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Valentine v. Beyer

filed: June 20, 1988.

EMITT VALENTINE, CLIFFORD ROBERTS, DARRYL V. CONQUEST, CHARLES HOLMAN, JAMES DRAYTON, ALLEN RODZIEWICZ, DAVID FLETCHER, NAJEE SHABAZZ, JAMES WILLIAMS, DAVID GODWIN, DARRELL RICHARDSON, OTIS TERRELL, KENNETH WATSON, ALI-MUSLIM MUHAMMAD, KERWIN COLON, MASIA MUGMUK, ARNOLD TUCKER, ROBERT DAVIS, ASKIN MUHAMMAD, LAWRENCE WHITE, JOHNNY BANSTOCK, BARRY ROBINSON, JONATHAN COOK, MICHAEL BARRON, OMAR SHABAZZ, AARON STAMPS, MELVIN STAMPS, KENT COOPER, LEWIS WEBB, JAMES WEBB, RUBEN MEDAL, MICHAEL GRAVES, JEFF JACOBITTI, ROBERT L. WEST, GREGORY MURCHINSON, L. ROYAL FISHER, EARL BAYARD, DAWUD S. AMIN, RAHEEM AKBAR, ABDUL LATIF, ABDUS-SAMI A. AKBAR, ABDUL QADIR, ALI NASIR, BARRY DUNN, LEROY JOHNSON, JOE KUKLINSKY, GERALD GARY, HENRY OLIVERIA, FRANK HUBBARD, CHRIS ANDERSON, ANTHONY LATTIMORE, MILTON J. CONKLIN, JR., FRANK MILLER, RICHARD WILLIAMS, HENERY MCCREE, EDWARD L. BROWN, GARY REEVES, CLIFFORD ROBERTSON, ANTHONY FREDERICK, LAWRENCE PETERSON, STANLEY FARMS, CHARLIE FARMS, DARREN HAWKINS, MICHAEL ROSE, CHARLTON FRANKLIN, DARVIN ELDER, JAMES CARTER, NICOLA CHALET, ROSCOE MILLER, THOMAS A. PATTERSON, LOUIS ZELTNER, WALTER SIMON, DEREK BETHEA, WILLIAM MARSHALL, MICHAEL L. MADISON, BARRY WILLIAMSON, SAMUEL BIBBY, EUGENE POOLE, RAYMOND TORRES, ISIAH COLLINS, CLAUDE TIGNEY, DAVID MITCHELL, WALTER SAXTON, TERRANCE HAYES, ARNOLD FARMER, KEITH HEARD, ABDALLAH KHALIQ & VICTOR PARKER, HERBERT LEE SMITH, LOUIS P. WRIGHT, JAMES F. FORNINO
v.
HOWARD L. BEYER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SUPERINTENDENT OF TRENTON STATE PRISON; ELAINE W. BALLAI, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SPECIAL ASSISTANT FOR LEGAL AFFAIRS FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; ANTHONY C. TURNER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT OF TRENTON STATE PRISON; WILLIS MORTON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT OF TRENTON STATE PRISON; WILLIS MORTON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT OF TRENTON STATE PRISON; JAMES BARBO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT OF TRENTON STATE PRISON, ED O'DOHERTY, INDIVIDUALLY AS AS LEGAL SERVICES COORDINATOR FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; VERNON JOHNSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS POLICY DEVELOPMENT AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; DOROTHY WASHINGTON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS DIRECTOR OF PROFESSIONAL SERVICES AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; BRIGITE MITCHELL, INDIVIDUALLY AS AS EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; TOM JOHNSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL WORKERS AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; CHARLES TRAUTMAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS CHIEF DEPUTY KEEPER OF TRENTON STATE PRISON; DOUGLASS K. HEIL, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; RON V. PAICE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ASSISTANT SUPERVISOR OF EDUCATION AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; PATRICIA SINGLETON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS LIBRARIAN AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; GARY SHEPPARD, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS DISCIPLINARY HEARING OFFICER FOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ROBERT MAKARSKI, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS DISCIPLINARY HEARING OFFICER FOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; WOODWARD (FIRST NAME UNKNOWN), INDIVIDUALLY AND AS DISCIPLINARY HEARING OFFICER FOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; FRED ZIMMER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS GUARD CAPTAIN AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; R. REA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A GUARD CAPTAIN AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; ANTHONY KUBALA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A GUARD AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; PARHAM (FIRST NAME UNKNOWN), INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A GUARD AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; BARNEY DYRNES, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A GUARD AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; HOLVEY (FIRST NAME UNKNOWN), INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A GUARD AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; AVERHART, (FIRST NAME UNKNOWN), INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A GUARD AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; WILLIAMS (FIRST NAME UNKNOWN), INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A GUARD AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; INMAN (FIRST NAME UNKNOWN), INDIVIDUALLY AND A A GUARD AT TRENTON STATE PRISON; THEIR AGENTS AND SUCCESSORS IN OFFICE, APPELLANTS



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District Court for the District of New Jersey - Trenton, D.C. Civil No. 85-4401.

