In Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977), we held that "the fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts requires prison authorities to assist inmates in the preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law." Id., at 828. Petitioners, who are officials of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC), contend that the United States District Court for the District of Arizona erred in finding them in violation of Bounds, and that the court's remedial order exceeded lawful authority.
Respondents are 22 inmates of various prisons operated by ADOC. In January 1990, they filed this class action "on behalf of all adult prisoners who are or will be incarcerated by the State of Arizona Department of Corrections," App. 22, alleging that petitioners were "depriving [respondents] of their rights of access to the courts and counsel protected by the First, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments," id., at 34. Following a 3-month bench trial, the District Court ruled in favor of respondents, finding that "[p]risoners have a constitutional right of access to the courts that is adequate, effective and meaningful," 834 F.Supp. 1553, 1566 (1992), citing Bounds, supra, at 822, and that "[ADOC's] system fails to comply with constitutional standards," 834 F. Supp., at 1569. The court identified a variety of shortcomings of the ADOC system, in matters ranging from the training of library staff, to the updating of legal materials, to the availability of photocopying services. In addition to these general
Having thus found liability, the court appointed a Special Master "to investigate and report about" the appropriate relief—that is (in the court's view), "how best to accomplish the goal of constitutionally adequate inmate access to the courts." App. to Pet. for Cert. 87a. Following eight months of investigation, and some degree of consultation with both parties, the Special Master lodged with the court a proposed permanent injunction, which the court proceeded to adopt, substantially unchanged. The 25-page injunctive order, see id., at 61a-85a, mandated sweeping changes designed to ensure that ADOC would "provide meaningful access to the Courts for all present and future prisoners," id., at 61a. It specified in minute detail the times that libraries were to be kept open, the number of hours of library use to which each inmate was entitled (10 per week), the minimal educational requirements for prison librarians (a library science degree, law degree, or paralegal degree), the content of a videotaped legal-research course for inmates (to be prepared by persons appointed by the Special Master but funded by ADOC), and similar matters. Id., at 61a, 67a, 71a. The injunction addressed the court's concern for lockdown prisoners by ordering that "ADOC prisoners in all housing areas and custody levels shall be provided regular and comparable visits to the law library," except that such visits "may be postponed on an individual basis because of the prisoner's documented inability to use the law library without creating
Petitioners sought review in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which refused to grant a stay prior to argument. We then stayed the injunction pending filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari. 511 U.S. 1066 (1994). Several months later, the Ninth Circuit affirmed both the finding of a Bounds violation and, with minor exceptions not important here, the terms of the injunction. 43 F.3d 1261 (1994). We granted certiorari, 514 U.S. 1126 (1995).
Although petitioners present only one question for review, namely, whether the District Court's order "exceeds the constitutional requirements set forth in Bounds, " Brief for Petitioners (i), they raise several distinct challenges, including renewed attacks on the court's findings of Bounds violations with respect to illiterate, non-English-speaking, and lockdown prisoners, and on the breadth of the injunction. But their most fundamental contention is that the District Court's findings of injury were inadequate to justify the finding of systemwide injury and hence the granting of systemwide relief. This argument has two related components. First, petitioners claim that in order to establish a violation of Bounds, an inmate must show that the alleged inadequacies of a prison's library facilities or legal assistance program caused him "actual injury"—that is, "actual prejudice with respect to contemplated or existing litigation, such as the inability to meet a filing deadline or to present a claim."
The requirement that an inmate alleging a violation of Bounds must show actual injury derives ultimately from the doctrine of standing, a constitutional principle that prevents courts of law from undertaking tasks assigned to the political branches. See Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 750-752 (1984); Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 471— 476 (1982). It is the role of courts to provide relief to claimants, in individual or class actions, who have suffered, or will imminently suffer, actual harm; it is not the role of courts, but that of the political branches, to shape the institutions of government in such fashion as to comply with the laws and the Constitution. In the context of the present case: It is for the courts to remedy past or imminent official interference with individual inmates' presentation of claims to the courts; it is for the political branches of the State and Federal Governments to manage prisons in such fashion that official interference with the presentation of claims will not occur.
The foregoing analysis would not be pertinent here if, as respondents seem to assume, the right at issue—the right to which the actual or threatened harm must pertain—were the right to a law library or to legal assistance. But Bounds established no such right, any more than Estelle established a right to a prison hospital. The right that Bounds acknowledged was the (already well-established) right of access to the courts. E. g., Bounds, 430 U. S., at 817, 821, 828. In the cases to which Bounds traced its roots, we had protected that right by prohibiting state prison officials from actively interfering with inmates' attempts to prepare legal documents, e. g., Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483, 484, 489490 (1969), or file them, e. g., Ex parte Hull, 312 U.S. 546, 547-549 (1941), and by requiring state courts to waive filing fees, e. g., Burns v. Ohio, 360 U.S. 252, 258 (1959), or transcript fees, e. g., Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12, 19 (1956), for indigent inmates. Bounds focused on the same entitlement of access to the courts. Although it affirmed a court order
Because Bounds did not create an abstract, freestanding right to a law library or legal assistance, an inmate cannot establish relevant actual injury simply by establishing that his prison's law library or legal assistance program is subpar in some theoretical sense. That would be the precise analog of the healthy inmate claiming constitutional violation because of the inadequacy of the prison infirmary. Insofar as the right vindicated by Bounds is concerned, "meaningful access to the courts is the touchstone," id., at 823 (internal quotation marks omitted), and the inmate therefore must go one step further and demonstrate that the alleged shortcomings in the library or legal assistance program hindered his efforts to pursue a legal claim. He might show, for example, that a complaint he prepared was dismissed for failure to satisfy some technical requirement which, because of deficiencies in the prison's legal assistance facilities, he could not have known. Or that he had suffered arguably actionable harm that he wished to bring before the courts, but was so stymied by inadequacies of the law library that he was unable even to file a complaint.
Although Bounds itself made no mention of an actualinjury requirement, it can hardly be thought to have eliminated that constitutional prerequisite. And actual injury is apparent on the face of almost all the opinions in the 35-year line of access-to-courts cases on which Bounds relied, see id.,
Finally, we must observe that the injury requirement is not satisfied by just any type of frustrated legal claim. Nearly all of the access-to-courts cases in the Bounds line involved attempts by inmates to pursue direct appeals from the convictions for which they were incarcerated, see Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353, 354 (1963); Burns v. Ohio, 360 U. S., at 253, 258; Griffin v. Illinois, supra, at 13, 18; Cochran v. Kansas, 316 U.S. 255, 256 (1942), or habeas petitions, see Johnson v. Avery, supra, at 489; Smith v. Bennett, 365 U.S. 708, 709-710 (1961); Ex parte Hull, supra, at 547548. In Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974), we extended this universe of relevant claims only slightly, to "civil rights actions"—i. e., actions under 42 U. S. C. § 1983 to vindicate "basic constitutional rights." 418 U. S., at 579. Significantly, we felt compelled to justify even this slight extension of the right of access to the courts, stressing that "the demarcation line between civil rights actions and habeas
In other words, Bounds does not guarantee inmates the wherewithal to transform themselves into litigating engines capable of filing everything from shareholder derivative actions to slip-and-fall claims. The tools it requires to be provided are those that the inmates need in order to attack their sentences, directly or collaterally, and in order to challenge the conditions of their confinement. Impairment of any other litigating capacity is simply one of the incidental (and perfectly constitutional) consequences of conviction and incarceration.
