Friday, February 16, 2007

Phillips v. Hust (9th Cir. - Feb. 13, 2007)

Think it's easy to litigate a case behind bars? Think again.

This is one of the very, very few cases in which I've ever seen a prisoner actually win their pro se lawsuit; e.g., recover damages. And the only one I've ever seen in which damages were imposed for (1) alleged denial of access to legal material, in which (2) the only rsulting loss was a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, which was almost certain to be denied anyway.

Admittedly, the damages recovered weren't all that great: $1500. And the Ninth Circuit remands for a redetermination/explanation of that amount anyway.

Still, a win's a win, and it's pretty unusual. And even a tiny victory -- or tiny amount of money -- is a huge success for a prisoner. I bet $1500 will buy you a lot of love in prison. (Remember, it's a family blog, so I'm not talking about that kind of "love".)

After reading the facts, I didn't think that the prisoner could, would or should win this one. That said, Judge Browning writes a good opinion. At the same time, I think that Judge O'Scannlain's dissent is pretty darn persuasive as well.

Interesting case.