Access to the Courts and Attorneys

Reference Number: 

“The Supreme Court of the United States recognizes the existence of a constitutional right of access to the courts and has identified the sources of the right of access in the prisoner context as the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and the First Amendment.” Phifer v. Tennessee Bd. of Parole, 2002 WL 31443204, *10 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2002) (citations omitted). “The right to meaningful access to the courts ensures that prison officials may not erect unreasonable barriers to prevent prisoners from pursuing all types of legal matters.” Id., (citations omitted).

“Although the exact contours of this right are somewhat obscure, the Supreme Court has not extended the right to encompass more than the ability to prepare and transmit a necessary legal document to a court. A prisoner must show an actual injury to prevail on an access-to-the-courts claim.” Breshears v. Brown, 150 Fed.Appx. 323, 325 (5th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).

While a First Amendment right to access to the courts clearly exists, no claim for interference with this right exists unless plaintiff alleges that defendants prevented him from filing a nonfrivolous legal claim challenging his conviction. The plaintiff must allege that he has suffered an actual injury to state a claim. The plaintiff must allege that a nonfrivolous claim was lost or rejected, or that the presentation of such a claim is currently being prevented. Clark v. Corrections Corporation of America, 113 Fed.Appx. 65, 67-68 (6th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted).