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BROWN v. MANNING

March 6, 1985

CHRISTOPHER D. BROWN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DONALD MANNING, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: QUACKENBUSH

 QUACKENBUSH, U.S.D.J.

 BACKGROUND

 This civil rights action (42 U.S.C. § 1983) for injunctive and declaratory relief was initiated by several pro se prisoners in the Spokane County Jail, proceeding in forma pauperis. Defendants are Spokane County, the county commissioners and captain of the jail, sued in their official capacities. Plaintiffs contend defendants have denied them meaningful access to the courts by failing to assist prisoners at the county jail with the preparation and filing of writs of habeas corpus or civil rights complaints. This denial is assertedly manifested by the failure to provide inmates with an adequate law library or with assistance from persons trained in the law.

 After appointment of counsel, the parties stipulated to certifying the cause as a class action under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(2). The court independently reviewed and ordered certification of the class defined as:

 
All persons who are, or who will be in the future, incarcerated in the Spokane County Jail who have been denied their constitutional right to meaningful access to the courts in civil matters involving their basic constitutional rights, by either failing to provide such incarcerated persons with an adequate law library or with adequate assistance from persons trained in the law to assist incarcerated persons in the preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers for a civil action (42 U.S.C. § 1983 or habeas corpus petitions).

 Soon after, plaintiff moved for summary judgment. In this court's Memorandum Order, Ct. Rec. 52, it was concluded that the seven out-dated and unsupplemented volumes of the Revised Code of Washington were patently inadequate to satisfy the right of meaningful court access and that no law library exists at the Spokane County Jail. Accordingly, plaintiff's motion was granted to this extent. However, since a law library is but one method meeting the constitutional requirement of providing access, this court found remaining material factual questions over the availability of trained personnel through the Public Defender's Office, Spokane Legal Services, Gonzaga University Legal Clinic, and private practitioners to assist the jail prisoners and whether an adequate referral policy exists to afford the class meaningful access to the courts. Since then, the parties have filed an agreed pretrial order setting forth additional admitted facts. Defendants now concede unavailability of legal personnel to assist prisoners housed at the County Jail and unavailability of a referral policy. The stipulated facts permit this court to now rule upon the remaining issues, and this Memorandum and Order shall serve as the Opinion of the court. As more fully discussed infra, the court now grants plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, concluding as a matter of law that prisoners housed at the jail for more than a few days are entitled either to an adequate legal library or adequate legal assistance, neither of which has been provided. Presently, it is Spokane County's position that prisoners housed at this county's jail are not entitled to a legal library or assistance.

 Moreover, the parties have stipulated to a proposed remedy to be implemented in the event plaintiffs receive an ultimate determination in their favor. As set forth more fully in the Agreed Pretrial Order, Spokane County agrees to compensate two legal interns, to be supervised by a member of the faculty from the Gonzaga University School of Law, for a total of 40 hours per week, to investigate inmate complaints and to prepare appropriate pleadings. The law school also will serve as the agency providing support staff, telephones, and supplies.

 ADMITTED FACTS

 1. On July 12, 1983, one of the class representatives, Christopher D. Brown, incarcerated in the Spokane County Jail, requested use of the Spokane County Jail Law Library. Mr. Brown desired to use the library for research of a civil rights complaint (to be brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983). (See Supplemental Aff. of C. Brown). After making such a request, Mr. Brown was told by jail staff the following:

 (a) The jail law library was only open on Tuesdays. This applied to all of the approximately three hundred fifteen (315) incarcerated persons in the Spokane County Jail.

 (c) The RCWs were located in the same library used by the inmates for reading non-legal books and magazines.

 (d) There was no special table space allocated to prisoners wishing to use the legal materials. The tables in the library were stacked up with magazines and other books.

 (e) All prisoners incarcerated in the Spokane County Jail, including Mr. Brown, could not check out any legal materials from the law library.

 (f) No pens, paper, carbon paper or typewriters were available free of charge to any incarcerated person in the Spokane County Jail.

 2. Mr. Brown spoke with his public defender and asked her to assist him with the preparation of a civil rights pleading. He was told that the public defender could not assist inmates with the filing and preparation of civil rights complaint brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

 3. Upon information and belief, Mr. Brown found that there was no other legal service agency available to any incarcerated person in the Spokane County Jail to assist inmates in the preparation and filing of legal papers and pleadings and writs of habeas corpus and civil rights actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

 4. As a result of being denied adequate access to the courts, either from the failure of the county to provide an adequate legal library or from the failure of the county to provide adequate assistance from persons trained in the law, the individually-named plaintiffs, including Mr. Brown, were damages, injured and materially prejudiced, in that they were unable to properly prepare, support and file civil rights actions pursuant to 42 U.S.C. and writs of habeas corpus.

 5. The provision of adequate legal materials or adequate legal assistance to incarcerated persons in the Spokane County Jail for assistance in the preparation and filing of civil rights (42 U.S.C. § 1983) actions and writs of habeas corpus is as Mr. Brown describes. The Spokane County Jail Law Library includes only seven (7) volumes of the Revised Code of Washington, unsupplemented and out of date.

 6. With the exception of seven (7) R.C.W.s unsupplemented and out of date, Spokane County has not been providing law books, law periodicals or any law library aids whatsoever to incarcerated persons in the Spokane County Jail.

 7. Furthermore, there is no law firm, public agency, entity or person that is currently and actively providing any legal assistance to incarcerated persons in the Spokane County Jail in the counseling, preparing and filing writs of habeas corpus and/or civil rights actions (42 U.S.C. 1983). The only entities providing legal assistance to indigent inmates are the Spokane County Public Defender, Spokane Legal Services and Gonzaga University Legal Assistance.

 8. The Spokane County Public Defender does not have the statutory authority, nor does it provide assistance to incarcerated persons in the Spokane County Jail in the preparation and filing of writs of habeas corpus or civil rights actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The only writ of habeas corpus ever prepared by the Spokane County Public Defenders Office was one done in conjunction with the criminal charge for which the inmate was incarcerated. Other than the one writ of habeas corpus, the Spokane County Public Defender has not ever provided legal assistance to incarcerated persons in the Spokane County Jail for the preparation and filing of writs of habeas corpus and/or civil rights actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

 9. Both Gonzaga University Legal Assistance and Spokane Legal Services do not provide assistance to incarcerated persons in the Spokane County Jail for the preparation and filing of civil rights actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and writs of habeas corpus. This is because neither entity has the funding nor the authority to provide such assistance. These entities do not, in fact, provide this assistance to incarcerated persons in the Spokane County Jail.

 10. The defendants, on their own, do not provide either an adequate law library or adequate persons trained in the law to assist incarcerated persons in the Spokane County Jail with the preparation and filing of writs of habeas corpus or civil rights actions pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

 11. The category of, status of, special prisoner population of, length of stay of, and other prisoner population statistics of inmates housed in the Spokane County Jail, can be more particularly described in the tables attached as an Addendum and incorporated by reference. These statistics, which are stipulated facts of this case, represent a synopsis of records produced by the county pursuant to discovery requests or were exhibits produced pursuant to depositions and subpoenas. While further reference should be given to the attached tables, what follows immediately below is an outline of certain stipulated facts of this case regarding the population statistics of the Spokane County Jail. Generally, the Spokane Jail houses a number of federal, state and county prisoners.

 (a) The Spokane County Jail houses a number of federal prisoners.

 
1. In 1983, the number of inmates booked into the Spokane County Jail from the United States Navy totaled nineteen (19). The total days of incarceration was thirty-seven (37). The average number ...

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