United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
Ronald R. Lagueux Senior United States District Judge
This matter is before the Court on the Plaintiff’s Objection to the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Lincoln Almond, dated September 11, 2015 (ECF #36). In the Report and Recommendation (“R & R”), Judge Almond recommends that Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction be granted. The Court hereby affirms and accepts the R & R, granting Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint, but on grounds additional to those articulated by Magistrate Judge Almond.
Background and travel
Plaintiff Calvin Walker has been a frequent litigant in Rhode Island’s courts. In 1987, he was convicted of nine related counts of first degree sexual assault, and breaking and entering with intent to commit larceny in connection with a violent home invasion of a family of vacationers in Newport. He is currently incarcerated at the Adult Correctional Facilities (the “ACI”) in Cranston, Rhode Island, where he is serving a sixty-year sentence. He appealed several aspects of his conviction, including the legality of the search of his hotel room where he was apprehended shortly after the home invasion, issues with the pretrial line-up, and objections to the jury instructions provided at trial. His appeal was delayed due to the relocation of the trial stenographer, but was ultimately denied by the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 1995. State v. Walker, 667 A.2d 1242 (R.I. 1995).
In 2006, Walker began a campaign of litigation concerning his treatment at the ACI, starting with a 45-page petition for post-conviction relief filed in the Rhode Island Superior Court for Newport County. He explained that he had been working on an initiative concerning improving prison conditions that included a proposed pay increase for prison guards to be achieved by exempting them from federal income tax, and a plan to create a national military force of former inmates to fight in Iraq. In December 2005, on the instruction of then-Lieutenant Walter Duffy,  prison personnel searched Walker’s cell and confiscated all his written materials, including his 600-page book on prison reform.
In addition, disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him and he was charged with “Engaging in or Encouraging a Group Demonstration and/or Activities, ” as well as theft of photocopies and other prohibited conduct. He was put in solitary confinement for 68 days.
In his petition, Walker alleged that he was denied his constitutional right to due process at the ACI’s disciplinary hearings, and that his solitary confinement was wrongfully imposed. In a written decision, Judge Edwin Gale described Walker’s Petition as “devoid of merit.” The Petition was denied, based on Walker’s failure to state a claim that was actionable under post-conviction statutes, and based on the Superior Court’s lack of jurisdiction to provide post-conviction relief. The Superior Court indicated that complaints such as Walker’s, if sufficiently egregious to state a constitutional claim, should proceed in federal court.
In 2008, Walker filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in Rhode Island Supreme Court. This action again focused on the conduct of Lieutenant Duffy. Walker stated that he had complaints about Duffy’s treatment of him and that he had been assembling documentation, draft pleadings, exhibits and research in order to file civil action against Duffy. However, in the midst of this, Duffy ordered guards to raid Walker’s cell and confiscate these materials, as well as correspondence Walker was preparing to send to news reporters. In his Petition, Walker characterized this confiscation as an unreasonable search undertaken in the course of denying Walker his constitutional right of access to the courts. The Petition was denied by the Supreme Court without prejudice to Walker seeking relief in the appropriate forum.
In 2009, Walker filed a 75-page Petition for a Writ of Mandamus in the Rhode Island Supreme Court, naming as defendants ACI Director Ashbel T. Wall and then-governor Donald Carcieri. In this filing, Walker maintained that white and non-white inmates at the ACI were treated disparately at the ACI, with different sets of rules and punishments. According to Walker, non-white inmates were significantly more limited in their permitted use of the prison’s law library. Whereas white inmates were permitted to assist their fellow inmates with legal projects, Walker had been punished by being placed in solitary confinement for 21-day periods after being found with legal materials relating to other inmates. Further, he alleged that white inmates were allowed to use the library’s computers and word processors, whereas non-white inmates were only permitted to share a couple of old typewriters. In his Petition, Walker padded his central complaints with many pages of documentation concerning national rates of incarceration analyzed by race. Walker’s Petition was summarily denied by the Clerk of the Supreme Court.
Walker brought similar allegations in 2010, in the form of a Motion for a Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction, against Director Wall, in Newport County Superior Court. Walker’s primary focus was on prison staff’s retaliation against non-white inmates who attempted to use the law library. Wall’s motion to dismiss Walker’s motion was granted in 2011.
Walker’s persistence has now brought him to federal court, with a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction containing allegations similar to those in his prior lawsuits. According to the civil cover sheet, Walker’s Motion sets forth a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for “denial of access to courts by state prison officials.” Five additional inmates filed motions to intervene in the lawsuit and these motions were denied by Magistrate Judge Almond in July 2015. As outlined in his Petition, Walker seeks to enjoin certain discriminatory practices concerning access to the prison law library and its equipment. Walker also seeks copies of documents previously confiscated by prison staff, including legal documents and correspondence. In addition, Walker would like to be able to make telephone calls to certain prison advocacy groups, and be provided with certain books and research papers that he would like to review. He also seeks $50 million in compensatory damages, and $50 million in punitive damages.
Walker alleges an ongoing practice of prison staff limiting his access to the law library, confiscating and destroying his legal documents when he does manage to produce them, and then wrongfully punishing him with solitary confinement. Since he began to keep a log of punishments in 2005, Walker has spent over 645 days in solitary confinement. Walker alleges that the law library’s typewriters produce automatic carbons, allowing the staff to monitor his, and other inmates’, paperwork. That, along with the collusion of white inmates who work in the library in exchange for their cooperation with the guards, enable the prison guards to identify and seize any legal draftings that relate to the guards’ conduct. Much of Walker’s present 99-page brief includes the same incidents complained of in his previous lawsuits. In addition, the brief is replete with quotations, excerpts from other publications, and statistics concerning the state of race relations in the United States. For the most part, it makes for troubling and compelling reading.
Constitutional right of access to the courts
Walker’s charges implicate several constitutional provisions. Among them are: the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures; the First Amendment’s right to be protected from retaliation for petitioning the government for redress; and the Fourteenth Amendment’s rights to procedural due process and equal protection of the laws regardless of race. Walker correctly states that the right of access to the courts, in order to pursue post-conviction relief, is a fundamental right afforded by the ...