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Manning v. Edmonds

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

March 30, 2019




         This prisoner civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, filed by Douglas R. Manning, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, is now before the court on summary judgment. His remaining claim contends that officials of the Virginia Department of Corrections (“VDOC”) and Dillwyn Correctional Center (“Dillwyn”) impaired his ability to access the courts related to state habeas corpus claims and possible claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). After review of the record, the court concludes that the motion for summary judgment must be granted.

         I. Background

         Manning arrived at Dillwyn on December 21, 2015.[1] Prior to that transfer, he had been incarcerated at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail from June 27, 2014 to December 21, 2015, and before that, at the Chesapeake City Jail from August 27, 2013 to June 27, 2014. State court records available on the internet indicate that Manning was sentenced on December 19, 2014, in the Chesapeake Circuit Court to concurrent terms of twenty years, with thirteen years suspended, on a conviction for aggravated sexual battery, and one year for a probation violation.[2]

         For security reasons, Dillwyn officials first assigned Manning to the Reception Unit, designated for inmates newly transferred to a VDOC facility. Such inmates are still undergoing their intake and classification processes to determine their security needs and assign them to appropriate security levels. Part of that process is identifying any “keep separates”-inmates who, for security reasons, are not permitted to interact with each other. Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. Holman Aff. ¶ 9 and n. 1, ECF No. 52-1. Until officials have classified an inmate according to such security needs, allowing him to co-mingle and interact with other inmates would create a security risk. For that reason, inmates assigned to the Reception Unit cannot physically access Dillwyn's law library. Manning alleges that he received a security classification in February 2016. Mem. Opp'n 6, ECF No. 54. Nevertheless, from December 21, 2015, through March 23, 2017, he remained in the Reception Unit for security reasons because he was a probation violator. See Am. Compl. 41, ECF No. 5; Mem. Opp'n 16, ECF No. 54.[3] In short, for this entire period, Manning was denied physical access to the law library.[4]

         Manning was not without access to legal materials during this time, however. An inmate in the Reception Unit or the medical unit who cannot go to the law library may file a request form for materials from the law library-two statutes or legal cases at a time. The materials will be photocopied and delivered to him to use and then return, which permits him to request two more items. Am. Compl. 41, ECF No. 5; Holman Aff. ¶ 10, ECF No. 52-1. Manning found this system of obtaining legal materials to be frustrating, because he did not know which cases to request for general research of a topic. However, Dillwyn inmates may also fill out a request to be scheduled to meet with an institutional attorney who visits offenders to provide legal consultation or information.

         On February 21, 2016, Manning submitted a request for a “state habeas corpus form, ” but received only a federal habeas corpus form. 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 received only the federal habeas form on March 17, 2016. On March 15, 2016, 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. He did not find the materials that library staff provided to be helpful. Other legal materials Manning requested were not available in the Dillwyn law library.[5] Staff suggested that Manning address requests for such materials to the institutional attorney. Despite Manning's problems obtaining all the legal materials he wanted, on March 21, 2016, he filed an “emergency medical injunction” and “TRO” in Buckingham County Circuit Court.[6] Compl. 2-3, ECF No. 1.

         Around this same time, Manning requested to meet with an institutional attorney. He received an undated “Institutional Attorney Receipt” indicating that said he would be notified when the attorney arrived. The document also provided a name and address where Manning could write directly to the attorney for “urgent legal assistance.” Am. Compl. 22, ECF No. 5 (emphasis in original). On March 30, 2016, Manning met with Institutional Attorney Marsden, who allegedly had no experience “in civil law and did not even recognize the forms” the law library had provided to Manning. Mem. Opp'n 8, ECF No. 54. The attorney took a written list of questions Manning had prepared and promised to answer the questions by mail and send “proper forms, ” but Manning never received any such mailing. Id. Manning saw Attorney Marsden again on approximately May 15, 2016. Id. at 8. The attorney said he had sent Manning the items he had promised during their prior visit and would mail them again, but Manning never received any mailing from Marsden.

         On May 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 institutional attorney visits had not sufficiently helped him. Am. Compl. 29, ECF No. 5. A law library official forwarded one of Manning's requests to Mr. Oates, the Chief of Housing and Programs, asking him to arrange for Manning to access the law library himself, or to otherwise help him obtain the materials he needed. Id. Mr. Oates wrote to Manning, asking for more specific details about what his research needs were. Id. at 30. On May 27, 2016, Manning wrote back to Oates and stated 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. Id.

         On May 31, 2016, Manning filled out an offender request form requesting the “ADA found at 42 U.S.C., 12101-12213.” Id. at 32. Manning received only the cover page of the statute and not its full contents.

         On April 7, 2016, Manning filed a “Motion to Subpoena” in the Chesapeake Circuit Court, seeking to obtain information about his criminal case there, No. “14-233, ” which was his aggravated sexual battery charge. Mem. Opp'n Attach., at 1, ECF No. 54-2. He intended to use these materials to prepare his habeas corpus claims, but the court never sent them.

         In June of 2016, Manning met with Institutional Attorney Jody Fariss, and explained his “legal needs and urgency [and she] was “able to obtain parts of [his] criminal record so [he] would have a start for researching to file a post-conviction remedy.” Mem. Opp'n 12, ECF No. 54. She also provided him with a list of materials to help prisoners file civil rights lawsuits. Am. Compl. 35, ECF No. 5.

         Thereafter, 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. On about June 8, 2016, Manning talked to another law library aid, who stated his opinion that Manning needed physical access to the law library and help “learning ‘basic research' in order to successfully be able to adequately present [his] cases to the courts.” Mem. Opp'n 10, ECF No. 54.. Shortly thereafter, on about June 9, 2016, Manning spoke to Mr. Oates, attempting “to inquire concerning his legal needs and show him statute timelines for post-conviction remedy.” Id. Manning allegedly told Oates that he “only had approx. 150 days before [his] statute of limitations ran out on [his] post conviction remedy, [Oates] referred [him] to the Inst. Attorney.” Mot. Am. 5, ECF No. 35. Manning also states that the deadline for filing his state habeas corpus petition was December 19, 2016, and that on unspecified dates, he “sent a copy of his ‘statute of limitation' to the Law Library and also showed” it to his counselor. Mem. Opp'n 17, ECF No. 54.

         When Manning saw Institutional Attorney Thomas on September 8, 2016, Thomas said “he was not made aware” that he should bring Manning a Prisoner Self Help Manual, didn't know what that was, and was not reimbursed for buying books or making copies of materials for inmates. Am. Compl. 7, ECF No. 5. Thomas asked Manning to ...

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