Here the District Court identified only two instances of actual injury. In describing ADOC's failures with respect to illiterate and non-English-speaking prisoners, it found that "[a]s a result of the inability to receive adequate legal assistance, prisoners who are slow readers have had their cases dismissed with prejudice," and that "[o]ther prisoners have been unable to file legal actions." 834 F. Supp., at 1558. Although the use of the plural suggests that several prisoners sustained these actual harms, the court identified only one prisoner in each instance. Id., at 1558, nn. 37 (lawsuit of inmate Bartholic dismissed with prejudice), 38 (inmate Harris unable to file a legal action).
Petitioners contend that "any lack of access experienced by these two inmates is not attributable to unconstitutional State policies," because ADOC "has met its constitutional obligations." Brief for Petitioners 32, n. 22. The claim appears to be that all inmates, including the illiterate and non-English speaking, have a right to nothing more than "physical access to excellent libraries, plus help from legal assistants and law clerks." Id., at 35. This misreads Bounds, which as we have said guarantees no particular methodology but rather the conferral of a capability—the capability of bringing contemplated challenges to sentences or conditions of confinement before the courts. When any inmate, even an illiterate or non-English-speaking inmate, shows that an actionable claim of this nature which he desired to bring has been lost or rejected, or that the presentation of such a claim is currently being prevented, because this capability of filing suit has not been provided, he demonstrates that the State has failed to furnish "adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law," Bounds, 430 U. S., at 828 (emphasis added). Of course, we leave it to prison officials to determine how best to ensure that inmates with language problems have a reasonably adequate opportunity to file nonfrivolous legal claims challenging their convictions or conditions of confinement. But it is
Having rejected petitioners' argument that the injuries suffered by Bartholic and Harris do not count, we turn to the question whether those injuries, and the other findings of the District Court, support the injunction ordered in this case. The actual-injury requirement would hardly serve the purpose we have described above—of preventing courts from undertaking tasks assigned to the political branches— if once a plaintiff demonstrated harm from one particular inadequacy in government administration, the court were authorized to remedy all inadequacies in that administration. The remedy must of course be limited to the inadequacy that produced the injury in fact that the plaintiff has established. See Missouri v. Jenkins, 515 U.S. 70, 88, 89 (1995) ("[T]he nature of the . . . remedy is to be determined by the nature and scope of the constitutional violation" (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)).
This is no less true with respect to class actions than with respect to other suits. "That a suit may be a class action. . . adds nothing to the question of standing, for even named plaintiffs who represent a class `must allege and show that they personally have been injured, not that injury has been suffered by other, unidentified members of the class to which they belong and which they purport to represent.' " Simon v. Eastern Ky. Welfare Rights Organization, 426 U.S. 26, 40, n. 20 (1976), quoting Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 502 (1975). The general allegations of the complaint in the present case may well have sufficed to claim injury by named plaintiffs, and hence standing to demand remediation, with respect to various alleged inadequacies in the prison system, including failure to provide adequate legal assistance to nonEnglish-speaking inmates and lockdown prisoners. That point is irrelevant now, however, for we are beyond the pleading stage.
After the trial in this case, the court found actual injury on the part of only one named plaintiff, Bartholic; and the cause of that injury—the inadequacy which the suit empowered the court to remedy—was failure of the prison to provide the special services that Bartholic would have needed, in light of his illiteracy, to avoid dismissal of his case. At the outset, therefore, we can eliminate from the proper scope of this injunction provisions directed at special services or special facilities required by non-English speakers, by prisoners in lockdown, and by the inmate population at large. If inadequacies of this character exist, they have not been found to have harmed any plaintiff in this lawsuit, and hence were not the proper object of this District Court's remediation.
To be sure, the District Court also noted that "the trial testimony . . . indicated that there are prisoners who are unable to research the law because of their functional illiteracy," 834 F. Supp., at 1558. As we have discussed, however, the Constitution does not require that prisoners (literate or illiterate) be able to conduct generalized research, but only that they be able to present their grievances to the courts— a more limited capability that can be produced by a much more limited degree of legal assistance. Apart from the dismissal of Bartholic's claim with prejudice, and Harris's inability to file his claim, there is no finding, and as far as we can discern from the record no evidence, that in Arizona prisons illiterate prisoners cannot obtain the minimal help necessary to file particular claims that they wish to bring before the courts. The constitutional violation has not been shown to be systemwide, and granting a remedy beyond what was necessary to provide relief to Harris and Bartholic was therefore improper.
There are further reasons why the order here cannot stand. We held in Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), that a prison regulation impinging on inmates' constitutional rights "is valid if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." Id., at 89. Such a deferential standard is necessary, we explained,
These are the same concerns that led us to encourage "local experimentation" in Bounds, see supra, at 352, and we think it quite obvious that Bounds and Turner must be read in pari materia.
The District Court here failed to accord adequate deference to the judgment of the prison authorities in at least three significant respects. First, the court concluded that ADOC's restrictions on lockdown prisoners' access to law libraries were unjustified. Turner `s principle of deference has special force with regard to that issue, since the inmates in lockdown include "the most dangerous and violent prisoners in the Arizona prison system," and other inmates presenting special disciplinary and security concerns. Brief for Petitioners 5. The District Court made much of the fact
Second, the injunction imposed by the District Court was inordinately—indeed, wildly—intrusive. There is no need to belabor this point. One need only read the order, see App. to Pet. for Cert. 61a-85a, to appreciate that it is the ne plus ultra of what our opinions have lamented as a court's "in the name of the Constitution, becom[ing] . . . enmeshed in the minutiae of prison operations." Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 562 (1979).
Finally, the order was developed through a process that failed to give adequate consideration to the views of state prison authorities. We have said that "[t]he strong considerations of comity that require giving a state court system that has convicted a defendant the first opportunity to correct its own errors . . . also require giving the States the first opportunity to correct the errors made in the internal administration of their prisons." Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 492 (1973). For an illustration of the proper procedure in a case such as this, we need look no further than Bounds itself. There, after granting summary judgment for the inmates, the District Court refrained from "`dictat[ing] precisely what course the State should follow.' " Bounds, 430 U. S., at 818. Rather, recognizing that "determining the `appropriate relief to be ordered . . . presents a difficult problem,' " the court "`charge[d] the Department of Correction with the task of devising a Constitutionally sound program' to assure inmate access to the courts." Id., at 818-819. The State responded with a proposal, which the District Court ultimately approved with minor changes, after considering objections
As Bounds was an exemplar of what should be done, this case is a model of what should not. The District Court totally failed to heed the admonition of Preiser. Having found a violation of the right of access to the courts, it conferred upon its special master, a law professor from Flushing, New York, rather than upon ADOC officials, the responsibility for devising a remedial plan. To make matters worse, it severely limited the remedies that the master could choose. Because, in the court's view, its order in an earlier access-tocourts case (an order that adopted the recommendations of the same special master) had "resolved successfully" most of the issues involved in this litigation, the court instructed that as to those issues it would implement the earlier order statewide, "with any modifications that the parties and Special Master determine are necessary due to the particular circumstances of the prison facility." App. to Pet. for Cert. 88a (footnote omitted). This will not do. The State was entitled to far more than an opportunity for rebuttal, and on that ground alone this order would have to be set aside.
