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Ashcroft v. Dep't of Corrections

September 18, 2008

ESCHELL ASHCROFT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Hugh B. Scott United States Magistrate Judge

Hon. Hugh B. Scott

(CONSENT)

Order

Before the Court is the issue of plaintiff's representation. Plaintiff's current counsel has written to the Court requesting to be relieved of the appointment (Docket No. 78). The parties consented to proceed before the undersigned as Magistrate Judge on June 15, 2006 (Docket No. 16).

BACKGROUND

A recital of the procedural history of this action is warranted.

Plaintiff (an inmate initially proceeding pro se) alleges that he was legally blind and his eyes are unusually sensitive to light and otherwise benign substances (Docket No. 37, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2). He requested (but was denied by defendant Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS")) visual aids and accommodations for his condition while in the Special Housing Unit of the Wende Correctional Facility ("Wende") (Docket No. 1, Compl., appendix at 10, 1-2, 3-4, 6-7; Docket No. 37, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 28-58). Plaintiff also alleges inhumane conditions of his confinement due either to deprivation of these accommodations or retaliatory actions by defendants for attempts by plaintiff to obtain or retain these accommodations (see Docket No. 37, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 60-85).

The Court appointed Sheldon Smith (then associated with Hodgson Russ) counsel for plaintiff (Docket No. 15) and Joshua Feinstein of Hodgson Russ later substituted for him (Docket No. 19). Plaintiff, through his new counsel, then filed a proposed Amended Complaint (Docket No. 24; Docket No. 27, Pl. Atty. Decl. Ex. A) and moved for leave to so file (Docket No. 26). That motion was granted (Docket No. 36) and plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint (Docket No. 37; see Docket No. 41 (order service of that pleading)). Most of the defendants then moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint (Docket Nos. 38, 44, 45), which the Court granted in part and denied in part (Docket No. 53). Defendants answered the Amended Complaint on June 18, 2008 (Docket No. 75).

From July 2007 plaintiff (contacting the Court pro se) has sent the Court a series of alarming letters, including a putative motion, some threatening drastic, self-destructive action. Therein, he complained about his conditions and harassment as a result of this pending action. He requested (and proposed to move for) an Order to transfer him from Wende to the Eastern Correctional Facility, a facility which plaintiff claims has the accommodations he seeks for his visual impairments and other ailments. He also requested (among other forms of relief) restoration of accommodation devices he previously had (essentially the merits of his claim). (See Docket No. 55.) Later, plaintiff complained that his Court-appointed counsel was not adequately assisting him (by not communicating with him and by not pursuing plaintiff's arguments). The Court had copies of this correspondence sent to all counsel, instructed counsel to investigate the situation (Docket No. 55), and held conferences on October 16, 2007 (Docket Nos. 59, 60), and October 19, 2007 (Docket No. 61), to discuss these issues. The Court then issued an Order scheduling the next conference and noted that

"Plaintiff has complained the defendants and other prison officials have deprived him of wraparound sunglasses (among other accommodation equipment) essential for him to leave his cell to take telephone calls, including conferences with counsel and court teleconferences. In order to facilitate this action, it is ORDERED that defendant DOCS shall provide plaintiff with equipment necessary to allow him to attend telephone conferences with counsel or the Court outside of his cell, such as wraparound sunglasses or other protective eye wear." (Docket No. 62, Order at 1).

Plaintiff again wrote letters to the Court "indicating that plaintiff did not receive wraparound ultraviolet light sunglasses plaintiff states is necessary for him to leave his cell to meet with counsel in this action. Plaintiff is legally blind and has extreme photosensitivity[.]

"Defendants are to show cause why they should not be held in contempt of Court for failing to abide by Court's previous Order (Docket No. 62) that order defendant Department of Corrections Services to "provide plaintiff with equipment necessary to allow [plaintiff] to attend telephone conferences with counsel or the Court outside of his cell, such as wraparound sunglasses or other protective eye wear." (Docket No. 63, Order to Show Cause at 1.) At the Show Cause argument, the Court directed counsel for both parties to work out conditions for plaintiff to have goggles for visits with counsel and for an ophthalmological examination consistent with the terms mentioned during that argument (Docket No. 65).

At the last status conference held on July 18, 2008, discovery was set to be completed by September 30, 2008, and dispositive motions were due by November 18, 2008 (Docket No. 77).

Meanwhile, plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a second action against DOCS, Ashcroft v. DOCS Medical, No. 07CV871, ...


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