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Bounds v. Smith 430 U.S. 817 (1977)

BOUNDS v. SMITH 430 U.S. 817 (1977)

Several state prisoners sued North Carolina prison authorities in federal court, claiming they had been denied legal research facilities in violation of their fourteenth amendment rights. The Supreme Court, 6–3, upheld this claim in an opinion by Justice thurgood marshall.

For the first time the Court explicitly recognized a "fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts." This right imposed on prison authorities the affirmative duty to provide either adequate law libraries or the assistance of law-trained persons, so that prisoners might prepare habeas corpus petitions and other legal papers. The three dissenters each wrote an opinion. Justice william h. rehnquist complained that the majority had neither defined the content of "meaningful" access nor specified the source of the Fourteenth Amendment right; an equal protection right, he pointed out, would conflict with ross v. moffitt (1974).

Kenneth L. Karst

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