Published January, 2002

Montgomery v. Pinchak, 294 F.3d 492 (3d Cir. 2002)

In this opinion, the Third Circuit recognizes that a prison’s failure to provide treatment to an HIV-positive inmate can violate the inmate’s Eighth Amendment rights. Montgomery, an inmate at a New Jersey prison, brought an Eighth Amendment claim against the prison, physicians, and corporate medical care provider on the grounds that he was denied antiviral medications over the course of several months; he was denied x-rays, laboratory blood work, and prescription medication refills that were necessary for treating both his HIV and heart condition; and the prison lost his medical records, refused to recreate them, and then recreated records that were inaccurate or falsified. Montgomery requested that the court appoint counsel to assist him with the case. The district court refused, and granted summary judgment against Montgomery. On appeal, the Third Circuit held that the district court had abused its discretion. The Third Circuit found that HIV is a serious medical need under the Eighth Amendment and that Montgomery’s allegations demonstrated that the prison had been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. It also held that factors such as Montgomery’s inability to present his own case, the complexity of the legal issues involved, the substantial factual investigation that was needed, the need for medical expert testimony, and Montgomery’s inability to afford counsel all weighed in favor of appointing counsel.