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 ...
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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