Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lang v. Wilcher

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

January 9, 2020




         Plaintiff, Iverson Damon Lang, proceeding pro se, has submitted a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Complaint alleging inadequate access to legal research materials. Doc. 1. The Court granted plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP), doc. 3, and he has filed all necessary forms and documentation, doc. 4 & 5. The Court now proceeds to screen his Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.[1] For the following reasons, this claim should be DISMISSED.


         Plaintiff is currently confined at the Chatham County Detention Center. Doc. 1 at 3. During his confinement, he has requested the law librarian to provide “information on federal lawsuits, dealing [with] codes: Doc and Civ.” Id. Pannizo, the supervisor of the library, informed plaintiff that they did not carry the requested materials. Id. Plaintiff was provided with a tablet, in two-hour sessions, to conduct legal research, but he found the resource to be inadequate as it did not contain “materials that will tell you anything about federal case, like codes dealing with ‘Civ' or Doc.'” Id. at 5.


         I. Sheriff Wilcher

         Plaintiff has not asserted a claim against Sheriff Wilcher that is cognizable under § 1983. The references to Sheriff Wilcher in the Complaint are based on his position as “overseer over this county jail.” Doc. 1 at 4. Section 1983 claims cannot be based upon supervisory or respondeat superior liability. See Polk Cnty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981); Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978); Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 671 (11th Cir. 1990). In the absence of any substantive allegations against Sheriff Wilcher, therefore, this claim should be DISMISSED.

         II. Mr. Pannizo

         Liberally construed, the Complaint alleges that plaintiff has been denied meaningful access to the courts by the jail law library not providing his desired research materials. Prisoners and detainees proceeding pro se have a right to meaningful access to the courts, including some right to legal research materials. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977); see also Bass v. Singletary, 143 F.3d 1442, 1445 (11th Cir. 1998) (deprivation of that right may be actionable where “the prison official's actions which allegedly infringed on an inmate's right of access to the courts [ ] frustrated or impeded the inmate's efforts to pursue a nonfrivolous legal claim.”). A deprivation of this right, however, requires an actual injury to be suffered. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 352 (1996). Specifically, a plaintiff must claim that the denial of access to legal resources prejudiced him in a criminal appeal, post-conviction matter, or in a § 1983 claim. Id. at 354-55.

         Plaintiff's complaint suggests that the alleged denial of legal research materials caused the dismissal of a “civil claim.” Doc. 1 at 5. Though unclear from the Complaint, the Court presumes this to refer to his previously filed § 1983 claim, in which he raised objections similar to those asserted here in responding the Court's recommendation of dismissal. Lang v. Brown, CV419-003, docs. 47 & 49 at 3. Fatally to this claim, plaintiff suffered no prejudice or injury as the recommendation of dismissal was vacated and the prior case remains open. CV419-003, docs. 50. The Court can conjure no other potential injury from the Complaint.

         Even if plaintiff alleged that his ability to pursue a claim was impeded, the resources made available were adequate. Physical law libraries and books are not the only acceptable means for accommodating legal research needs. See Bounds, 430 U.S. 830-31 ([W]hile adequate law libraries are one constitutionally acceptable method to assure meaningful access to the courts, our decision here . . . does not foreclose alternative means to achieve that goal.”). Plaintiff has conceded that he was provided with a tablet for conducting legal research. Doc. 1 at 5. Though limitations were imposed on the amount of time that he was permitted to use the tablet, plaintiff has not suggested that such limitation hindered his ability to pursue his case. See Juiffre v. Broward Sheriff's Office, 717 Fed. App'x. 886 (11th Cir. 2017) (a policy requiring inmates to request up to four cases per week by providing exact citations and not allowing access to a physical law library was not sufficient to establish a denial of access to courts absent a showing of actual injury).

         Plaintiff has alleged that the research tablet did not provide information relevant to his claim. His Complaint, however, suggests that the source of his frustration is not truly in the lack of adequate resources, but in confusion over how to conduct legal research. As any first-year law student will attest, legal research is not intuitive and can be extremely challenging to those without some degree of experience. Plaintiff specifically points to a lack of resources dealing with codes “Doc” and “Civ.” This nomenclature, however, does not refer to sections of a state or federal code, but rather to docket and case references used internally by courts, usually in reference to specific cases.[2] For this reason, there is no physical collection of cases or statutes relating to these terms. Plaintiff would be well served to use the resources available, including the law librarians, to best structure his future research strategy. The difficulties he faces, however, do not amount to denying him access to the courts. Therefore, this claim should be DISMISSED.


         Accordingly, the Complaint should be DISMISSED. It is also time for Lang to pay his filing fee. Since his PLRA paperwork reflects an average monthly balance of $167.83, doc. 5 at 1, he owes an initial partial filing fee of $33.57 at this time. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) (requiring an initial fee assessment “when funds exist”). Lang's custodian (or designee) shall, therefore, set aside and remit 20 percent of all future deposits to his account, then forward those funds to ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.