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James Armstead v. Tim v. Virga

July 18, 2012

JAMES ARMSTEAD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TIM V. VIRGA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff is a state prisoner, proceeding without counsel, with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On July 3, 2012, the undersigned granted defendants' motion to dismiss with leave to amend as to some claims, and recommended that defendants' motion be granted and denied as to other claims.

Pending before the court are plaintiff's motions for injunctive relief filed June 22, 2012 (Dkt. Nos. 49, 50) requesting additional law library access. Also pending is plaintiff's July 16, 2012 motion for an extension of time to file an amended complaint in response to the July 3, 2012 order and, possibly, objections to the July 3, 2012 findings and recommendations.

II. Motions for Injunctive Relief

Plaintiff's Allegations In his motions for injunctive relief, plaintiff alleges that the educational materials such as text books were removed from the law library. Plaintiff also alleges that all hard bound reference books, except for Shepards, were removed from the law library and replaced with computers that are difficult to work. Plaintiff also alleges that the law library no longer loans out statutory or case law related books. Plaintiff also complains that the law library schedule changed from five days a week to two days a week during yard time. Plaintiff also complains that when he has law library access, he is only permitted to make copies of one legal document per visit. Plaintiff alleges that during the month of May, he had law library access "only" four times.

Standards for Protective Orders

The court construes plaintiff's motions for injunctive relief as motions for protective orders. None of the requests addressed in plaintiff's motions seek dispositive relief on the merits of the complaint. The motions are addressed to procedures that the parties must utilize in litigating this case. See United States v. Flaherty, 668 F.2d 566, 586 (1st Cir. 1981) ("A pretrial matter within the magistrate's jurisdiction would thus seem to be a matter unconnected to issues litigated at trial and not defined with respect to the time of trial.") Neither do the rulings herein involve injunctive relief. For these reasons, plaintiff's motions may be handled by court order rather than by findings and recommendations.

Analysis

Prisoners have a constitutional right to access the courts. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 346 (1996). This right, however, "guarantees no particular methodology but rather the conferral of a capability -- the capability of bringing contemplated challenges to sentences or conditions of confinement before the courts ... [It is this capability] rather than the capability of turning pages in a law library, that is the touchstone" of the right of access to the courts. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 356-57. Prison officials may select the best method to ensure that prisoners have the capability to file suit. See id. at 356.

The undersigned first considers plaintiff's claim that in order to prepare his objections and amended complaint, he is now required to use computers which are difficult to operate. As set forth above, plaintiff has no constitutional right to a "particular methodology" for doing legal research. Plaintiff's use of computers does not deny him access to the courts. Accordingly, plaintiff's claim that the computers are more difficult for him to use than hard bound books is not grounds for granting his motions for protective orders.

Plaintiff also complains that the computers often malfunction. Plaintiff's motions contain no specific allegations regarding when the computers malfunctioned. Plaintiff's vague and unsupported claim regarding malfunctioning computers is not grounds for granting his motions for protective orders.

Plaintiff complains that all educational materials, such as text books, were removed from the law library. Plaintiff does not allege that he requires educational materials to prepare his amended complaint or objections. For this reason, plaintiff's inability to access text books is not grounds to grant his motions for protective orders.

Plaintiff also complains that he is no longer permitted to borrow books from the law library. Plaintiff does not explain how his inability to borrow books prevents him from preparing his objections and amended complaint. For this reason, the undersigned finds that plaintiff's inability to ...


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