* * *
For the foregoing reasons, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
Justice Thomas, concurring.
The Constitution charges federal judges with deciding cases and controversies, not with running state prisons. Yet, too frequently, federal district courts in the name of the Constitution effect wholesale takeovers of state correctional facilities and run them by judicial decree. This case is a textbook example. Dissatisfied with the quality of the law libraries and the legal assistance at Arizona's correctional institutions, the District Court imposed a statewide decree on the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC), dictating in excruciatingly minute detail a program to assist inmates in the filing of lawsuits—right down to permissible noise levels in library reading rooms. Such gross overreaching by a federal district court simply cannot be tolerated in our federal system. Principles of federalism and separation of powers dictate that exclusive responsibility for administering state prisons resides with the State and its officials.
I join the majority opinion because it places sensible and much-needed limitations on the seemingly limitless right to assistance created in Bounds and because it clarifies the scope of the federal courts' authority to subject state prisons to remedial decrees. I write separately to make clear my doubts about the validity of Bounds and to reiterate my observation in Missouri v. Jenkins, 515 U.S. 70 (1995), that the federal judiciary has for the last half century been exercising "equitable" powers and issuing structural decrees entirely out of line with its constitutional mandate.
This case is not about a right of "access to the courts." There is no proof that Arizona has prevented even a single inmate from filing a civil rights lawsuit or submitting a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Instead, this case is about the extent to which the Constitution requires a State to finance or otherwise assist a prisoner's efforts to bring suit against the State and its officials.
In Bounds v. Smith, supra, we recognized for the first time a "fundamental constitutional right" of all inmates to have the State "assist [them] in the preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers." Id., at 828. We were not explicit
Recognition of such broad and novel principles of constitutional law are rare enough under our system of law that I would have expected the Bounds Court to explain at length the constitutional basis for the right to state-provided legal materials and legal assistance. But the majority opinion in Bounds failed to identify a single provision of the Constitution to support the right created in that case, a fact that did not go unnoticed in strong dissents by Chief Justice Burger and then-Justice Rehnquist. See id., at 833-834 (opinion of Burger, C. J.) ("The Court leaves us unenlightened as to the source of the `right of access to the courts' which it perceives or of the requirement that States `foot the bill' for assuring such access for prisoners who want to act as legal researchers and brief writers"); id., at 840 (opinion of Rehnquist, J.) ("[T]he `fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts' which the Court announces today is created virtually out of whole cloth with little or no reference to the Constitution from which it is supposed to be derived"). The dissents' calls for an explanation as to which provision of the Constitution guarantees prisoners a right to consult a law library or a legal assistant, however, went unanswered. This is perhaps not surprising: Just three years before Bounds was decided we admitted that the "[t]he precise rationale" for many of the "access to the courts" cases on which Bounds relied had "never been explicitly stated," and that no Clause that had thus far been advanced "by itself provides
The weakness in the Court's constitutional analysis in Bounds is punctuated by our inability, in the 20 years since, to agree upon the constitutional source of the supposed right. We have described the right articulated in Bounds as a "consequence" of due process, Murray v. Giarratano, 492 U.S. 1, 11, n. 6 (1989) (plurality opinion) (citing Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 419 (1974)), as an "aspect" of equal protection, 492 U. S., at 11, n. 6 (citation omitted), or as an "equal protection guarantee," Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U.S. 551, 557 (1987). In no instance, however, have we engaged in rigorous constitutional analysis of the basis for the asserted right. Thus, even as we endeavor to address the question presented in this case—whether the District Court's order "exceeds the constitutional requirements set forth in Bounds, " Pet. for Cert. i—we do so without knowing which Amendment to the Constitution governs our inquiry.
It goes without saying that we ordinarily require more exactitude when evaluating asserted constitutional rights. "As a general matter, the Court has always been reluctant" to extend constitutional protection to "unchartered area[s]," where the "guideposts for responsible decisionmaking . . . are scarce and open-ended." Collins v. Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 125 (1992). It is a bedrock principle of judicial restraint that a right be lodged firmly in the text or tradition of a specific constitutional provision before we will recognize it as fundamental. Strict adherence to this approach is essential if we are to fulfill our constitutionally assigned role of giving full effect to the mandate of the Framers without infusing the constitutional fabric with our own political views.
In lieu of constitutional text, history, or tradition, Bounds turned primarily to precedent in recognizing the right to state assistance in the researching and filing of prisoner
In a series of cases beginning with Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12 (1956), the Court invalidated state rules that required indigent criminal defendants to pay for trial transcripts or to pay other fees necessary to have their appeals
In Griffin, for instance, we invalidated an Illinois rule that charged criminal defendants a fee for a trial transcript necessary to secure full direct appellate review of a criminal conviction. See 351 U. S., at 13-14; id., at 22 (Frankfurter, J., concurring in judgment). See also Ross v. Moffitt, supra, at 605-606. Though we held the fee to be unconstitutional, our decision did not turn on the effectiveness or adequacy of the access afforded to criminal defendants generally. We were quite explicit in reaffirming the century-old principle that "a State is not required by the Federal Constitution to provide appellate courts or a right to appellate review at all. " Griffin, supra, at 18 (emphasis added) (citing McKane v. Durston, 153 U.S. 684, 687-688 (1894)). Indeed, the Court in Griffin was unanimous on this point. See 351 U. S., at 21 (Frankfurter, J., concurring in judgment) ("[I]t is now settled that due process of law does not require a State to afford review of criminal judgments"); id., at 27 (Burton, J., dissenting) ("Illinois, as the majority admit, could thus deny an appeal altogether in a criminal case without denying due process of law"); id., at 36 (Harlan, J., dissenting) ("The majority of the Court concedes that the Fourteenth Amendment does not require the States to provide for any kind of appellate review").
Instead, Griffin rested on the quite different principle that, while a State is not obliged to provide appeals in criminal cases, the review a State chooses to afford must not be administered in a way that excludes indigents from the appellate process solely on account of their poverty. There is no mistaking the principle that motivated Griffin:
Justice Frankfurter, who provided the fifth vote for the majority, confirmed in a separate writing that it was invidious discrimination, and not the denial of adequate, effective, or meaningful access to the courts, that rendered the Illinois regulation unconstitutional: "[W]hen a State deems it wise
If we left any doubt as to the basis of our decision in Griffin, we eliminated it two decades later in Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353 (1963), where we held for the first time that States must provide assistance of counsel on a first appeal as of right for all indigent defendants. Like Griffin, Douglas turned not on a right of access per se, but rather on the right not to be denied, on the basis of poverty, access afforded to others. We did not say in Douglas that indigents have a right to a "meaningful appeal" that could not be realized absent appointed counsel. Cf. Bounds, 430 U. S., at 823.
The unjustified transformation of the right to nondiscriminatory access to the courts into the broader, untethered right to legal assistance generally would be reason enough for me to conclude that Bounds was wrongly decided. However, even assuming that Bounds properly relied upon the Griffin line of cases for the proposition for which those cases actually stood, the Bounds Court failed to address a significant intervening development in our jurisprudence: the fact that the equal protection theory underlying Griffin and its progeny had largely been abandoned prior to Bounds. The provisions invalidated in our transcript and fee cases were all facially neutral administrative regulations that had a disparate impact on the poor; there is no indication in any of those cases that the State imposed the challenged fee with the purpose of deliberately discriminating against indigent defendants. See, e. g., Douglas, supra, at 361 (Harlan, J., dissenting) (criticizing the Court for invalidating a state law "of general applicability" solely because it "may affect the poor more harshly than it does the rich"). In the years between Douglas and Bounds, however, we rejected a disparateimpact theory of the Equal Protection Clause. That the doctrinal basis for Griffin and its progeny has largely been undermined—and in fact had been before Bounds was decided—confirms the invalidity of the right to law libraries and legal assistance created in Bounds.
