Prisoner Sues Over WestLaw

File:A Look At The Life Of Prison.jpg

What is better, print or electronic??  The debate between print and electronic resources continues to wage in libraries across the country, but now an unlikely stakeholder is weighing in.

Dwayne Harris has been incarcerated in a Ohio state prison, serving a sentence for rape, kidnapping, felonious assault and aggravated assault since 1989.  The prison library replaced the print copies of law books with an electronic subscription to WestLaw and upon doing so upset Harris.  Now, Dwayne Harris has filed a lawsuit against the prison and is asking for $80,000 in compensatory damages and up to $200,000 in punitive damages because in Harris’ opinion this shift from print to electronic  has violated his constitutional right to a law library.

Prisoners do, in fact, have a right to a law library or legal assistance ever since Bounds v. Smith in 1977, but the question is whether the resources in this Ohio state prison law library are adequate.  Although the library that Harris uses contains some books, 7 computers with WestLaw, and assistance from law librarians, he alleges that this is not enough.  In Harris’ complaint he states that the prison is missing 14 vitally important books from the American Association of Law Libraries minimum collection, that he is computer illiterate, and that 7 computers are not enough for all the prisoners to conduct legal research on.

As you can see, many people are weighing in on the debate between print  and electronic resources.  What do you think?

~ Brian Trippodo~

1 Comment

Filed under collection, electronic resources, Library, News, Of Interest to Law Students

One response to “Prisoner Sues Over WestLaw

  1. Well Informed

    Inmates in North Carolina do not have access to a law library. This right was circumvented by NCPLS( North Carolina Prison Legal Services is a sham organization contracted by the state to review legal claims so that they don’t have to provide a legal library. It serves the states interest in all but the most egregious cases. Most prisoners who write to NCPLS are given a form letter as a reply and a packet on how to file pro se. As many of you know, a 20 page packet with only a cursory explanation of federal and state appellate procedure is no substitute for access to books and case law on which to base claims.
    Here is some of their propaganda(
    Most prisoners are in prison for a reason, but this is no excuse to deny them the ability to do research and fight their case through the appellate process and file their own claims when their rights are violated. Call Alvin Keller the Secretary of Correction and let me know what you think of this policy. 919-733-2126

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s