Younger v. Gilmore

PETITIONER: Evelle J. Younger, et al.
RESPONDENT: Robert O. Gilmore, Jr., et al.
LOCATION: Folsom Prison

DOCKET NO.: 70-9
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1971-1972)

CITATION: 404 US 15 (1971)
ARGUED: Oct 14, 1971
DECIDED: Nov 08, 1971

George R. Nock - for appellants
John E. Wahl - for appellees

Facts of the case

Several indigent California state prisoners filed complaints attacking the constitutionality of the regulations which forbade California prisons from having more than twelve law books in a prison library. On January 10, 1967, the district court consolidated the multiple cases because they contained common questions of law and fact.

The California prisoners moved for the convening of a three-judge district court, but their motion was denied. On appeal the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the lower court's order denying a three-judge panel. On May 28, 1970, a three-judge district court granted the plaintiffs relief from the regulation limiting the number of law books in prison libraries. The defendants appealed the district court's decision.


Does a state have an affirmative constitutional duty to provide prison inmates with law libraries or professional legal assistance?

Media for Younger v. Gilmore

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 14, 1971 in Younger v. Gilmore

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in number 9, Younger against Gilmore.

Mr. Nock, you may proceed.

George R. Nock:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

Five years ago, last month the Director of Corrections in California adopted a new regulation regarding prison law library.

It was in response to a certain problem he faced.

In two of the three institutions under his control there were few or any law books at all.

In two of them, San Clinton and Folsom there had over the years accumulated a rather rugged collection of law books mostly case reports and mostly more than 10 years old.

Of course such obsolete law books were worst than to assist.

They were potentially dangerous because misleading.

Nonetheless, despite the poor condition of the law libraries, inmates and other institutions have a misimpression that they were first class library and with that, the director has request to transfers to San Clinton and Folsom in order to utilize the library facilities.

The new rules attempted to solve those problems by standardizing the libraries at all 14 institutions.

This was to be done by providing a carefully selective list of what they call basic codes and references.

Are this is all always in venture to start on -- since this case arose?

George R. Nock:

Well, the adoption of the regulation Your Honor came prior to the filing of this complaint.

The regulation was adopted on September 19, 1966 and complaint is filed in response to the adoption of regulation --

Until then I misunderstood you Mr. Nock I thought you said within the last five months.

George R. Nock:

Oh! I beg your pardon yes I did, that was certainly here five years.

Well whichever it is, it was the year.

Now, I have it clear five years.

George R. Nock:

Thank you, Your Honor.

This carefully selected list of law books contained the various Codes of the State of California designing team in census, the State and Federal Constitution, a Law Dictionary, Rules of this Court, the California Courts, and Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit, inadvertently omitted and regrettably so all the rules by Federal District Courts in California.

And also in the list where in The Standard Work on California Criminal procedure, Mr. Watkins(ph) worked on that title and the subscription to the weekly law digest, the California publication which summarizes the most recent decisions of this Court and the California Courts and all areas including criminal law.

The response were totaling this complaint on October 27, 1966 by the plaintiffs, a group of inmates.

They challenged the constitutionality of the regulation because it provided, as necessary part of the standardization plan that law books, existing law books at the two institutions, San Clinton and Folsom would have to be removed.

A counsel was ultimately appointed, the very able gentlemen on my right.

Thereafter, I think at all times through counsel, the inmates filed an amended complaint alleging new causes of action not related to the infinite deal and the filing motion to a three-judge court.

This motion was denied but then it was able to persuade the single judge to certify the question as of propriety of the three-judge court to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and an interlocutory appeal along that issue was taken.

The Court of Appeals held it was the case of a three-judge court and it reversed the order of the District Court.

We disagreed and filed a certiorari petition.

Now, during this premise as early as they could it was not a three-judge court case.