Mansmann, Hutchinson, and Hunter, Circuit Judges.

Author: Mansmann

Opinion OF THE COURT

MANSMANN, Circuit Judge.

Inmates at Trenton State Prison, New Jersey's highest security state prison, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action against prison officials, challenging the adequacy of the prison's legal assistance program. While the action was pending, the prison administration attempted to implement proposed changes to the existing legal assistance plan. Claiming that these changes would interfere with the constitutionally guaranteed right of access to the courts, a class of prisoners sought to enjoin the administration from implementing these changes to the program. On August 7, 1987, the district court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law upon which a preliminary injunction was issued.

We affirm the grant of a motion for preliminary injunction unless the district court "abused its discretion, committed an error of law or made a clear mistake on the facts." Colt Industries, Inc. v. Fidelco Pump and Compressor Corp., No. 87-5346, slip op. at 5, (3d Cir. filed April 8, 1988). We find that the district court did not err in deciding that the inmates showed that the new plan did not provide a reasonable alternative to the old plan's provision for access to the courts. Therefore, a likelihood of success on the merits of their constitutional challenge to the plan was sufficiently demonstrated. The district court's accompanying conclusion that, as a result of the inadequate access to the courts, the inmates suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable harm was also without error. Finally, we conclude that the district court's determination that no greater harm to the penological interests of the prison administration by issuance of the injunction had been demonstrated was not erroneous. Accordingly, we will affirm the district court's award of preliminary injunctive relief on behalf of the prisoners.

I.

Trenton State Prison's legal access program has a prior history of judicial scrutiny. In Johnson v. Hilton, Civil No. 77-59 (D.N.J. Sept. 12, 1978), the institution's inmates had complained that access to legal materials and notary services was constitutionally deficient. The district court agreed and held that the lack of a formal training program for inmate paralegals and the inaccessibility of law books to those housed in closed custody rendered the legal access aspect of the inmates' incarceration constitutionally inadequate. Although, as here, the inmates in Johnson requested an injunction, the district court chose instead to order the prison administration to implement a constitutional legal access plan, suggesting ways in which an acceptable plan could be formulated.

The prison complied with this mandate -- the plan was then reviewed and found to pass constitutional muster. Johnson v. Hilton, Civil No. 77-59 (D.N.J. Feb. 19, 1980). A central feature of the approved plan involved the use of inmates as paralegals. To become a paralegal one must be formally assigned as such by the prison classification committee. Inmates are selected for a paralegal job utilizing certain criteria: high school graduation or its equivalent, ability to absorb and understand legal material and demonstration of some typing skills. The candidate must also satisfactorily complete a training course.

There are two groups of paralegals at the prison. One group is centralized in and operated by the law library. The law library paralegals perform essentially as assistant law librarians. Their basic functions are to guide inmates in their research, help them locate books and assist in shepardizing cases.

The other group of paralegals are members of the Inmate Legal Association ("ILA"), an incorporated inmate affinity group. The ILA has established an organizational network of inmates who perform legal tasks such as interviewing inmates, researching the law and preparing legal papers. The ILA also includes members who are not prison-classified paralegals. One can become a member of the ILA by a vote of its membership; but only those ILA members cloaked with prison classification paralegal status are permitted to function officially as such. The membership has been provided office space and has acquired corporate assets including lawbooks, desks, file cabinets, and typewriters. The ILA meets weekly at which time legal work is assigned and its continuing legal education program is conducted.

An essential role performed by the inmate paralegals is servicing the legal needs of those incarcerated in closed custody units. Inmates so confined are not permitted to visit the law library. Accordingly, the system requires one in closed custody requesting legal assistance to submit a written request for legal services to a housing officer. The housing officer gives the form to an area sergeant who in turn gives it to traffic control. Traffic control then transmits the form to the library, where it is given either to a law library paralegal or to an ILA paralegal, depending upon the request. Only prison-classified paralegals are permitted to visit the closed custody units.

In order to visit the inmate requesting assistance, the paralegal must first get clearance from custody personnel. If a paralegal receives clearance, he then proceeds to traffic control where further progress to the closed custody unit requires availability of a badge.*fn1 In addition to the paralegals, other inmates use these badges to gain access for other purposes. If all badges are in use, the paralegal cannot gain access to the unit. The paralegal is also denied access if there are other activities in progress in the unit.

The gravamen of the inmates' § 1983 action is that the increase in the inmate population, particularly in the closed custody units, rendered the then-in-place legal access plan constitutionally inadequate. In 1978 when the original plan was formulated, there were approximately 900 inmates; at the time of the hearing, ...


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