We first cast doubt on the proposition that a facially neutral law violates the Equal Protection Clause solely because
Given the unsettling ramifications of a disparate-impact theory, it is not surprising that we eventually reached the point where we could no longer extend the reasoning of Griffin and Douglas. For instance, in Ross v. Moffitt, 417 U.S. 600 (1974), decided just three years before Bounds, we declined to extend Douglas to require States to provide indigents with counsel in discretionary state appeals or in seeking discretionary review in this Court. We explained in Ross that "[t]he Fourteenth Amendment `does not require absolute equality or precisely equal advantages,' " 417 U. S., at 612 (quoting Rodriguez, 411 U. S., at 24), and that it "does [not] require the State to `equalize economic conditions,' " 417 U. S., at 612 (quoting Griffin, 351 U. S., at 23 (Frankfurter, J., concurring in judgment)). We again declined to extend Douglas in Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U. S., at 555, where we rejected a claim that the Constitution requires the States to provide counsel in state postconviction proceedings. And we found Ross and Finley controlling in Murray v. Giarratano, 492 U.S. 1 (1989), where we held that defendants sentenced to death, like all other defendants, have no right to state-appointed counsel in state collateral proceedings. See also United States v. MacCollom, 426 U.S. 317 (1976) (federal habeas statute permitting district judge to deny free transcript to indigent petitioner raising frivolous claim does not violate the Constitution).
In sum, the Bounds Court's reliance on our transcript and fee cases was misplaced in two significant respects. First,
The Bounds Court relied on a second line of cases in announcing the right to state-financed law libraries or legal assistance for prisoners. These cases, beginning with our decision in Ex parte Hull, prevent the States from imposing arbitrary obstacles to attempts by prisoners to file claims asserting federal constitutional rights. Although this line deals with access in its own right, and not equal access as in Griffin and Douglas, these cases do not impose any affirmative obligations on the States to improve the prisoners' chances of success.
Bounds identified Ex parte Hull as the first case to "recogniz[e]" a "constitutional right of access to the courts." 430 U. S., at 821-822. In Ex parte Hull, we considered a prison regulation that required prisoners to submit their habeas corpus petitions to a prison administrator before filing them with the court. Only if the administrator determined that a petition was "`properly drawn' " could the prisoner submit it in a federal court. 312 U. S., at 548-549 (quoting regulation). We invalidated the regulation, but the right we acknowledged in doing so bears no resemblance to the right generated in Bounds.
Our reasoning in Ex parte Hull consists of a straightforward, and rather limited, principle:
The "right of access" to the courts articulated in Ex parte Hull thus imposed no affirmative obligations on the States; we stated only that a State may not "abridge or impair" a prisoner's ability to file a habeas petition in federal court.
Two subsequent decisions of this Court worked a moderate expansion of Ex parte Hull. The first, Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483 (1969), invalidated a Tennessee prison regulation that prohibited inmates from advising or assisting one another in the preparation of habeas corpus petitions. In striking down the regulation, the Court twice quoted Ex
That Ex parte Hull, Johnson, and Wolff were decided on different constitutional grounds from Griffin and Douglas is clear enough. According to Bounds, however, "[e]ssentially the same standards of access were applied" in all of these
In the end, I agree that the Constitution affords prisoners what can be termed a right of access to the courts. That right, rooted in the Due Process Clause and the principle articulated in Ex parte Hull, is a right not to be arbitrarily prevented from lodging a claimed violation of a federal right in a federal court. The State, however, is not constitutionally
There is no basis in history or tradition for the proposition that the State's constitutional obligation is any broader. Although the historical record is relatively thin, those who have explored the development of state-sponsored legal assistance for prisoners agree that, until very recently, law libraries in prisons were "nearly nonexistent." A. Flores, Werner's Manual for Prison Law Libraries 1 (2d ed. 1990). Prior to Bounds, prison library collections (to the extent prisons had libraries) commonly reflected the correctional goals that a State wished to advance, whether religious, educational, or rehabilitative. Although some institutions may have begun to acquire a minimal collection of legal materials in the early part of this century, lawbooks generally were not included in prison libraries prior to the 1950's. See W. Coyle, Libraries in Prisons 54-55 (1987). The exclusion of lawbooks was consistent with the recommendation of the American Prison Association, which advised prison administrators nationwide to omit federal and state lawbooks from prison library collections. See American Prison Association, Objectives and Standards for Libraries in Adult Prisons and Reformatories, in Library Manual for Correctional Institutions 101, 106-107 (1950). The rise of the prison law library and other legal assistance programs is a recent phenomenon, and one generated largely by the federal courts. See Coyle, supra, at 54-55; B. Vogel, Down for the Count: A Prison Library Handbook 87-89 (1995). See also Ihrig, Providing Legal Access, in Libraries Inside: A Practical Guide for Prison Librarians 195 (R. Rubin & D. Suvak eds. 1995) (establishment of law libraries and legal service programs due to "inmate victories in the courts within the last two decades"). Thus, far from recognizing a long tradition
The idea that prisoners have a legal right to the assistance that they were traditionally denied is also of recent vintage. The traditional, pre-Bounds view of the law with regard to the State's obligation to facilitate prisoner lawsuits by providing law libraries and legal assistance was articulated in Hatfield v. Bailleaux, 290 F.2d 632 (CA9), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 862 (1961):
Consistent with the traditional view, the lower courts understood the Constitution only to guarantee prisoners a right
See also Oaks v. Wainwright, 430 F.2d 241, 242 (CA5 1970) (affirming dismissal of prisoner's complaint alleging denial of access to library and legal materials on ground that prisoner had not alleged that "he has in any way been denied access to the courts . . . , that he has ever lost the right to commence, prosecute or appeal in any court, or that he has been substantially delayed in obtaining a judicial determination in any proceeding"). Thus, while courts held that a prisoner is entitled to attack his sentence without state interference, they also consistently held that "[p]rison regulations are not required to provide prisoners with the time, the correspondence privileges, the materials or other facilities they desire for the special purpose of trying to find some way of making attack upon the presumptively valid judgments against them." Lee v. Tahash, 352 F.2d 970, 973 (CA8 1965). "If the purpose was not to hamper inmates in gaining reasonable access to the courts with regard to their respective criminal matters, and if the regulations and practices do not interfere with such reasonable access," the inquiry was at an end. Hatfield, 290 F. 2d, at 640. That access could have been facilitated without impairing effective prison administration was considered "immaterial." Ibid.
Quite simply, there is no basis in constitutional text, preBounds precedent, history, or tradition for the conclusion that the constitutional right of access imposes affirmative
Even when compared to the federal judicial overreaching to which we have now become accustomed, this is truly a remarkable case. The District Court's order vividly demonstrates the danger of continuing to afford federal judges the virtually unbridled equitable power that we have for too long sanctioned. We have here yet another example of a federal judge attempting to "direc[t] or manag[e] the reconstruction of entire institutions and bureaucracies, with little regard for the inherent limitations on [his] authority." Missouri v. Jenkins, 515 U. S., at 126 (Thomas, J., concurring). And we will continue to see cases like this unless we take more serious steps to curtail the use of equitable power by the federal courts.
