977 F.2d 996 (6th Cir. 1992), 88-1563, Knop v. Johnson

Docket Nº:88-1563, 88-1634 and 88-1879.
Citation:977 F.2d 996
Party Name:Gary KNOP, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, Cross-Appellants, v. Perry M. JOHNSON, et al., Defendants-Appellants, Cross-Appellees. Everett HADIX, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. Perry M. JOHNSON, Individually and as Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:October 16, 1992
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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977 F.2d 996 (6th Cir. 1992)

Gary KNOP, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, Cross-Appellants,


Perry M. JOHNSON, et al., Defendants-Appellants, Cross-Appellees.

Everett HADIX, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,


Perry M. JOHNSON, Individually and as Director of the

Michigan Department of Corrections, Defendant-Appellant.

Nos. 88-1563, 88-1634 and 88-1879.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

October 16, 1992

Argued Aug. 3, 1992.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Patricia A. Streeter, Detroit, Mich., William L. Fette, American Civ. Liberties Fund of Michigan, Kalamazoo, Mich., Elizabeth R. Alexander (argued and briefed), Chief, Staff Counsel, Washington, D.C., for plaintiffs-appellees Gary Knop, John Ford, William Lovett, II, Ramando Valeroso, Gus Jansson, Pat Sommerville, Vernard Cohen, Jon Spytma, Robert Shipp, Butch Davis, Ron Mixon and Kerwin Cook.

Susan Przekop Shaw, Barbara A. Schmidt, Office of Atty. Gen., Corrections Div., Thomas C. Nelson (argued and briefed), Atty. Gen., Office of Atty. Gen., Habeas Div., Lansing, Mich., for defendants-appellants Perry Johnson, Robert Brown, Jr., Dale Foltz, John Jabe, Theodore Koehler, John Prelesnik and Jack Bergman.

Larry Bennett, Lopatin, Miller, Freedman, Bluestone, Erlich & Rosen, Michael Barnhart (argued), Barnhart & Mirer, Patricia A. Streeter (briefed), Detroit, Mich., Thomas M. Loeb, Southfield, Mich., for plaintiffs-appellees Everett Hadix, Richard Mapes, Patrick C. Sommerville, Rossevelt Hudson, Jr., Brent E. Koster, Lee A. McDonald, Darryl Sturges, Robert Flemster, William Lovett, James Covington, Frank Thomas and James Hadix.

Susan A. Harris (argued and briefed), Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of Atty. Gen. of Mich., Detroit, Mich., Susan Przekop Shaw, Office of Atty. Gen., Corrections Div., Lansing, Mich., for defendant-appellant Perry Johnson and defendants Barry Mintzes, individually and as Warden, Charles Anderson, individually and as Past Warden, William F. Grant, individually and as Deputy Warden, Daniel Trudell, individually and as Deputy Warden, Duane Sholes, individually and as Deputy Warden, John Jabe, individually and as Business Manager of State of Mich., James Pogats, individually

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and as Administrative Asst. to the Warden, Roy Rider, individually and as Classification Director of State Prison, Charles Ustess, individually and as Resident Services Director of State Prison, Don P. Leduc, individually and as Chairman of Corrections Com'n, Robert Brown, Jr., Deputy Director, Graham Allen, Elton Scott, Pam Withrow, Frank E. Elo, Marjorie Van Ochten and John Prelesnik.

Arthur J. Tarnow, Detroit, Mich., Sandra Girard (argued and briefed), Prison Legal Services of Michigan, Inc., Jackson, Mich., for amicus curiae Prison Legal Services of Michigan, Inc.

Before: NELSON and BOGGS, Circuit Judges, and WILHOIT, District Judge. [*]

DAVID A. NELSON, Circuit Judge.

These are consolidated appeals in two class actions brought against the Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections by inmates of the Michigan prison system who challenge the constitutionality of certain conditions of their confinement. Both cases involve the State Prison of Southern Michigan at Jackson, and Knop involves three other Michigan prisons as well.

An issue common to the appeals in both Knop and Hadix is whether the district courts erred in finding, as both did, that Michigan prisoners have been denied their right of access to the courts. On the records before us, and finding no clear error in the facts as determined by the district courts (Enslen and Feikens, JJ.) in their thorough and well-crafted opinions, we are satisfied that there are at least some Michigan prisoners who have been denied the type of access to the courts required under current Supreme Court doctrine.

