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Lewis v. Casey

United States Supreme Court
518 U.S. 343 (1996)


Facts

Casey and twenty-one other inmates in a prison operated by the Arizona Department of Corrections (plaintiffs) filed a class action in district court against Lewis (defendant), Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, alleging deprivation of their rights of access to the courts and counsel protected by the Firstly, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court found Arizona’s prison system deficient in several ways, particularly in its lack of provision for an adequate law library and legal assistance program which they believed denied inmates access to the courts. Additionally, the district court noted that the Arizona system burdened the rights of two groups of inmates: lockdown prisoners (who were those segregated from the general prison population for disciplinary or security reasons) and illiterate or non-English-speaking inmates. The district court found that these groups were routinely denied access to courts and adequate legal assistance. The district court noted that Bounds v. Smith (1977) established that constitutional rights if totally or functionally illiterate inmates were unable to articulate their complaints to the courts." The district court held that defendant’s system of prison governance was unconstitutional, and the court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

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Holding and Reasoning (Scalia, J.)

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Dissent (Stevens, J.)

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