The opinion of the court was delivered by: DANIEL H. HUYETT, 3RD
Dale Alan Thomas ("Plaintiff") commenced this action against Robert Olander ("Defendant") alleging that the Northampton County Prison law library is inadequate, depriving Thomas of his constitutional right of access to the courts. Defendant Olander is the Warden at Northampton County Prison; Plaintiff Thomas is a prisoner committed to his custody. Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment with supporting affidavits and other evidence, which Plaintiff has not opposed. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion is granted.
A. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment is proper when the record shows "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). This Court's role is to determine "whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986); Josey v. John R. Hollingsworth Corp., 996 F.2d 632, 637 (3rd Cir. 1993). The moving party has the burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue of fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Further, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 8 L. Ed. 2d 176, 82 S. Ct. 993 (1962). However, if the non-moving party fails to adduce sufficient evidence in connection with an essential element of the case for which it has the burden of proof, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.
B. Northampton County Prison Law Library
Plaintiff Thomas charges that the Northampton County Prison law library needs a new typewriter and that inmates need access to a copier, up-to-date books, materials such as staples and tape, and more time to perform legal research. Thomas himself "needs someone appointed to get books from the Northampton County Law Library." Pet. at 1.
The Supreme Court has recognized "that the fundamental right of access to the courts requires prison officials to assist inmates in the preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law." Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828, 52 L. Ed. 2d 72, 97 S. Ct. 1491 (1977).
The "Court did not define the term 'adequate' with specificity." Abdul-Akbar v. Watson, 4 F.3d 195, 202 (3rd Cir. 1993). Rather, the particular mix of legal resources must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the duty of prison authorities to ensure internal order and institutional security. See Bounds, 430 U.S. at 832; Abdul-Akbar, 4 F.3d at 203. "The standard to be applied is whether the legal resources available to a prisoner will enable him to identify the legal issues he desires to present to the relevant authorities, including the courts, and to make his communications with and presentations to those authorities understood." Abdul-Akbar, 4 F.3d at 203. "A prisoner's right of access to the court does not include the right of free unlimited access to a photocopying machine" when suitable alternatives such as carbon paper or forwarding documents to family or friends for copying may be used. Harrell v. Keohane, 621 F.2d 1059, 1061 (10th Cir. 1980). Access to the courts also does not include "a federally protected right to use a typewriter or to have one's pleadings typed." Twyman v. Crisp, 584 F.2d 352, 358 (10th Cir. 1978).
The adequacy of this prison law library and prisoners' access to the library and other materials were the subject of a consent decree approved by this Court in Teddy R. Serrano v. County Executive Hartzell, et. al., No. 88-8966 (E.D.Pa. 1989). Serrano was certified as a class action pursuant to Rule 23(B)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The plaintiff class comprised prisoners at Northampton County Prison, represented by the legal director of the Philadelphia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Serrano consent decree provides, in pertinent part:
III. Effective immediately Northampton County Prison will adopt the following policy governing the use ...