United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
CHRISTOPHER L. RAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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. For the following reasons, this claim
should be DISMISSED.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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. 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.
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 ...