APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA -- SCRANTON
Before Hunter, Rosenn and Weis, Circuit Judges.
These appeals have been taken from the January 13, 1981 grant of injunctive relief in favor of the plaintiff, James R. Hudson, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania ("Huntingdon"). Hudson brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1976) to contest the adequacy of the law library facilities at Huntingdon. During the pendency of the action, corrective measures were taken by Huntingdon's superintendent to remedy some of the alleged deficiencies. The district court ruled that these actions were insufficient to protect plaintiff's constitutional right of access to the courts, enjoined defendants from reverting to prior practices and specified certain corrective measures to be taken by defendants. Defendants complied with those measures and appealed. Hudson cross-appealed, alleging that certain of the corrective measures are insufficient to remedy the alleged defects. We held these appeals under advisement pending our decision in Kershner v. Mazurkiewicz, 670 F.2d 440 (3d Cir. 1982). We will now reverse.
Huntingdon's prison facilities include a law library. Each inmate at Huntingdon is assigned one night per week during which he may use the library, which is open on weeknights between 6:45 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. The library is also open from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on weekday afternoons. Anyone who wishes to gain access to the library at any other time must obtain permission from the librarian, Richard Norris, by submitting a request slip. Inmates who wish to work together and are not scheduled for the same library hours must also make requests. The court below found that efforts were made to accommodate all reasonable requests. Appendix at 150. Hudson, for example, was scheduled for additional library hours on forty-four days during a two-year period beginning March 15, 1979. Appendix at 151.
At the time this action was commenced, the law library was closed to inmates (except for limited use such as photocopying) whenever Norris was absent from the institution. The library was closed for eighteen days during the year which commenced April 13, 1979. The library was also closed on portions of other days and on weekends. Appendix at 152. On June 10, 1980, Huntingdon adopted a policy of providing a substitute librarian for the afternoons on which Norris was absent, appendix at 151, thereby insuring that the library would be open for its scheduled hours.
The law library is located adjacent to a "learning center" provided for inmates by the institution. Prior to 1980, inmates who were going to classes had to pass through the library in order to get from their cells to the learning center. The area was subsequently remodeled to allow inmates to go directly to class from their cells without passing through the library. This action substantially reduced distractions in the library, and the noise level has been reduced by fifty percent. Appendix at 153.
Notary services, formerly available one day each week, are now available every weeknight. Appendix at 155. The prison employs two law library aides who assist their fellow inmates with questions regarding legal research. Appendix at 154. There are typewriters in the library available for use by the inmates. Appendix at 153. Free writing material such as paper is not always available to prisoners; however, paper is stocked in the commissary and sold at no more than five percent above cost. Appendix at 148. A photocopy machine is available; copies cost six cents. Appendix at 154.
The plaintiff, Hudson, does legal research for fellow inmates.*fn1 He claims that he has been unconstitutionally deprived of access to the courts, and makes the following allegations:
a. The noise in the library severely impedes concentration on legal research and writing.
b. Notary services are not always available.
c. The library is open at inconvenient times and is closed when the librarian ...