need not have acted or failed to act with the specific intent to deprive the plaintiff of the right to court access. All that Jackson requires is that the plaintiff demonstrate that the defendant reasonably should have known that the act he intentionally performed would deprive the plaintiff of his right to court access. The court notes that the D.C. Circuit similarly construed Jackson in Crawford-El but nonetheless concluded that the specific intent to deprive was required. Crawford-El, 951 F.2d at 1318-19. The court agrees with the D.C Circuit's apparent understanding of Jackson but the court respectfully does not agree that Jackson supports the rule announced in Crawford-El.
In Washington v. James, 782 F.2d 1134 (2d Cir. 1986), the plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that the defendants had intercepted his outgoing legal mail in violation of his right to court access. Id. at 1136-37. The court articulated a broad definition of the right to court access: "A prisoner has a constitutional right of access to the courts for the purpose of presenting his claims, a right that prison officials cannot unreasonably obstruct and that states have affirmative obligations to assure." Id. at 1138 (citations omitted.) The court concluded that, in the case before it, the plaintiff had alleged that the defendants had intentionally violated his right of access to the courts. Id. at 1139.
In this court's view, Washington v. James stands for the proposition that negligent denial of the right of court access states a constitutional violation and that in Washington, the plaintiff had alleged an intentional denial, which is necessarily more than mere negligence. The D.C. Circuit never attempted to reconcile the rule announced by the Second Circuit, which does not require a specific intent, with its rule, which does. This court respectfully disagrees with the D.C. Circuit and concludes that Washington v. James does not support the rule announced in Crawford-El.
The rule announced in Crawford-El is inconsistent with Bieregu and has no support in this circuit. Further, it appears to have had no support among the other Circuit Courts of Appeal when it was announced in Crawford-El. In light of these observations, this court can not adopt the D.C. Circuit's rule. Because the court does not adopt the D.C. Circuit's specific intent rule, the court concludes that whether defendant Burke had the specific intent to deprive the plaintiff his right of access to the courts is not a material fact. Accordingly, defendant Burke cannot be granted summary judgment based on her specific intent argument.
Finally, the court is constrained to acknowledge that, after the defendants' summary judgment motion was filed, the parties and the court engaged in two telephone conferences. As a result of those conferences, defense counsel has provided the plaintiff with additional transcripts related to his criminal trial.
It now appears that the plaintiff has received every document he requested prior to filing his lawsuit. As such, his claim for injunctive relief is now moot. Because it is moot, there is no case or controversy with respect to this claim and the court will recommend the sua sponte dismissal of the claim for injunctive relief. The fact that the claim for injunctive relief is now moot does not affect the plaintiff's claim for damages as that is still a live case and controversy.
The court's recommendation follows.
AND NOW, this 23rd day of October, 1995, for the reasons given in the attached Report, it is hereby RECOMMENDED that defendant Burke's motion for summary judgment be DENIED and that defendant Miller's motion for summary judgment be GRANTED based on her lack of personal involvement in the alleged wrongful conduct. The court also RECOMMENDS, sua sponte, that the plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief be DISMISSED as moot.
DIANE M. WELSH
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE