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Plaintiff: Alvin Darnell Smith

Defendants: Mayor Adrian Fenty, Office of the Attorney General, Department of Corrections, Office of Corporation Counsel, D.C. Superior Court

Damages Sought: $100,000, plus compound interest

Complaint: Smith, 45, is serving a life sentence at the Hazelton federal penitentiary in Bruceton Mills, W.Va. Over the years, Smith has filed 14 lawsuits in D.C. Superior Court’s civil and small-claims division for “various incidents while in the Department of Corrections Occoquan Facility,” the work-camp portion of the District’s now shuttered Lorton Correctional Complex in Virginia. Of those 14 claims, Smith says, only three actually made it to court. And in one of them, he claims, he received a favorable judgment back in 2000. In that case, he says he mailed a small-claims employee three times to get his due but never received anything back. Smith wants his cases heard and his money paid.

Quality of Representation: Handwritten complaints are rarely easy to wade through, but for a jailhouse complaint, Smith’s is straightforward and provides all the necessary information: dates, case numbers, even a copy of his commissary account statement. He’s also done an admirable job keeping up with D.C. political happenings—crossing out Anthony A. Williams’ name on one form and penciling in Fenty’s.

Summary Judgment: West Virginia ain’t Guantánamo. Smith’s legal argument isn’t complex—that various city agents “by malicious interference violated my constitutional rights immunities & privileges secured by the Constitution under the 1st, 5th, 14th amendment due process clause, and access to the court etc.” Complex or not, he’s got a point: Prisoners have rights, too. Hear his cases; pay him what he’s owed.