University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Cornett v. Donovan MH-ID-0001
Docket / Court 4:91-cv-00231-EJL ( D. Idaho )
State/Territory Idaho
Case Type(s) Mental Health (Facility)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On June 14, 1991, present and former involuntarily committed residents of State Hospital South in Blackfoot, Idaho (SHS) filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against SHS in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, Pocatello Division. The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil ... read more >
On June 14, 1991, present and former involuntarily committed residents of State Hospital South in Blackfoot, Idaho (SHS) filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against SHS in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, Pocatello Division. The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, asked the court for declaratory relief, alleging that they were denied their constitutional right of access to the courts in violation of the First Amendment. Specifically, the plaintiffs contended that SHS unconstitutionally failed to provide access to law libraries or to provide attorneys or legal assistance.

The parties began negotiations and, on January 27, 1992, filed a stipulation for settlement and dismissal with the District Court. Under the parties' stipulation, the parties agreed that the constitutional right of access requires that SHS provide either a law library or a lawyer for matters of habeas corpus and civil rights. The parties did not resolve by stipulation whether SHS's duty was extinguished upon the filing of a petition or complaint or whether the duty continued through to the completion of an action.

On February 4, 1992, the District Court (Judge Edward J. Lodge) dismissed the case, holding that SHS's duty to provide either a law library or a lawyer ceased with the filing of a petition or complaint. Cornett v. Donovan, No. CV91-0231-E-EJL, 1992 WL 736754 (D. Ida. Feb. 4, 1992). The plaintiffs appealed.

On April 7, 1995, as amended on May 23, 1995, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Thomas Tang) affirmed the District Court's decision. Cornett v. Donovan, 51 F.3d 894 (9th Cir. 1995). The Court held that the right of access required the state to provide a law library or legal assistance only through the pleading stage of habeas or civil rights actions, that the right of access to courts was guaranteed to all involuntarily committed patients, and that the right of access required that the state provide attorneys or legal assistance, and not just law libraries, to institutionalized patients who lacked the capacity to research law independently. The plaintiffs petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which was denied on July 1, 1996. Henry v. Caballero, 518 U.S. 1033 (1996).

We have no more information on this file.

Josh Altman - 06/15/2006
Nick Kabat - 10/16/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) State Hospital South
Plaintiff Description Present and former involuntarily committed residents of State Hospital South in Blackfoot, Idaho
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 1995
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
91-231 (D. Idaho) 07/03/1995
MH-ID-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order 02/04/1992 (1992 WL 736754) (D. Idaho)
MH-ID-0001-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Opinion 04/07/1995 (1995 U.S.App.LEXIS 7692)
MH-ID-0001-0004.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: LexisNexis
Reported Opinion 05/23/1995 (51 F.3d 894)
MH-ID-0001-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Decision 07/01/1996 (518 U.S. 1033)
MH-ID-0001-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Judges Farris, Joseph Jerome (Ninth Circuit)
MH-ID-0001-0001
Lodge, Edward J. (D. Idaho)
MH-ID-0001-0002 | MH-ID-0001-9000
Rymer, Pamela Ann (C.D. Cal., Ninth Circuit)
MH-ID-0001-0001
Tang, Thomas (Ninth Circuit)
MH-ID-0001-0001
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Pevar, Stephen L. (Colorado)
MH-ID-0001-0001 | MH-ID-0001-0002 | MH-ID-0001-9000
Stanzak, Joseph S. (Idaho)
MH-ID-0001-0002 | MH-ID-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers EchoHawk, Larry (Idaho)
MH-ID-0001-0002 | MH-ID-0001-9000
Stutzman, Weldon B. (Idaho)
MH-ID-0001-0001 | MH-ID-0001-0002 | MH-ID-0001-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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