Although it is well established that the federal constitution requires states affirmatively to assist state prisoners in obtaining access to the courts for presentation of constitutional claims related to their confinement, see Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 97 S.Ct. 1491, 52 L.Ed.2d 72 (1977), there has been some uncertainty as to the breadth of the class of claims covered by this requirement and as to how far the states must go in affirmatively facilitating the prisoners' access to the courts. Our recent decision in John L. v. Adams, 969 F.2d 228 (6th Cir.1992), which involved incarcerated juveniles, teaches that affirmative assistance need not be provided for litigation that is not related to the inmate's incarceration. The same limiting principle applies, we believe, with respect to adult prisoners. The principle was correctly applied in Knop, but not in Hadix; the remedial order in the latter case should have been limited, as was the order in Knop, to assistance for prisoners in making collateral attacks on their convictions and in challenging the constitutionality of the conditions of their confinement.

Meaningful access to the courts cannot be assured for juveniles, as both sides agreed in John L., absent access to an attorney. For adult prisoners, however, access to the courts need not entail access to an attorney; access to an adequate law library, or to paralegal personnel with access to such a library, is sufficient. The Hadix court directed the Department of Corrections to provide both a constitutionally sufficient law library and a staff of attorneys; in this, as in certain other respects, we conclude that the court abused its discretion.

The Knop court did not require that a staff of attorneys be maintained, but it ordered the Department to procure paralegal services by contract with a non-profit corporation. The court rejected a plan under which paralegal assistance would have been provided directly by the Department. Here too, we believe, the remedy went too far; both cases must be remanded for the development of less intrusive remedies. In the interest of insuring uniformity in the reshaping of the remedies, we shall remand both cases to a single court.

The appeal in the Hadix case is limited to the access to courts issue, but Knop presents

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several other issues as well. Except as indicated below, we shall affirm the judgment of the district court as to each of the remaining issues presented in Knop.


The plaintiff class that was certified in Knop consists of prisoners at the State Prison of Southern Michigan at Jackson, 1 the Marquette Branch Prison, the Michigan Reformatory at Ionia, and the Riverside Correctional Facility, also located in Ionia. Knop v. Johnson, 667 F.Supp. 467, 469 (W.D.Mich.1987). With the exception of the prisoners at Riverside and the Central Complex at Jackson, the Knop class evidently corresponds to that certified in Walker v. Johnson, 544 F.Supp. 345 (E.D.Mich.1982), aff'd in part and rev'd in part sub nom. Walker v. Mintzes, 771 F.2d 920 (6th Cir.1985).

One of the claims advanced in Walker was that the Michigan authorities had "violated plaintiffs' equal protection clause right to meaningful access to the courts as established in the Supreme Court case of Bounds v. Smith." 544 F.Supp. at 361. The district court acknowledged in Walker that Michigan's prison law library facilities were adequate, but found that a cutback in library hours following a series of prison riots had unlawfully restricted access to the libraries. Id. The district court ordered that library hours be increased.

On appeal, this court observed that there had been no showing that any prisoner had actually been denied access to the courts or had actually been prejudiced in a lawsuit. 771 F.2d at 932. We reversed the order in which the district court had specified hours of operation for prison libraries, and we directed the court to consider, on remand, "whether adequate access to court has been denied any prisoner." Id.

Although the Walker case was remanded to the Eastern District of Michigan, access to courts was one of the issues litigated in a 35-day bench trial conducted by Judge Enslen, of the Western District of Michigan, in Knop. The parties did not inform Judge Enslen that the access to courts issue had been remanded to another court, and it was only in preparing his opinion that he focused on this. See 667 F.Supp. at 484-85. 2 Acknowledging that "[i]t may be regrettable that there have been two federal court proceedings involving the same issue and the same class of inmates," Judge Enslen concluded that it was simply too late in the game for him not to decide the plaintiffs' access to courts claim. Id. at 485. We have no quarrel with this conclusion.

Judge Enslen discussed the merits of the plaintiffs' access claim at pages 486 through 496. After describing the library system in detail and identifying its perceived defects, Judge Enslen found that although some inmates were able to use the system to prepare effective complaints, a greater number (particularly inmates confined in segregation, the illiterate, and inmates with intellectual handicaps) were unable to use the system to gain meaningful access to judicial forums. Such access, as the court correctly noted, entails not only the drafting of complaints and petitions for relief but also the drafting of responses to motions to dismiss and the drafting of objections to magistrates' reports and recommendations.

After the submission of proposed remedial plans and comments thereon, Judge Enslen

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conducted further hearings in March of 1988. He subsequently issued a final opinion and order, reported as Knop v. Johnson, 685 F.Supp. 636 (W.D.Mich.1988), directing the Michigan Department of Corrections to contract with a non-profit corporation for providing paralegal assistance to prisoners; requiring the hiring of an attorney to function as a program director; and establishing staffing requirements that included specified numbers of civilians with two-year paralegal degrees, prisoner paralegals,...

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