538 F.2d 541 (4th Cir. 1975), 74-2378, Smith v. Bounds

Docket Nº:74-2378 to 74-2380.
Citation:538 F.2d 541
Party Name:Robert (Bobby) SMITH et al., Appellees, v. Vernon Lee BOUNDS, Commissioner, State Department of Correction, and Stanley Blackledge, Warden, Central State Prison, Raleigh, North Carolina, Appellants. Donald W. MORGAN et al., Appellants, v. R. L. TURNER, Superintendent of Odom Correctional Institution of the North Carolina Department of Correction, A
Case Date:September 30, 1975
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 541

538 F.2d 541 (4th Cir. 1975)

Robert (Bobby) SMITH et al., Appellees,

v.

Vernon Lee BOUNDS, Commissioner, State Department of

Correction, and Stanley Blackledge, Warden,

Central State Prison, Raleigh, North

Carolina, Appellants.

Donald W. MORGAN et al., Appellants,

v.

R. L. TURNER, Superintendent of Odom Correctional

Institution of the North Carolina Department of

Correction, Appellee.

John HARRINGTON et al., Appellants,

v.

James HOLSHOUSER, Governor, State of North Carolina, et al.,

Appellees.

Nos. 74-2378 to 74-2380.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

September 30, 1975

Argued May 8, 1975.

Page 542

Patrick Antrim (third-year law student) and Howard Manning, Raleigh, N. C. (Court-appointed in Nos. 74-2378 and 74-2379) (Barry Nakell, Chapel Hill, N. C. (Court-appointed in Nos. 74-2378 and 74-2380), on brief), for appellees in No. 74-2378 and for appellants in Nos. 74-2379 and 74-2380.

Jacob L. Safron, Asst. Atty. Gen. of N. C. (Rufus L. Edmisten, Atty. Gen. of N. C., Raleigh, N. C., on brief), for appellants in No. 74-2378 and for appellees in Nos. 74-2379 and 74-2380.

Before HAYNSWORTH, Chief Judge, ANDERSON, Senior Circuit Judge, [*] and RUSSELL, Circuit Judge.

DONALD RUSSELL, Circuit Judge:

The appeal in these three consolidated cases arose out of like claims asserted by various inmates of the North Carolina Correctional System to the effect that, by failing to provide them with adequate legal library facilities, the State was denying to them reasonable access to the Courts and equal protection of the laws as guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The District Court granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and required the responsible State officials to submit a proposed plan for implementing the State's obligation to provide adequate library facilities for the use of indigent prisoners seeking to file pro se habeas or civil rights actions, or an acceptable alternative therefor. The State, obedient to this order, filed a plan for prison legal research facilities. It would seem that at this point the petitioners, among other things, objected to the omission from the plan of any legal defenders' program by way of a supplement to the library facilities proposed under the plan. The Court accordingly ordered counsel for all parties to submit briefs on the issue of whether an independent attorneys' office, supplementary to the library facilities was necessary to satisfy proper constitutional standards. After consideration of the briefs filed, the Court refused to require the State to establish an independent attorneys' office and approved, with modification, the library controversy.

Both the State and the petitioners have appealed the State from the order for summary judgment because it contends it is without any obligation to provide prisoners with legal research facilities or an alternative therefor, and the plaintiffs from the order approving, with modification, the proposed plan, because they urge such plan is inadequate.

We affirm the action of the District Court in granting summary judgment and, with a minor modification, in approving the plan submitted as satisfying the constitutional obligation of the State to furnish either legal research facilities to the inmates of its correctional system or an acceptable alternative therefor, in accordance with the provisions of the order for summary judgment as granted by the District Court.

The North Carolina Department of Correction has custody of approximately 10,000 prisoners. These prisoners are housed in some 80 prison units situated in 67 different counties, stretching from one end of the State to the other. The population in these units varies from 1086 in Central Prison to as little as 13 in the Warrenton Unit and the units stretch from the Carrituck Subsidiary unit in the east, to the Haywood County Subsidiary...

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