In 1966, Robert Gilmore, an inmate at San Quentin, brought this suit against the California Department of Corrections (CDC) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiff alleged that policies regarding inmate access to law libraries, legal materials, and legal assistance violated his constitutional rights. The Gilmore case was consolidated with twenty-five other cases filed by inmates at facilities administered by the CDC.
In 1970, the District Court issued an order enjoining the CDC from enforcing Prison Regulation 330.041, finding that it denied inmates reasonable access to the courts. Gilmore v. Lynch, 319 F.Supp. 105, (N.D.Cal.1970), on remand from, Gilmore v. Lynch, 400 F.2d 228, 231 (9th Cir.1968) (reversing district court's determination that case did not present substantial question of constitutional law requiring consideration by three-judge court under 28 U.S.C. § 2281). The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in a summary opinion. Younger v. Gilmore, 404 U.S. 15 (1971). In 1972, the three-judge panel approved the defendants proposed new regulations and ordered that the regulations be adopted.
In 1976, the CDC filed a compliance memorandum with the District Court, detailing the modifications made to the prison libraries. In 1977, the District Court denied the plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint and ordered plaintiffs' counsel to prepare a final judgment in the matter.
Following negotiations on the issue of attorneys' fees, in 1979, the District Court awarded attorneys' fees to plaintiffs and ordered that the case be dismissed upon satisfaction of the payment of the fees. Six months later, the case was dismissed, subject to the right of plaintiffs to seek enforcement of the District Court's 1972 Order in the future.
There was no activity on the case for the next seventeen years.
In 1997, the defendants filed a motion under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), to terminate the 1972 injunction. The plaintiffs opposed the motion, arguing that the termination provision of the PLRA was unconstitutional, or that the PLRA's termination requirements had not been met. On January 13, 1998, the District Court (Judge Susan Y. Illston) granted the defendants' motion for termination, finding that the PLRA provisions, as applied, were constitutional. The plaintiffs appealed.
On appeal, the Gilmore case was consolidated with the case Thompson v. Gomez, PC-CA-0012
, in this Clearinghouse. On April 4, 2000, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded both cases. The Appellate Court (Judge Betty Binns Fletcher) held that the termination provision of the PLRA was constitutional but that both the Gilmore and Thompson District Courts should have taken evidence on the current circumstances at the prisons and examined the court record and the relief granted by the respective decrees in order to determine whether each was narrowly tailored and minimally intrusive, and should not have simply considered whether there were any explicit findings to this effect. Gilmore v. People of the State of California, 220 F.3d 987 (9th Cir. 2000). The Ninth Circuit remanded the case to the District Court.
After informal negotiations between the parties, the CDC recognized that it needed additional time to determine the efficacy of various options to provide adequate law library resources. As a result, in 2002 the CDC decided not to renew its motion to terminate the 1972 injunction. The parties continued to investigate the conditions in the prisons and the options for ensuring adequate law library access.
During this period, inmates filed individual motions alleging that the CDC was violating the 1972 injunction by providing inadequate access. For example, on March 15, 2007, class member Charles T. Davis filed a pro se motion for order to show cause for civil and criminal contempt. Davis' motion alleged that the defendants violated the decree. The plaintiff class's attorneys investigated Davis' allegations and determined that no further action from the court was necessary; the defendants concurred. Accordingly, on April 23, 2007, the court denied Davis' motion. The court also directed that all future Gilmore-related grievances and motions put forth by pro se inmates be resolved informally between class counsel and defense counsel, without court intervention, unless counsel reach an unresolvable conflict.
On October 30, 2009, the state again filed a motion to terminate the 1972 injunction under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. On December 29, 2009, the District Court (Judge Illston) denied the defendants' motion for a protective order and their motion to bifurcate the hearing on their motion to terminate the 1972 injunction. 2009 WL 5218049. After conducting discovery, however, the plaintiffs withdrew their opposition to the termination motion on April 12, 2010. Accordingly, on April 16, 2010, the District Court granted the defendants' motion to terminate the 1972 injunction. On June 29, 2010, the parties agreed that the defendants would pay $149,669 in attorneys' fees and costs.
After the case was dismissed, an individual inmate filed a motion for injunctive relief for contempt, complaining that he has been denied sufficient access to the prison law library, in particular the law computer. He sought a temporary injunction requiring the warden of California Medical Facility, where he was incarcerated, to provide him with law library and law computer access. On September 7, 2010, the District Court issued an order regarding his motion informing him that the case was closed and that he would have to file his own case. In addition, other inmates continued to file motions for contempt. The District Court repeatedly responded that the case had been dismissed and that the inmates had to pursue independent cases.
On February 11, 2015, another inmate wrote a letter to the court alleging that the defendants were again denying access to the law library and legal materials. He include copies of letters he had written to the Prison Law Office, the plaintiffs' counsel in this case, describing the problems. As of February 5, 2016, the court has not responded to this letter. Chris Sullivan - 08/19/2005
Jessica Kincaid - 02/05/2016