Legal Memorandum: Right of Court Access

Issue: Under federal law, what arguments could be to made to oppose the closure of a courthouse?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Access to courts; Fundamental Right
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 518 U.S. 343
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2000

There are two lines of cases regarding access to courts that are instructive on this question.  First, there is the Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12, 16, 76 S.Ct. 585, 589, 100 L.Ed. 891 (1956) line of cases, which provide that indigent litigants must have equal access to appellate courts, and so must have the right to transcripts in order to pursue their appeals.  This line of reasoning was recently reaffirmed in  M.L.B. v. S.L.J., 519 U.S. 102,  117 S.Ct. 555 (1996).  Then there are the cases that say the rights of reasonable access to courts is fundamental.  See, e.g., Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 116 S.Ct. 2174, 2188- 2190, 135 L.Ed.2d 606 (1996).  From these cases, the argument would be that the effect of closing a courthouse is, as a practical matter, to deny the people their fundamental right of court access. 


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