Federal judge unpersuaded by litigious inmate’s claims

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A federal judge has denied an inmate’s motions related to his claim that officials at Cook County jail in Chicago conspired to deny him access to the jail law library. But the judge did tell the officials to grant the inmate “reasonable access” to it.

Larry Maurice Banks, an inmate in Cook County Jail, filed a federal lawsuit in 2007 alleging a variety of claims  including that two Chicago police officers pulled him over for a traffic stop without probable cause in October 2006. Banks claimed the officers engaged in “unlawful restraint and unlawful arrest.”

In his lawsuit Banks has filed numerous motions complaining he has been denied meaningful access to the jail’s law library and thus to the court system. He contends he needs time in the library to research his courtroom arguments.

In his Oct. 17 opinion in Banks v. Bieble, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois Gary Feinerman denied several of Banks’ motions in the case. Feinerman wrote: “Due to penological concerns of security and orderly administration, the court generally defers to the judgment of correctional officials with respect to scheduling inmates’ use of the law library.” Feinerman had ruled in April that Banks could not have his requested four hours per week in the law library.

In his Oct. 17 opinion, Feinerman questioned whether prison officials had really conspired to limit Banks’ access to the courts when Banks has filed “six lawsuits of his own this year alone, as well as authored many motions and pleadings on behalf of other inmates.”

Banks has filed lawsuits over alleged denial of his asthma medication and unsanitary water at the jail, among other claims.

“Plaintiff seems fully able to exercise his First Amendment rights,” Feinerman wrote.

Though the judge may not have seen evidence of a conspiracy of access denial, he did order jail officials to made sure Banks was given time in the law library.

“The court requests that Jail officials grant Plaintiff reasonable access to the law library, in a manner to be determined by jail administrators,” Feinerman wrote. “The Court asks that Plaintiff be given at least one hour of access to the library per week.”

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