Principles of federalism and separation of powers impose stringent limitations on the equitable power of federal courts. When these principles are accorded their proper respect, Article III cannot be understood to authorize the Federal Judiciary to take control of core state institutions like prisons, schools, and hospitals, and assume responsibility for making the difficult policy judgments that state officials are both constitutionally entitled and uniquely qualified to make. See id., at 131-133. Broad remedial decrees strip state administrators of their authority to set long-term goals for the institutions they manage and of the flexibility necessary to make reasonable judgments on short notice under difficult circumstances. See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 482— 483 (1995). At the state level, such decrees override the "State's discretionary authority over its own program and budgets and forc[e] state officials to reallocate state resources and funds to the [district court's] plan at the expense of other citizens, other government programs, and other institutions
Though we have sometimes closed our eyes to federal judicial overreaching, as in the context of school desegregation, see id., at 124-125, we have been vigilant in opposing sweeping remedial decrees in the context of prison administration. "It is difficult to imagine an activity in which a State has a stronger interest, or one that is more intricately bound up with state laws, regulations, and procedures, than the administration of its prisons." Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 491-492 (1973). In this area, perhaps more than any other, we have been faithful to the principles of federalism and separation of powers that limit the Federal Judiciary's exercise of its equitable powers in all instances.
Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396 (1974), articulated the governing principles:
State prisons should be run by the state officials with the expertise and the primary authority for running such institutions. Absent the most "extraordinary circumstances," Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119, 137 (1977) (Burger, C. J., concurring), federal courts should refrain from meddling in such affairs. Prison administrators have a difficult enough job without federal-court intervention. An overbroad remedial decree can make an already daunting task virtually impossible.
The District Court's opinion and order demonstrate little respect for the principles of federalism, separation of powers, and judicial restraint that have traditionally governed federal judicial power in this area. In a striking arrogation of power, the District Court sought to micromanage every aspect of Arizona's "court access program" in all institutions statewide, dictating standard operating procedures and subjecting the state system to ongoing federal supervision. A
The District Court cited only one instance of a prison inmate having a case dismissed due to the State's alleged failure to provide sufficient assistance, and one instance of another inmate who was unable to file an action. See 834 F.Supp. 1553, 1558, and nn. 37-38 (Ariz. 1992). All of the other alleged "violations" found by the District Court related not to court access, but to library facilities and legal assistance. Many of the found violations were trivial, such as a missing pocket part to a small number of volumes in just a few institutions. Id., at 1562. And though every facility in the Arizona system already contained law libraries that greatly exceeded prisoner needs,
To remedy these and similar "violations," the District Court imposed a sweeping, indiscriminate, and systemwide decree. The microscopically detailed order leaves no stone unturned. It covers everything from training in legal research to the ratio of typewriters to prisoners in each facility. It dictates the hours of operation for all prison libraries statewide, without regard to inmate use, staffing, or cost. It guarantees each prisoner a minimum two-hour visit to the library per trip, and allows the prisoner, not prison officials, to determine which reading room he will use. The order tells ADOC the types of forms it must use to take and respond to prisoner requests for materials. It requires all librarians to have an advanced degree in library science, law, or paralegal studies. If the State wishes to remove a prisoner from the law library for disciplinary reasons, the order requires that the prisoner be provided written notice of the reasons and factual basis for the decision within 48 hours of removal. The order goes so far as to dictate permissible noise levels in law library reading rooms and requires the State to "take all necessary steps, and correct any structural or acoustical problems." App. to Pet. for Cert. 68a.
The order also creates a "legal assistance program," imposing rules for the selection and retention of prisoner legal assistants. Id., at 69a. It requires the State to provide all inmates with a 30-40 hour videotaped legal research course, covering everything from habeas corpus and claims under 42 U. S. C. § 1983 to torts, immigration, and family law. Prisoner legal assistants are required to have an additional 20 hours of live instruction. Prisoners are also entitled to a minimum of three 20-minute phone calls each week to an attorney or legal organization, without regard to the purpose for the call; the order expressly requires Arizona to install extra phones to accommodate the increased use. Of course,
The District Court even usurped authority over the prison administrator's core responsibility: institutional security and discipline. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U. S., at 546 ("[M]aintaining institutional security and preserving internal order and discipline" are the central goals of prison administration). Apparently undeterred by this Court's repeated admonitions that security concerns are to be handled by prison administrators, see, e. g., ibid., the District Court decreed that "ADOC prisoners in all . . . custody levels shall be provided regular and comparable visits to the law library." App. to Pet. for Cert. 61a (emphasis added). Only if prison administrators can "documen[t]" an individual prisoner's "inability to use the law library without creating a threat to safety or security" may a potentially dangerous prisoner be kept out of the library, ibid., and even then the decision must be reported to the Special Master. And since, in the District Court's view, "[a] prisoner cannot adequately use the law library under restraint, including handcuffs and shackles," id., at 67a, the State is apparently powerless to take steps to ensure that inmates known to be violent do not injure other inmates or prison guards while in the law library "researching" their claims. This "one free bite" approach conflicts both with our case law, see Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 474 (1983), and with basic common sense. The District Court apparently misunderstood that a prison is neither a law firm nor a legal aid bureau. Prisons are inherently dangerous institutions, and decisions concerning safety, order, and discipline must be, and always have been, left to the sound discretion of prison administrators.
Like the remedial decree in Jenkins, the District Court's order suffers from flaws characteristic of overly broad remedial decrees. First, "the District Court retained jurisdiction
The District Court's order cannot stand under any circumstances. It is a stark example of what a district court should not do when it finds that a state institution has violated the Constitution. Systemwide relief is never appropriate
Justice Souter, with whom Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer join, concurring in part, dissenting in part, and concurring in the judgment.
I agree with the Court on certain, fundamental points: the case before us involves an injunction whose scope has not yet been justified by the factual findings of the District Court, ante, at 359-360, one that was imposed through a "process that failed to give adequate consideration to the views of state prison authorities," ante, at 362, and that does not reflect the deference we accord to state prison officials under Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), ante, at 361. Although I therefore concur in the judgment and in portions of the Court's opinion, reservations about the Court's treatment of standing doctrine and about certain points unnecessary to the decision lead me to write separately.
The question accepted for review was a broadside challenge to the scope of the District Court's order of systemic or classwide relief, issued in reliance on Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977), not whether proof of actual injury is necessary to establish standing to litigate a Bounds claim. The parties' discussions of actual injury, in their petition for certiorari, in their briefs, and during oral argument, focused upon the ultimate finding of liability and the scope of the injunction. Indeed, petitioners specifically stated that "[a]lthough the lack of a showing of injury means that Respondents are not entitled to any relief, the State does not contend that the Respondents lacked standing to raise these claims in the first instance. Respondents clearly met the threshold of an actual case or controversy pursuant to Article III of the United States Constitution. They simply failed to prove
While we are certainly free ourselves to raise an issue of standing as going to Article III jurisdiction, and must do so when we would lack jurisdiction to deal with the merits, see Mount Healthy City Bd. of Ed. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 278 (1977), there is no apparent question that the standing of at least one of the class-action plaintiffs suffices for our jurisdiction and no dispute that standing doctrine does not address the principal issue in the case. We may thus adequately dispose of the basic issue simply by referring to the evidentiary record. That is what I would do, for my review of the cases from the Courts of Appeals either treating or bearing on the subject of Bounds standing convinces me that there is enough reason for debate about its appropriate elements that we should reach no final conclusions about it. That is especially true since we have not had the "benefit of briefing and argument informed by an appreciation of the potential breadth of the ruling." Missouri v. Jenkins, 515 U.S. 70, 139 (1995) (Souter, J., dissenting). Addressing issues of standing may not amount to the significant breakdown in our process of orderly adjudication represented by Missouri v. Jenkins, but the Court does reach out to address a difficult conceptual question that is unnecessary to resolution of this case, was never addressed by the District Court or Court of Appeals, and divides what would otherwise presumably have been a unanimous Court.
