subsequently, the library acquired three new sets. An incomplete set of West's Connecticut Statutes Annotated is available. The library contained Phillips' Connecticut Digest when the complaint was filed, and obtained West's Digest thereafter, with supplementation.

The Shepard's collection covers Supreme Court cases from 1943-1973 in hardbound volumes, with paper supplementation. Statutes are apparently also covered in paper supplements from 1973 to the present, and decisions of federal circuit and district courts have only scattered coverage beginning in 1973.

The library contains Corpus Juris Secundum, assorted law dictionaries, and various numbers of different law reviews. There are also miscellaneous treatises and casebooks, some highly relevant to typical inmate problems, such as Kadish & Paulsen, Criminal Law and Its Processes, and Carter, Probation and Parole: Selected Readings, while others, such as Stephens & Mann, The Federal Estate & Gift Taxes, and Amory & Hardee, Materials on Accounting, are of less obvious pertinence.

Mr. Rosa travels to the state library at Hartford every Monday at which time he will photocopy for inmates cases which are not available at Somers. The state allows twenty-one free pages of photocopying; this limit is allegedly not enforced as to prisoners, and Mr. Rosa avers that no inmate has ever had to pay for photocopying. Both Mayo and Spates, however, have claimed delays in responses to their requests for photocopies of cases not available at Somers, delays which they claim have created difficulties for them in pending or contemplated cases.

Writing paper is available free to inmates, but Mayo complains that there is a five sheet per day limit. Free postage is provided for mail forwarded to judges and courts. Other supplies must be purchased at the commissary. Notarial services are available on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Legal assistance is furnished prisoners at Somers under two separate programs. Three attorneys staff the Legal Assistance to Prisoners program. An attorney visits Somers once a week to meet with inmates who have arranged an interview, and approximately 15-20 interviews are conducted per week. According to an affidavit filed by the director, Legal Assistance to Prisoners will consider all legal claims except direct appeals from criminal convictions or the defense of pending prosecutions. It will accept all non-criminal cases unless they are likely to be fee-producing, in which case they will assist the inmate ...

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