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JOHN L. v. ADAMS

February 28, 1990

JOHN L., Individually and on behalf of All Other Persons Similarly Situated, By his Next Friend , Andrew J. Shookhoff
v.
BETTY ADAMS


Kent Sandidge, III, United States Magistrate.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SANDIDGE, III

KENT SANDIDGE, III, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE

 By an Order dated December 29, 1988, the Court referred the above captioned civil rights action to the undersigned for consideration of its malicious or frivolous nature, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d); Malone v. Colyer, 710 F.2d 258, 260-61 (6th Cir. 1983), and further proceedings, if necessary, under Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Local Rules of Court. By an Order entered September 21, 1989, both parties consented pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) to have the United States Magistrate conduct any and all further proceedings, including the entry of judgment in this civil action.

 Plaintiff John L. filed this civil rights action in forma pauperis through his next friend, Andrew J. Shookhoff, on November 7, 1988, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. At the time of filing, John L. was a minor 17 years of age incarcerated at the Taft Youth Center in Pikeville, Tennessee. The Court granted plaintiff's motion for class certification on June 16, 1989, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2). Plaintiffs presently consist of a class of persons who are confined or will be confined in secure institutions operated by the Tennessee Department of Youth Development. Defendant Betty Adams is the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Youth Development.

 Presently pending is plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment filed June 12, 1989. Plaintiffs seek summary judgment on two issues: 1) whether juveniles incarcerated in secure facilities have a right of access to the courts; and 2) whether defendant has failed to provide juveniles committed to her custody and incarcerated in secure facilities with adequate, effective and meaningful access to the courts. Plaintiffs assert that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact with respect to these questions, and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiffs request that upon granting summary judgment, the Court set this case for hearing on the issue of appropriate remedy. *fn1"

 The Tennessee Department of Youth Development operates three correctional facilities designed for juveniles, which confine approximately 650 inmates. *fn2" These inmates range in age from 12 to 20 years old. Only children found guilty of commiting a delinquent act can be sentenced to a correctional facility. Doe v. Norris, 751 S.W.2d 834 (Tenn. 1988) (holding that housing status offenders in secure penal facilities with delinquents violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection and substantive due process). A "delinquent act" is an act which would be a crime if the child was over the age of 18. See T.C.A. § 37-1-102(b)(8) (1989 Supp.). If a child is found to be delinquent by the Juvenile Court, the Court has a number of dispositional or sentencing options. T.C.A. § 37-1-131. Among these is commitment of the child to the custody of the Department of Youth Development. Id. Most inmates are confined for indefinite terms pursuant to T.C.A. § 37-1-137(a)(1)(A). Approximately 100 inmates have been sentenced to definite terms which can last until their 21st birthday. Eighty percent of the inmates have been found delinquent based upon charges which would be felonies if they were adults.

 Spencer Youth Center is located in Davidson County near Nashville, Tennessee, and is currently the largest juvenile facility with nearly 300 inmates. Spencer houses both boys and girls. Wilder Youth Center is located in Fayette County in West Tennessee. Wilder accepts children of all ages from the West Tennessee area. *fn3" Taft Youth Center is located in Bledsoe County in East Tennessee. Taft holds the older juveniles, and many of those who have been commited for more serious offenses and who are serving longer terms. Taft is considered the "maximum security institution" of Tennessee's juvenile correctional facilities. *fn4"

 The Supreme Court has consistently noted that the nature of juvenile incarceration is similar enough to adult incarceration such that juveniles are entitled to many of the same constitutional guarantees as adults upon facing incarceration. Juveniles, like adults charged with crimes, have a right to adequate notice of the charges, a right to be represented by counsel, a right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses, and the right to be free from self-incrimination. In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 18 L. Ed. 2d 527, 87 S. Ct. 1428 (1967). Juveniles are entitled to other constitutional guarantees which had traditionally been reserved for adult criminal trials. A juvenile may be found guilty only upon a showing of proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 25 L. Ed. 2d 368, 90 S. Ct. 1068 (1970). Furthermore, jeopardy attaches at the juvenile court adjudicatory hearing entitling juveniles to the protections of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution. Breed v. Jones, 421 U.S. 519, 44 L. Ed. 2d 346, 95 S. Ct. 1779 (1975).

 The Supreme Court has extended these procedural protections to juveniles because the potentially severe consequences of a juvenile proceeding are similar to a criminal trial despite the ostensibly "civil" nature of the juvenile proceedings. *fn5" The Court stated in Breed that,

 
We believe it is simply too late in the day to conclude . . . that a juvenile is not put in jeopardy at a proceeding whose object is to determine whether he has committed acts that violate a criminal law and whose potential consequences include both the stigma inherent in such a determination and the deprivation of liberty for many years.

 421 U.S. at 529.

 The same concern for the seriousness of juvenile detention which requires the recognition that juveniles have constitutional rights to procedural protections at juvenile commitment hearings motivates this Court to recognize that incarcerated juveniles have a right of access to the courts comparable to incarcerated adults. Adults incarcerated in State penal facilities have a constitutional right of access to the courts. Ex parte Hull, 312 U.S. 546, 85 L. Ed. 1034, 61 S. Ct. 640 (1941); Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483, 21 L. Ed. 2d 718, 89 S. Ct. 747 (1969); Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 52 L. Ed. 2d 72, 97 S. Ct. 1491 (1977). The Constitution *fn6" imposes on the State an affirmative obligation to assure that all inmates have access to the courts which is adequate, effective and meaningful. Bounds, 430 U.S. at 822 (1977); Patterson v. Mintzes, 717 F.2d 284, 288 (6th Cir. 1983). An inmate must be furnished with legal assistance so that he can prepare petitions for writs of habeas corpus challenging the legality of confinement. Johnson, 393 U.S. at 489. An inmate is also entitled to assistance so that he can file civil rights actions. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 577-580, 41 L. Ed. 2d 935, 94 S. Ct. 2963 (1974). See Bounds, 430 U.S. at 823. A meaningful right of access to the courts requires legal assistance at the pre-pleading stage to determine if a colorable claim exists, as well as assistance in drawing up the pleadings. 430 U.S. at 825. See also Penland v. Warren County Jail, 759 F.2d 524, 532 (6th Cir. 1985).

 The right of access to the courts imposes affirmative obligations on State officials; that is, State officials must do far more than simply refrain from erecting barriers to an inmate's access to legal assistance or to the courts. In order to fulfill its obligation to adult inmates confined in State penal facilities, the State must provide inmates with an adequate law library or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law. 430 U.S. at 828.

 The State's affirmative obligation to provide inmates with access to the courts also applies to inmates confined in rural county jails. Penland v. Warren County Jail, 797 F.2d 332, 335 (Jones, J., concurring) (6th Cir. 1986). This affirmative obligation is even imposed upon officials operating facilities housing inmates with brief sentences, so long as the inmate is confined long enough that he or she has sufficient time to petition the courts. See, e.g., Morrow v. Harwell, 768 F.2d 619 (5th Cir. 1985); Parnell v. Waldrep, 511 F. Supp. 764 (W.D. N.C. 1981). Courts also recognize that people in involuntary institutionalized settings other than penal institutions are entitled to an affirmative right of access to the courts. Ward v. Kort, 762 F.2d 856, 858 (10th Cir. 1985) (holding that Bounds applies to individuals who are under involuntary civil commitment to a mental hospital); King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 568, n. 2 (9th Cir. 1987) (holding that Bounds applies to persons convicted of crimes and later commited to mental hospitals); Johnson by Johnson v. Brelje, 701 F.2d 1201, 1207 (7th Cir. 1983) (holding that Bounds applies to ...


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