Although application of standing doctrine may for our purposes dispose of the challenge to remedial orders insofar as they touch non-English speakers and lockdown prisoners, standing principles cannot do the same job in reviewing challenges to the orders aimed at providing court access for the illiterate prisoners. One class representative has standing, as the Court concedes, and with the right to sue thus established, standing doctrine has no further part to play in considering the illiterate prisoners' claims. More specifically, the propriety of awarding classwide relief (in this case, affecting the entire prison system) does not require a demonstration that some or all of the unnamed class could themselves satisfy the standing requirements for named plaintiffs.
See also 7B Wright & Miller § 1785.1, at 141 ("As long as the representative parties have a direct and substantial interest, they have standing; the question whether they may be allowed to present claims on behalf of others . . . depends not on standing, but on an assessment of typicality and adequacy of representation"). This analysis is confirmed by our treatment of standing when the case of a named class-action plaintiff protesting a durational residence requirement becomes moot during litigation because the requirement becomes satisfied; even then the question is not whether suit can proceed on the standing of some unnamed members of the class, but whether "the named representative [can continue] to `fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.' " Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S. 393, 403 (1975) (quoting Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 23(a)).
Justice Scalia says that he is not applying a standing rule when he concludes (as I also do) that systemic relief is inappropriate here. Ante, at 360-361, n. 7. I accept his assurance. But he also makes it clear, by the same footnote, that he does not rest his conclusion (as I rest mine) solely on the failure to prove that in every Arizona prison, or even in many of them, the State denied court access to illiterate prisoners, a point on which I take it every Member of the Court agrees. Instead, he explains that a failure to prove that more than two illiterate prisoners suffered prejudice to nonfrivolous claims is (at least in part) the reason for reversal. Since he does not intend to be applying his standing rule in so saying, I assume he is applying a class-action rule (requiring a denial of classwide relief when trial evidence does not show the existence of a class of injured claimants). But that route is just as unnecessary and complicating as the route through standing. (Indeed, the distinction between standing and class-action rules might be practically irrelevant
While the propriety of the order of systemic relief for illiterate prisoners does not turn on the standing of class members, and certainly need not turn on class-action rules, it clearly does turn on the respondents' failure to prove that denials of access to illiterate prisoners pervaded the State's prison system. Leaving aside the question whether that failure of proof might have been dealt with by reconsidering the class certification, see Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 23(c)(1); General Telephone Co. of Southwest v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 160 (1982); 7B Wright & Miller § 1785, at 128-136, the state of the evidence simply left the District Court without an adequate basis for the exercise of its equitable discretion in issuing an order covering the entire system.
The injunction, for example, imposed detailed rules and requirements upon each of the State's prison libraries, including rules about library hours, supervision of prisoners within the facilities, request forms, educational and training requirements for librarians and their staff members, prisoners' access to the stacks, and inventory. Had the findings shown libraries in shambles throughout the prison system, this degree of intrusion might have been reasonable. But the findings included the specific acknowledgment that "[g]enerally, the facilities appear to have complete libraries." 834 F.Supp. 1553, 1568 (Ariz. 1992). The District Court found only that certain of the prison libraries did not allow inmates to browse the shelves, only that some of the volumes in some of the libraries lacked pocket parts, only that certain librarians at some of the libraries lacked law or library science degrees, and only that some prison staff members have no training in legal research. Given that adequately stocked libraries go far in satisfying the Bounds requirements, it was an abuse of discretion for the District Court to aggregate discrete, small-bore problems in individual prisons and to treat them as if each prevailed throughout the prison system,
Other elements of the injunction were simply unsupported by any factual finding. The District Court, for example, made no factual findings about problems prisoners may have encountered with noise in any library, let alone any findings that noise violations interfered with prisoners' access to the courts. Yet it imposed a requirement across the board that the State correct all "structural or acoustical problems." App. to Pet. for Cert. 68a. It is this overreaching of the evidentiary record, not the application of standing or even class-action rules, that calls for the judgment to be reversed.
Finally, even with regard to the portions of the injunction based upon much stronger evidence of a Bounds violation, I would remand simply because the District Court failed to provide the State with an ample opportunity to participate in the process of fashioning a remedy and because it seems not to have considered the implications that Turner holds for this case. For example, while the District Court was correct to conclude that prisoners who experience delays in receiving books and receive only a limited number of books at the end of that delay have been denied access to the courts, it is unlikely that a proper application of Turner would have justified its decision to order the State to grant lockdown prisoners physical access to the stacks, given the significance of the State's safety interest in maintaining the lockdown system and the existence of an alternative, an improved paging system, acceptable to the respondents. Brief for Respondents 39.
Even if I were to reach the standing question, however, I would not adopt the standard the Court has established. In describing the injury requirement for standing, we have spoken of it as essential to an Article III case or controversy that "the dispute sought to be adjudicated will be presented in an adversary context and in a form historically viewed as
I do not disagree with the Court that in order to meet these standards (in a case that does not involve substantial systemic deprivation of access), a prisoner suing under Bounds must assert something more than an abstract desire to have an adequate library or some other access mechanism. Nevertheless, while I believe that a prisoner must generally have some underlying claim or grievance for which he seeks judicial relief, I cannot endorse the standing requirement the Court now imposes.
On the Court's view, a district court may be required to examine the merits of each plaintiff's underlying claim in order to determine whether he has standing to litigate a Bounds claim. Ante, at 353, n. 3. The Court would require a determination that the claim is "nonfrivolous," ante, at 353, in the legal sense that it states a claim for relief that is at least arguable in law and in fact. I, in contrast, would go no further than to require that a prisoner have some concrete grievance or gripe about the conditions of his confinement, the validity of his conviction, or perhaps some other problem for which he would seek legal redress, see Part III-B, infra (even though a claim based on that grievance might well fail sooner or later in the judicial process).
There are three reasons supporting this as a sufficient standard. First, it is the existence of an underlying grievance, not its ultimate legal merit, that gives a prisoner a concrete interest in the litigation and will thus assure the serious and adversarial treatment of the Bounds claim.
