Access to Counsel

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Pursuant to state regulations, the jail must have a written policy providing that prisoners will be allowed to have confidential access to their attorneys and their authorized representatives at any reasonable hour. Rules of the Tennessee Corrections Institute, Rule 1400-1-.12(7).

“Access to counsel is not only a right under the Sixth Amendment, but is one means of insuring access to the courts.”Arney v. Simmons, 26 F.Supp.2d 1288, 1296 (D. Kan. 1998) (citations omitted). The opportunity to communicate privately with an attorney is an important part of meaningful access to the courts. Dreher v. Sielaff, 636 F.2d 1141, 1143 (7th Cir.1980). “However, the Sixth Amendment does not require in all instances full and unfettered contact between an inmate and counsel.” Arney, 26 F.Supp.2d at 1296. "The constitutionally relevant benchmark is meaningful, not total or unlimited, access."  Campbell v. Miller, 787 F.2d 217, 226 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1019, 107 S.Ct. 673, 93 L.Ed.2d 724 (1986) (emphasis in original).

Prison officials have the authority to impose reasonable regulations and conditions regarding attorney visits, so long as they do not interfere with an inmate's communication with his attorney. Boyd v. Anderson, 265 F.Supp.2d 952, 969 (N.D. Ind. 2003) (citations omitted). “The extent to which that right is burdened by a particular regulation or practice must be weighed against the legitimate interests of penal administration and the proper regard that judges should give to the expertise and discretionary authority of correctional officials.” Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 420, 94 S.Ct. 1800, 1814-1815, 40 L.Ed.2d 224 (1974). See Department of Corrections v. Superior Court, 131 Cal.App.3d 245, 250-255 (Cal. App. 1 Dist. 1982) (upholding termination of personal contact visits with attorney and substitution of  specified noncontact visits as reasonable and necessary in the interest of institutional security and public protection). But see Ching v. Lewis, 895 F.2d 608, 610 (9th Cir. 1990) (holding that a prisoner's right of access to the courts includes contact visitation with his counsel).

A 24-hour notice requirement prior to legal visitation does not violate an inmate’s right to access to counsel. Campbell v. Miller, 787 F.2d 217, 226-227 (7th Cir. 1986) (“Despite these restrictions, attorneys may visit inmates four days a week. That provides inmates with a reasonable opportunity to receive professional legal assistance.”).

While prisoners have a right to meet with their attorney, they do not have a right to meet as a group with an attorney. Boyd v. Anderson, 265 F.Supp.2d 952, 969 (N.D. Ind. 2003) (citations omitted).

County jail inmates who wish to consult with an attorney must be provided with a reasonable degree of privacy. Nicholson v. Choctaw County, 498 F.Supp. 295, 310 (S.D. Ala. 1980), citing Jones v. Diamond, 594 F.2d 997, 1024 (5th Cir. 1979); Ahrens v. Thomas, 434 F.Supp. 873, 898 (W.D. Mo. 1977). See also Owens-El v. Robinson, 442 F.Supp. 1368, 1389 (W.D. Pa. 1978) (finding that the attorney visiting room, while occasionally overcrowded, was sufficient to permit attorneys to consult with their clients and to properly prepare a defense, and therefore did not violate inmates' constitutional rights).