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Adams v. Monahan

United States District Court, D. Maine

January 11, 2018

LUKE MONAHAN, et al., Defendants


          John C. Nivison, U.S. Magistrate Judge

         In this action, Plaintiff Jon Robert Adams, an inmate in the custody of the Department of Corrections assigned to the Maine Correctional Center, alleges that Defendant Luke Monahan denied him access to the courts by imposing unreasonable restrictions on Plaintiff's ability to access the prison law library. The matter is before the Court on the following motions:

1. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 4);
2. Plaintiff's Motion for Declaratory Judgment (ECF No. 6);
3. Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 9);
4. Plaintiff's Motion to Inform the Court (ECF No. 11);
5. Plaintiff's [Second] Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 18);
6. Defendant Monahan's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 22);
7. Plaintiff's [Second] Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 33); and
8. Plaintiff's Motion/Brief Regarding Exhaustion Requirement (ECF No. 52).

         Following a review of the summary judgment record, and after consideration of the parties' arguments, I recommend the Court grant Defendant Monahan's motion for summary judgment and dismiss as moot the remaining motions.

         Procedural Background

         On July 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed his original complaint against Defendant Monahan. (ECF No. 1.) On the same date, Plaintiff filed his first motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 4) and a motion for declaratory judgment. (ECF No. 6.) Shortly thereafter, the Court received Plaintiff's first motion for preliminary injunction (ECF No. 9) and Plaintiff's “motion to inform the court.” (ECF No. 11.) On September 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed a second motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 18.) On October 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed another motion for preliminary injunction. (ECF No. 33.)

         On September 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his complaint to include a denial of access claim against Defendant Deputy Warden Susan Carr. The Court granted Plaintiff leave to assert a claim for injunctive relief against Defendant Carr in her official capacity, but denied Plaintiff leave to proceed against Defendant Carr in her personal capacity because the record reflected that Plaintiff sought to assert a claim regarding library access before Defendant Carr had the opportunity to respond to Plaintiff's related grievance. (Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion to Amend and Recommended Decision After Screening Amended Complaint, ECF No. 25; Order Affirming the Recommended Decision of the Magistrate Judge, ECF No. 43.)

         On September 28, 2017, Defendant Monahan moved for summary judgment based on Plaintiff's failure to exhaust the available administrative remedies. (ECF No. 22.) In response, Plaintiff filed an opposition (ECF No. 34) and a “motion/brief” related to the exhaustion requirement. (ECF No. 52.) Through the “motion/brief, ” Plaintiff asked the Court to excuse him from the exhaustion requirement because he had made four attempts to exhaust that were not properly resolved by prison administrators. (Id. at 3.)

         Factual Background

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Monahan, the unit manager for Plaintiff's cell block, has denied him meaningful physical access to the law library, and that the denial of access has interfered with his ability to conduct litigation.[1] Maine Department of Corrections Policy 24.4, Library Services provides: “It is the policy of the Department of Corrections to provide prisoners with reasonable opportunities to use library services to conduct legal research, address educational needs, and pursue recreational interests.” (ECF No. 1-3.) The policy contemplates “physical access to the facility's library at least weekly on a scheduled basis, ” and that “a selection of library materials” may be provided in general population and other housing units “upon approval of the Chief Administrative Officer, or designee.” (Id. § VI.A.1, 3, 4.) The policy includes a “special accommodation” provision that permits “additional access to the law library or law library services” for prisoners who are “under court deadlines” or “need to do more comprehensive research.” (Id. § VI.E.3.) Requests for special accommodation are to be directed “to the Unit Manager, or other staff designated by the Chief Administrative Officer.” (Id. § VI.E.4.)

         According to Plaintiff's submissions, Plaintiff's unit manager, Defendant Monahan, with some exceptions, generally permitted Plaintiff one hour each week of physical access to the library, but refused Plaintiff's requests for additional access unless and until Plaintiff demonstrated that he was under a court-imposed deadline.

         Department of Corrections Policy 29.1 covers all prisoner grievances, except for matters expressly excluded from coverage in the policy. (Defendant's Statement of Material Facts (DSMF), ECF No. 23, ¶¶ 3 - 4; Policy 29.01, Prisoner Grievance Process, General, ECF No. 23-2.) The grievance policy specifically covers a prisoner grievance that seeks administrative review of any policy, procedure, practice, condition of confinement, action, decision, or event that directly affects the prisoner, that the prisoner believes is in violation of his or her rights or is in violation of Department policies or procedures, and for which the prisoner ...

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