Greybuffalo, Johnson v. Wall, Edward et al
ORDER denying plaintiff's 34 untitled motion regarding legal loan research. Signed by District Judge Barbara B. Crabb on 10/20/2015. (jef),(ps)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - JOHNSON W. GREYBUFFALO,
EDWARD WALL, KELLI WILLARD WEST,
GARY BOUGHTON, SAMUEL APPUA,
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Pro se prisoner Johnson Greybuffalo is proceeding on claims that several prison
officials are interfering with his ability to practice his religion, in violation of the free exercise
clause and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Now before the court
is an untitled motion in which plaintiff alleges that he has been unable to conduct legal
research for this case, both because the prison’s electronic legal research data base is often
not working and because he has been denied access to the library altogether by prison staff.
Plaintiff asks the court to “notify the facility to grant [him] access [to] ‘reasonable’ law
library time.” Dkt. #34.
Defendants do not deny plaintiff’s allegations.
They admit that the prison’s
LexisNexis legal search engine was not working properly during the month of August and
that, on September 9, 2015, plaintiff was denied access to the library because of a
misapplication of rules by prison staff. Dkt. #35 at 2. However, defendants say that the
search engine has been working since September 2, that plaintiff “had other options for legal
research, including a variety of legal texts available in print” and that the staff member “has
now been educated” about the rules.” Id.
In his reply brief, plaintiff says nothing more about being denied access to the law
library, so I will assume that issue has been resolved. However, plaintiff alleges that the legal
search engine is not working properly again, that the search engine’s failure is “routine” and
that the paper resources are not helpful because they do not include any federal rules,
statutes or case law. Dkt. #37.
I am denying plaintiff’s motion because he has not made any showing that the limits
on his research have prevented him from litigating this case. Plaintiff has no imminent court
deadlines and defendants have no motions pending at this time. Plaintiff says that he wants
to conduct research for a possible motion for reconsideration of the August 28, 2015 order
granting defendants’ motion to dismiss one of plaintiff’s claims for his failure to exhaust his
administrative remedies, as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). However, I am not aware of
any authority suggesting that a prisoner’s right to have access to the courts extends to
motions for reconsideration. Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 657 (7th Cir. 2007) (“The right
of access to the courts protects prisoners from being shut out of court; it does not exist to
enable the prisoner to litigate effectively once in court.”) (internal quotations, citations and
alterations omitted). Even if plaintiff does not seek reconsideration in this court, plaintiff
retains his right to appeal the issue after final judgment is entered. Furthermore, plaintiff
does not explain why he believes the court erred in dismissing his claim or how he believes
more research will help him.
That being said, plaintiff’s allegations are a matter for concern. If plaintiff is correct
that prisoners often are unable to conduct computer research, prisoners litigating cases in
federal court have no real alternative. The exhibit provided by defendants, dkt. #36-1,
confirms plaintiff’s allegation that the print resources available to prisoners do not include
any federal materials, so it was disingenuous for defendants to suggest in their brief that
plaintiff did not need access to the computer. Of course, prison officials have discretion in
determining the type of legal resources they provide prisoners, but whatever they choose,
they have an obligation to give prisoners reasonable access to the courts. Bounds v. Smith,
430 U.S. 817, 825 (1977) (officials must provide prisoners "a reasonably adequate
opportunity to present claimed violations of fundamental constitutional rights to the
Other than the month of August, plaintiff does not provide specific dates that
computer research was unavailable, so the scope of the problem is not clear. If there are
occasional, short-term problems with the prison’s system, those can be addressed by giving
a prisoner an appropriate extension of time to comply with a court deadline. However, if
the problem becomes more frequent, then officials will need to come up with a backup plan
or risk being held liable for violating a prisoner’s constitutional right to reasonable court
IT IS ORDERED that plaintiff Johnson Greybuffalo’s untitled motion regarding legal
research, dkt. #34, is DENIED.
Entered this 20th day of October, 2015.
BY THE COURT:
BARBARA B. CRABB
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