In White v. Clemmer, 111 U.S. App.D.C. ____, 295 F.2d 132, we pointed out that a remedy in the nature of mandamus is not available in the absence of specific allegations sufficient to bring the claim within the controlling conditions upon which relief may be available. Compliance with the principles there outlined is of special importance if the courts are to be asked to review the conduct of officials charged with the administration of the Lorton Reformatory.
Here, however, the appellant alleged he had filed a petition with the late Commissioner Karrick complaining that he had been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, and because of doing so, had been placed in solitary confinement. Clearly, the appellant was to be permitted to file such a petition.
Moreover, he alleged that because he wrote a letter of protest to the Director, appellee herein, prison officials immediately began persecuting him and placed him in solitary confinement on a false charge of lying about the officers and officials. Thereafter he was placed on "special treatment" where a prisoner "gets cold food and very little recreation" and no medical treatment if the officials inform the doctor "they are against him for any reason. "
Appellant's action by itself in seeking administrative relief through the Director and the District Commissioner surely may not properly predicate the solitary confinement and other punitive treatment of which the prisoner complains. If his punishment could be shown to be attributable to that action, appellant is entitled to an order so fashioned as to provide adequate relief.
It is our view that the District Court erred in denying leave to file the petition. Though inartfully prepared by a nearly illiterate prisoner, unaided by counsel, we have noted in the petition two important facets which distinguish appellant's claim from certain others which have come to our notice. The allegations we have discussed stand wholly uncontroverted on this record.
Accordingly, the case will be remanded to the District Court with directions: (1) that appellant's petition be filed with leave to be granted to amend within a reasonable time in such respects as will exhibit the basis for appellant's claim; (2) that counsel be appointed to assist the appellant; and (3) that such hearing be afforded as may be required in view of such pleadings as may be filed.
EDGERTON, Circuit Judge (concurring in the result).
Appellant is a nearly illiterate prisoner in the District of Columbia jail. His ineptly drawn petition pro se alleges that because his religion is "islam" and because of an application he made to a District of Columbia Commissioner, he was kept in solitary confinement for a time and has since been denied hot food and necessary medication. I think this charge of religious persecution is sufficiently definite without amendment. In order that "unlettered prisoners without friends or funds" may be protected, "legalistic requirements in examining applications" should be disregarded. Darr v. Burford, 339 U.S. 200, 203, 70 S.Ct. 587, 94 L.Ed. 761.
An indigent must be allowed to proceed in forma pauperis unless the issues he raises are "plainly frivolous". No "preliminary showing of any particular degree of merit" is required. Ellis v. United States, 356 U.S. 674, 78 S.Ct. 974, 2 L.Ed.2d 1060. Ellis was a criminal case and directly determined only the right to appeal, not the right to file a petition in the District Court. But 28 U.S.C.
Jurisdiction: U.S. Supreme Court
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