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Donnan v. Cook

August 30, 2010

LEON ANTHONY DONNAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BRENDAN COOK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Anthony J. Battaglia U.S. Magistrate Judge United States District Court

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S REQUEST FOR ACCESS TO THE COURTS; DENYING PLAINTIFF'S REQUEST FOR EXTENSION OF TIME; DENYING PLAINTIFF'S REQUEST FOR PRESCRIPTION EYEGLASSES; AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL [Doc. Nos. 71 & 73.]

Plaintiff Leon Donnan, proceeding pro se, filed a civil rights complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed a request for access to the courts, a request for an extension of time and a request for prescription eyeglasses. In addition, Plaintiff filed a motion for appointment of counsel. After a review of the motions, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's request for access to the courts, DENIES Plaintiff's request for extension of time, DENIES Plaintiff's request for eyeglasses, and DENIES Plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel.

Access to the Courts

Plaintiff argues that he is being denied access to the courts because the law library is inadequate which is causing him to not be in compliance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Court's scheduling order.

1. Stage of Litigation

Prisoners have a constitutional right of access to the courts. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 820 (1977). To have meaningful access, states must provide prisoners with "adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law." Id. at 828. In the leading case on the right of access, the Supreme Court states that its "main concern" was "protecting the ability of an inmate to prepare a petition or complaint." Bounds, 430 U.S. at 828 n. 17 (quotation omitted). Other portions of the Court's discussion in Bounds also indicate that the Court did not intend to expand the right of access past the pleading stage. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 354 (1996). According to the Court in Bounds, a law library or legal assistance was necessary to formulate "a habeas corpus petition or civil rights complaint." Bound, 430 U.S. at 825. (emphasis added).

Following the Supreme Court's discussion in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 576 (1974) and Bounds, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the Supreme Court has clearly stated that the constitutional right of access requires a state to provide a law library or legal assistance only during the pleading stage of a habeas or civil rights action. Cornett v. Donovan, 51 F.3d 894, 898 (9th Cir. 1995). Here, Plaintiff is beyond the pleading stages. Therefore, Plaintiff's request for access to the courts falls outside the scope of the right of access to the courts set forth by the United States Supreme Court.

2. Proving an Access to the Courts Violation

Even if Plaintiff's request were to fall within the scope of the right of access to the court, which it does not, to establish a violation of this right, the Petitioner must allege facts sufficient to show that:

(1) a non-frivolous legal attack on his conviction, sentence, or conditions of confinement has been frustrated or impeded, and (2) he has suffered an actual injury. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 353-55 (1996). The prisoner must demonstrate that he has suffered or will imminently suffer actual injury. Id. at 348. "An inmate cannot establish relevant actual injury simply by establishing that his prison's law library or legal assistance program is sub-par in some theoretical sense." Id. The inmate must show that the library "hindered his efforts to pursue a legal claim." Id. An "actual injury" is defined as "actual prejudice with respect to contemplated or existing litigation, such as the inability to meet a filing deadline or to present a claim." Id.; see also Vandelft v. Moses, 31 F.3d 794, 796 (9th Cir. 1994); Sands v. Lewis, 886 F.2d 1166, 1171 (1989); Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1093 (9th Cir. 1996).

Here, Plaintiff has not shown an actual injury from the "inadequate" law library. He makes a conclusory statement that the inadequate law library is causing him to not be in compliance with the scheduling order and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. He has not stated that he has missed any filing deadlines or failed to present a claim. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's request to have adequate access to the law library.

Request for Extension of Time

Plaintiff filed a request for extension of time but does not indicate what deadline he seeks an extension on. Accordingly, the Court DENIES ...


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