Roberts v. Barreras, et al.

A nonsmoking federal corrections inmate brought a claim, alleging that, while under the care of the defendants, employees of a private prison in New Mexico, he was exposed to harmful effects of secondhand smoke and denied access to legal materials in violation of his constitutional rights.  He alleged that all the cells and the common day area “were constantly saturated with environmental tobacco smoke from 14 to 20 hours a day.”  The district court had dismissed the claims, finding that the statute of limitations had expired before the filing of the plaintiff’s claim.  The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded, noting that “the plaintiff’s lack of access to the library kept him from researching the very question at issue in this appeal : the applicable statute of limitations.”  The Court of Appeals also disagreed with the district court “that Mr. Roberts failed to show that he filed an administrative grievance on the issue of environmental smoke…The defendants, in their answer, virtually admit that the institution’s record-keeping is so incomplete that it cannot conclusively deny that Mr. Roberts filed the grievances.”    The case was remanded back “to the district court with instructions to determine the nature of the grievance process, as conveyed to Mr. Roberts, in September 1999.”

2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 8631 (U.S.C.A. 10th Cir.).