United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
DOUGLAS R. MANNING, Plaintiff,
WARDEN LARRY T. EDMONDS, Defendant.
Glen E. Conrad, Senior United States District Judge
R. Manning, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this
civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging
that prison officials have denied him access to legal
materials. After review of the record, the court concludes
that the defendant's motion to dismiss must be granted in
part and denied in part.
is incarcerated at Dillwyn Correctional Center
("Dillwyn"), serving a prison sentence in the
custody of the Virginia Department of Corrections
("VDOC"). After he filed this civil action in the
United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Virginia, the Court noted deficiencies in his complaint and
directed him "to provide specific answers" to three
- questions: "1. Who are the individuals who violated
your constitutional rights? 2. How did these individuals
violate your constitutional rights? Specify the facts upon
which you rely to support this allegation. 3. What harm have
you suffered from the actions of these individuals?"
Order 1-2, ECF No. 2. Manning then submitted a § 1983
form that named the VDOC, Dillwyn, and Warden Edmonds as
defendants, offered some description of his claims, and
incorporated by reference numerous attached exhibits as
factual support. The Court then transferred the case here,
because Dillwyn is located in the Western District.
construed, Manning's submissions present the following
sequence of events related to his § 1983
claims. In May 2015, in an incident unrelated to
the defendants in this case, Manning suffered an injury that
required surgery and left him "nonambulatory and
confined in a wheelchair." Compl. 3, ECF No. 1. He has
also been diagnosed with "spondylosis, degenerative
lumbar and cervical spine and disc disease, with severe
sciatica that is a chronic condition with daily consistent
acute painful functional limiting symptoms."
Id. When he arrived at Dillwyn in 2016, he had been
prescribed 800 mg. of Neurontin for pain. A doctor at Dillwyn
reduced the dosage of this medication to "300 mg
X3" and also prescribed "a low mg. of eleville ...
for acute pain." Id. Manning did not find this
medication combination to be as effective as the higher
dosage of Neurontin and filed "many request[s] and
complaints for help." Id. at 4.
Dillwyn, Manning was assigned to a housing area for parole
violators and as such, he was not allowed to go to the law
library to conduct legal research. He was also not permitted
to order law journals or other legal assistance manuals from
outside vendors. However, he was permitted to, and did,
submit written requests for copies of specific materials from
the law library and has cited to many court decisions in his
pleadings. In February 2016, Manning asked for a state habeas
corpus form, but was provided a federal habeas form
instead. Am. Compl. 16, ECF No. 5. On March 15, Manning filed
requests asking the library staff for: information about
"the different kinds; of injunctions [and] how to file,
" "the statute of limitations on filing a
'state' habeas, " a "state habeas"
form instead of the federal form previously provided, two
"civil injunction (Emergency)" forms, two
"standard motion form[s], " and two "forma
pauparis [sic] form[s]." Id. at 19-20. He did
not receive any forms, other than the federal habeas
one. Around the same time, Manning also requested "info
pertaining to transfer (assigned security levels vs. medical
conditions, " classification of medically disabled
prisoners, " and information about "prisoner
medically disabled protection from potential serious risk of
injury." Id. at 21. The materials provided two
weeks later in response to this request were, according to
Manning, "very evasive and only [concerned] involuntary
commitment." Id. at 21. Other particular legal
- materials Manning requested were not available in the
Dillwyn law library. Staff suggested that he address requests
for such materials to the institutional attorney.
March 21, 2016, Manning filed an "emergency medical
injunction" and "TRO" in Buckingham County
Circuit Court. Compl. 2-3, ECF No. 1. The Court Clerk did not
offer any satisfactory response to Manning's request for
copies of federal rules or to his questions regarding a
processing date and other information about his case. On May
16, 2016, Manning also filed in his Buckingham County court
case a "certified response to courts attempt to thwart
processing claim." Id. at 9.
point, Manning filed a request to meet with an institutional
attorney at Dillwyn. He received an undated
"Institutional Attorney Receipt" advising that his
request had been received and that he would be notified when
the institutional attorney arrived. Am. Compl. 22, ECF No. 5.
The receipt also provided a name and address where Manning
could write directly to the attorney if he needed
"urgent legal assistance." Id.
(emphasis in original). Manning met with an institutional
attorney on two occasions in the spring of
20, 2016, Manning wrote a request to the law library staff,
stating that he could not do necessary research without
accessing the law library and complaining that two attorney
visits had not sufficiently helped him. Id. at 29. A
law library official forwarded one of Manning's requests
to an administrator, Mr. Oates, asking him to arrange for
Manning to access the law library himself or to otherwise
help him obtain the materials he needed. Id. Oates
wrote back to Manning, asking for particulars about what his
needs were. Id. at 30. On May 27, Manning responded
that he needed to do research for "claims for criminal
and civil cases [that he was] currently attempting to
file." Id. at 31. Oates responded that a law
clerk would meet with Manning to address his concerns.
June, Manning requested a Prisoner Self-Help Litigation
Manual and was told that he had been scheduled to see the
institutional attorney, who would bring the requested
material. When Manning saw Institutional Attorney Thomas on
September 8, 2016, Thomas said "he was not made aware,
said he didn't even know what a Prisoner Self Help Manual
was and if he did he couldn't give it to [Manning]
because he don't get reimbursed for buying books or
making copies of them to give" away. Id. at 7.
Thomas asked Manning to explain his legal problem and then
advised him, "give up, you[']ll never win."
filed an informal complaint on September 8, 2016, stating:
It is evident from my initial request dated 5-20-16, I need
access to the tools necessary to do meaningful research for
legal cases pending and to be submitted. My initial need
request was sent to the Operations Manager, who then repeated
my need and forwarded this to Mr. Oates. As you can clearly
see, Mr. Oates is not able to comprehend because he sent me
his routing and transmittal slip on 5-24-16 asking what do I
need? 5-27-16 I sent the same request back to him, he diverts
the problem back to Mrs. Harris and this circle goes on and
on. Mrs. Harris did send a Library Aid to see me in Mr.
Huddleston's office and he did bring a Georgetown Law
Journal and said/that he was told by Mrs. Harris to show it
to me to pick a case and bring it back and that's it.
This Library Aid went to school to study Paralegal things.
After listening to my need, he said that even in his opinion,
that I needed physical access and also professional help or I
would not be able to adequately research, sir.
Id. at 38. The response to this complaint was
another appointment with the institutional attorney.
Manning then filed a regular grievance on September 14,
stating that he had "filed request to law library
concerning access to material that may provide adequate
knowledge of how to research, present, and litigate cases
and[/]or criminal/civil case to the court; several times to
several dept.'s. All return me to Inst. Attorney which
has proven to be ineffective at the least." Id.
at 39. In response to the question on the grievance form,
"What action do you want taken?" Manning wrote: