United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
CHRISTOPHER G. LEWIS, Plaintiff,
WILLIAM HIATT, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
G. Lewis, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a motion for a
preliminary injunction, seeking access to the law library in
order to satisfy deadlines in October and November 2019 for
two cases. In response, the Warden represents that Lewis has
been allowed nineteen hours of time in the law library since
initiating this case. The Warden further represents that
limited access to the law library did not prevent Lewis from
purpose of preliminary injunctive relief is to minimize the
hardship to the parties pending the ultimate resolution of
the lawsuit.” Platinum Home Mortg. Corp. v.
Platinum Fin. Group, Inc., 149 F.3d 722, 726 (7th
Cir.1998). “In order to obtain a preliminary
injunction, the moving party must show that: (1) they are
reasonably likely to succeed on the merits; (2) no adequate
remedy at law exists; (3) they will suffer irreparable harm
which, absent injunctive relief, outweighs the irreparable
harm the respondent will suffer if the injunction is granted;
and (4) the injunction will not harm the public
interest.”Joelner v. Village of Washington Park,
Illinois, 378 F.3d 613, 619 (7th Cir. 2004).
currently proceeds on claims that he was denied access to the
courts in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendment.
ECF 6. Prisoners are entitled to meaningful access to the
courts. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 824 (1977).
The right of access to the courts is the right of an
individual, whether free or incarcerated, to obtain access to
the courts without undue interference. Snyder v.
Nolen, 380 F.3d 279, 291 (7th Cir. 2004). However,
“the mere denial of access to a prison law library or
to other legal materials is not itself a violation of a
prisoner's rights; his right is to access the
courts, ” and only if the defendants' conduct
prejudices a potentially meritorious legal claim has the
right been infringed. Marshall v. Knight, 445 F.3d
965, 968 (7th Cir. 2006). “Thus, when a plaintiff
alleges a denial of the right to access-to-courts, he must
usually plead specific prejudice to state a claim, such as by
alleging that he missed court deadlines, failed to make
timely filings, or that legitimate claims were dismissed
because of the denial of reasonable access to legal
resources.” Ortloff v. United States, 335 F.3d
652, 656 (7th Cir. 2003) (overruled on other grounds).
instant motion, Lewis alleged that his inability to access
the law library would prevent him from satisfying three
deadlines in two cases: Lewis v. Zatecky,
1:18-cv-593 (S.D. Ind. filed Feb. 28, 2018); and Lewis v.
Talbot, 1:18-cv-705 (S.D. Ind. filed March 7, 2018).
Specifically, in Zatecky, Lewis had a deadline of
October 9, 2019, to file a response to a motion for summary
judgment. However, the electronic docket for that case
indicates that Lewis filed his response two days before this
deadline expired, which establishes that limited access to
the law library did not prevent him from satisfying this
deadline. Further, the response memorandum is typed, legible,
and rife with citations to relevant law and the evidentiary
record. The quality of the response memorandum along with the
law library logs provided by the Warden suggest that Lewis
had ample access to the law library.
in Talbot, Lewis had a deadline of November 1, 2019,
to depose a non-party witness and a deadline of November 8,
2019, to file a motion for summary judgment. In that case,
the electronic docket indicates that Lewis was not able to
meet these deadlines for reasons unrelated to law library
access. Specifically, Lewis filed a motion to extend the
deposition deadline on the basis that he had insufficient
funds and could not arrange a deposition until November 14.
He later filed a motion to extend the summary judgment
deadline on the basis that he needed additional time to
complete discovery, and Southern District of Indiana
summarily granted both of these motions.
the foregoing, it is unclear why Lewis believes his access to
the law library is inadequate or how limited access to the
law library has prejudiced his claims in Zatecky and
Talbot. Nor is it apparent that limited access to
the law library would prejudice his claims going forward as
the Southern District of Indiana seems willing to entertain
and grant reasonable requests for extensions of time.
Therefore, the court cannot find that Lewis is likely to
succeed on the merits of his claims or that he will suffer
irreparable harm without injunctive relief.
with respect to the competing and public interests,
unnecessary intrusions into the management of prisons are
generally disfavored. See 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)
(prison-related injunctions must be necessary to remedy the
violation and narrowly tailored); Westefer v. Neal,
682 F.3d 679, 683 (7th Cir. 2012) (“Prison officials
have broad administrative and discretionary authority over
the institutions they manage.”). After considering the
relevant factors, the court finds that Lewis has not
demonstrated that he is entitled to injunctive relief, and
the instant motion is denied.
these reasons, the court:
DENIES the motion for a preliminary injunction (ECF 4); and
DENIES as UNNECESSARY the motion to extend the deadline to
respond to the motion ...