That last point may be, as the Court says, the answer to any suggestion that there need be no underlying claim requirement for a Bounds claim of complete and systemic denial of all means of court access. But in view of the Courts of Appeals that have seen the issue otherwise,
In sum, I would go no further than to hold (in a case not involving substantial, systemic deprivation of access to court) that Article III requirements will normally be satisfied if a prisoner demonstrates that (1) he has a complaint or grievance, meritorious or not,
But instead of relying on these reasonable and existing safeguards against interference, the Court's resolution of this case forces a district court to engage in extensive and, I believe, needless enquiries into the underlying merit of prisoners' claims during the initial and final stages of a trial, and renders properly certified classes vulnerable to constant challenges throughout the course of litigation. The risk is that district courts will simply conclude that prisoner class actions are unmanageable. What, at the least, the Court overlooks is that a class action lending itself to a systemwide order of relief consistent with Turner avoids the multiplicity of separate suits and remedial orders that undermine the efficiency of a United States district court just as surely as it can exhaust the legal resources of a much-sued state prison system.
There are, finally, two additional points on which I disagree with the Court. First, I cannot concur in the suggestion that Bounds should be overruled to the extent that it requires States choosing to provide law libraries for court access to make them available for a prisoner's use in the period between filing a complaint and its final disposition. Ante, at 354. Bounds stated the obvious reasons for making libraries available for these purposes, 430 U. S., at 825-826, and developments since Bounds have confirmed its reasoning. With respect to habeas claims, for example, the need for some form of legal assistance is even more obvious now than it was then, because the restrictions developed since Bounds have created a "substantial risk" that prisoners proceeding without legal assistance will never be able to obtain review of the merits of their claims. See McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849 (1994) (discussing these developments). Nor should discouragement from the number of frivolous prison suits lead us to doubt the practical justifiability of providing assistance to a pro se prisoner during trial. In the past few years alone, we have considered the petitions of several prisoners who represented themselves at trial and on appeal, and who ultimately prevailed. See, e. g., Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994); Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25 (1993); Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1 (1992).
Second, I see no reason at this point to accept the Court's view that the Bounds right of access is necessarily restricted to attacks on sentences or challenges to conditions of confinement. See ante, at 354-355. It is not clear to me that a State may force a prisoner to abandon all opportunities to vindicate rights outside these two categories no matter how significant. We have already held that prisoners do not entirely
I therefore concur in Parts I and III of the Court's opinion, dissent from Part II, and concur in the judgment.
Justice Stevens, dissenting.
The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the States from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. While at least one 19th-century court characterized the prison inmate as a mere "slave of the State," Ruffin v. Commonwealth, 62 Va. 790, 796 (1871), in recent decades this Court has repeatedly held that the convicted felon's loss of liberty is not total. See Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 84 (1987); e. g., Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 321 (1972). "Prison walls do not . . .separat[e] . . . inmatesfrom the protections of the Constitution," Turner, 482 U. S., at 84, and even convicted criminals retain some of the liberties enjoyed by all who live outside those walls in communities to which most prisoners will someday return.
Within the residuum of liberty retained by prisoners are freedoms identified in the First Amendment to the Constitution:
The "well-established" right of access to the courts, ante, at 350, is one of these aspects of liberty that States must affirmatively protect. Where States provide for appellate review of criminal convictions, for example, they have an affirmative duty to make transcripts available to indigent prisoners free of charge. Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12, 19-20 (1956) (requiring States to waive transcript fees for indigent inmates); see also Burns v. Ohio, 360 U.S. 252, 257258 (1959) (requiring States to waive filing fees for indigent prisoners). It also protects an inmate's right to file complaints, whether meritorious or not, see Ex parte Hull, 312 U.S. 546 (1941) (affirming right to file habeas petitions even if prison officials deem them meritless, in case in which petition at issue was meritless), and an inmate's right to have access to fellow inmates who are able to assist an inmate in preparing, "with reasonable adequacy," such complaints. Johnson, 393 U. S., at 489; Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 580 (1974).
The constitutional violations alleged in this case are similar to those that the District Court previously found in one of Arizona's nine prisons. See Gluth v. Kangas, 773 F.Supp. 1309 (Ariz. 1988), aff'd, 951 F.2d 1504 (CA9 1991). The complaint in this case was filed in 1990 by 22 prisoners on behalf of a class including all inmates in the Arizona prison system. The prisoners alleged that the State's institutions provided inadequate access to legal materials or other assistance, App. 31-33, and that as a result, "[p]risoners are harmed by the denial of meaningful access to the courts." Id., at 32. The District Court agreed, concluding that the State had failed, throughout its prison system, to provide adequate access to legal materials, particularly for those in administrative segregation,
As I understand the record, the State has not argued that the right of effective access to the courts, as articulated in Bounds, should be limited in any way. It has not challenged the standing of the named plaintiffs to represent the class, nor has it questioned the propriety of the District Court's order allowing the case to proceed as a class action. I am also unaware of any objection having been made in the District Court to the plaintiffs' constitutional standing in this case, and the State appears to have conceded standing with respect to most claims in the Court of Appeals.
For example, although injury in fact certainly is a jurisdictional issue into which we inquire absent objection from the parties, even the majority finds on the record that at least two of the plaintiffs had standing in this case, ante, at 356,
Even if we had reason to delve into standing requirements in this case, the Court's view of those requirements is excessively strict. I think it perfectly clear that the prisoners had standing, even absent the specific examples of failed complaints. There is a constitutional right to effective access, and if a prisoner alleges that he personally has been denied that right, he has standing to sue.
At first glance, the novel approach adopted by the Court today suggests that only those prisoners who have been refused the opportunity to file claims later found to have arguable merit should be able to challenge a rule as clearly unconstitutional as the one addressed in Hull. Perhaps the standard is somewhat lower than it appears in the first instance; using Hull as an example, the Court suggests that even facially meritless petitions can provide a sufficient basis for standing. See ante, at 352, n. 2. Nonetheless, because prisoners are uniquely subject to the control of the State, and because unconstitutional restrictions on the right of access to the courts—whether through nearly absolute bars like that in Hull or through inadequate legal resources—frustrate the ability of prisoners to identify, articulate, and present to courts injuries flowing from that control, I believe that any prisoner who claims to be impeded by such barriers has alleged constitutionally sufficient injury in fact.
My disagreement with the Court is not complete: I am persuaded—as respondents' counsel essentially has conceded—that the relief ordered by the District Court was broader than necessary to redress the constitutional violations identified in the District Court's findings. I therefore agree that the case should be remanded. I cannot agree, however, with the Court's decision to use the case as an opportunity to meander through the laws of standing and access to the courts, expanding standing requirements here and limiting rights there,
The Court is well aware that much of its discussion preceding Part III is unnecessary to the decision. Reflecting on its view that the District Court railroaded the State into accepting its order lock, stock, and barrel, the Court concludes on the last page of its decision that "[t]he State was entitled to far more than an opportunity for rebuttal, and on that ground alone this order would have to be set aside." Ante, at 363. To the extent that the majority suggests that the order in this case is flawed because of a breakdown in the process of court-supervised negotiation that should generally precede systemic relief, I agree with it. I also agree that the failure in that process "alone " would justify a remand
A fair evaluation of the procedures followed in this case must begin with a reference to Gluth, the earlier case in which the same District Judge found petitioners guilty of a systemic constitutional violation in one facility. In that case the District Court expressly found that the state officials had demonstrated "a callous unwillingness to face the issues" and had pursued "diversion[ary] tactics" that "forced [the court] to take extraordinary measures." 773 F. Supp., at 1312, 1314. Despite the Court's request that they propose an appropriate remedy, the officials refused to do so. It is apparent that these defense tactics played an important role in the court's decision to appoint a Special Master to assistin the fashioning of the remedy that was ordered in Gluth. Only after that order had been affirmed by the Court of Appeals did respondents commence this action seeking to obtain similar relief for the entire inmate population.
After a trial that lasted for 11 days over the course of two months, the District Court found that several of petitioners' policies denied illiterate and non-English-speaking prisoners meaningful access to the courts. Given the precedent established in Gluth, the express approval of that plan by the Court of Appeals, and the District Court's evaluation of the State's conclusions regarding the likelihood of voluntary remedial schemes, particularly in view of the State's unwillingness to play a constructive role in the remedy stage of that case, the District Court not unreasonably entered an order appointing the same Special Master and directing him to propose a similar remedy in this case. Although the District Court instructed the parties to submit specific objections to the remedial template derived from Gluth, see App. to Pet. for Cert. 89a, nothing in the court's order prevented the
In response to these invitations to participate in the remedial process, the State filed only four half-hearted sets of written objections over the course of the six months during which the Special Master was evaluating the court's proposed order. See App. 218-221, 225-228, 231-238, and 239240. Although the Master rejected about half of these narrow objections, he accepted about an equal number, noting that the State's limited formal participation had been "important" and "very helpful." Proposed Order (Permanent Injunction) in No. CIV 90-0054 (D. Ariz.), p. iii. After the Master released his proposed order, the State offered another round of objections. See App. 243-250. Although the District Court informed the Master that the objections could be considered, they did not have to be; the court reasonably noted that the State had been aware for six months about the potential scope of the order, and that it could have mounted the same objections prior to the deadline that the court had set at the beginning of the process. Id., at 251-253.
One might have imagined that the State, faced with the potential of this "inordinately—indeed, wildly—intrusive" remedial scheme, ante, at 362, would have taken more care to protect its interests before the District Court and the Special Master, particularly given the express willingness of both to consider the State's objections. Having failed to zealously represent its interests in the District Court, the State's present complaints seem rather belated; the Court has generally been less than solicitous to claims that have
The State's lack of interest in representing its interests is clear not only from the sparse objections in the District Court, but from proceedings both here and in the Court of Appeals. In argument before both courts, counsel for the prisoners have conceded that certain aspects of the consent decree exceeded the necessary relief. See, e. g., 43 F.3d 1261, 1271 (CA9 1994) (prisoners agree that typewriters are not required); Tr. of Oral Arg. 31 (provisions regarding noise in library are unnecessary). This flexibility further suggests that the State could have sought relief from aspects of the plan through negotiation. Indeed, at oral argument in the Ninth Circuit, the parties for both sides suggested that they were willing to settle the case, and the court deferred submission of the case for 30 days to enable a settlement. "However, before the settlement process had even begun, [the State] declined to mediate." 43 F. 3d, at 1265, n. 1. Notably, this is the only comment made by the appellate court regarding the process that led to the fashioning of the remedy in this case.
A fair reading of the record, therefore, reveals that the State had more than six months within which it could have initiated settlement discussions, presented more ambitious objections to the proposed decree reflecting the concerns it has raised before this Court, or offered up its own plan for the review of the plaintiffs and the Special Master. It took none of these steps. Instead, it settled for piecemeal and belated challenges to the scope of the proposed plan.
The Court implies that the District Court's decision to use the decree entered in Gluth as the starting point for fashioning
Accordingly, while I agree that a remand is appropriate, I cannot join the Court's opinion.
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the United States by Solicitor General Days, Assistant Attorney General Patrick, Deputy Solicitor General Bender, Alan Jenkins, Steven H. Rosenbaum, Louise A. Lerner, and Rebecca K. Troth; for the Legal Aid Bureau, Inc., by Stuart R. Cohen and Jeffery C. Taylor; for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund et al. by David Fernandez and Michael R. Cole; for North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, Inc., by Richard E. Giroux; for Prison Legal Services of Michigan by Sandra L. Girard; and for Prisoners in Northern California by Sanford Jay Rosen, Amitai Schwartz, and Donald Specter.
Of course, Justice Souter's proposed exception is unlikely to be of much real-world significance in any event. Where the situation is so extreme as to constitute "an absolute deprivation of access to all legal materials," finding a prisoner with a claim affected by this extremity will probably be easier than proving the extremity.
Contrary to Justice Stevens's suggestion, see post, at 408, n. 4, our holding that respondents lacked standing to complain of injuries to nonEnglish speakers and lockdown prisoners does not amount to "a conclusion that the class was improper." The standing determination is quite separate from certification of the class. Again, Blum proves the point: In that case, we held that a class of "`allresidents of skilled nursing and health related nursing facilities in New York State who are recipients of Medicaid benefits' " lacked standing to challenge transfers to higher levels of care, even though they had standing to challenge discharges and transfers to lower levels; but we did not disturb the class definition. See 457 U. S., at 997, n. 11, 999-1002.
Contrary to Justice Souter's assertion, post, at 397, the issue of systemwide relief has nothing to do with the law governing class actions. Whether or not a class of plaintiffs with frustrated nonfrivolous claims exists, and no matter how extensive this class may be, unless it was established that violations with respect to that class occurred in all institutions of Arizona's system, there was no basis for a remedial decree imposed upon all those institutions. However inadequate the library facilities may be as a theoretical matter, various prisons may have other means (active assistance from "jailhouse lawyers," complaint forms, etc.) that suffice to prevent the legal harm of denial of access to the courts. Courts have no power to presume and remediate harm that has not been established.
It is difficult to see how due process could be implicated in these cases, given our consistent reaffirmation that the States can abolish criminal appeals altogether consistently with due process. See, e. g., Ross v. Moffitt, 417 U. S., at 611. The fact that a State affords some access "does not automatically mean that a State then acts unfairly," and hence violates due process, by denying indigents assistance "at every stage of the way." Ibid. Under our cases, "[u]nfairness results only if indigents are singled out by the State and denied meaningful access to the appellate system because of their poverty," a question "more profitably considered under an equal protection analysis." Ibid.
Like anyone else seeking to bring suit without the assistance of the State, prisoners can seek the advice of an attorney, whether pro bono or paid, and can turn to family, friends, other inmates, or public interest groups. Inmates can also take advantage of the liberal pleading rules for pro se litigants and the liberal rules governing appointment of counsel. Federal fee-shifting statutes and the promise of a contingency fee should also provide sufficient incentive for counsel to take meritorious cases.
The right to claim a violation of a constitutional provision in a manner that will be recognized by the courts is also embedded in those rights recognized by the Constitution's text and our interpretations of it. Without the ability to access the courts and draw their attention to constitutionally improper behavior, all of us—prisoners and free citizens alike— would be deprived of the first—and often the only—"line of defense" against constitutional violations. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977); see Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U. S., at 579 (recognition of constitutional rights "would be diluted if inmates, often `totally or functionally illiterate,' were unable to articulate their complaints to the courts"); cf. Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) (allowing plaintiff alleging violation of Fourth Amendment rights access to the courts through a cause of action directly under the Constitution).
Moreover, I note that the State has not asked for these limitations on Bounds. While I doubt that Arizona will object to its unexpected windfall, its briefs in the District Court, Court of Appeals, and this Court have argued that the District Court order simply went further than was necessary given the injuries identified in its own opinion. See Brief for Petitioners 13-16. By agreeing with that proposition but nonetheless going on to extend unrequested relief, the Court oversteps the scope of the debate presented in this case. Whenever we take such a step, we venture unnecessarily onto dangerous ground.