Case: Johnson v. Avery

65-cv-04170 | U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee

Filed Date: 1965

Closed Date: 1966

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

In July 1965, a prisoner housed at Tennessee's State Penitentiary, Nashville, submitted a motion to the United States District Court, Middle District of Tennessee, seeking law books, a typewriter, and release from solitary confinement. The plaintiff alleged that his ongoing solitary confinement, as punishment for helping other inmates prepare habeas petitions, violated his 14th Amendment right to due process; he sought injunctive relief. The Court treated the motion as a petition for habeas co…

In July 1965, a prisoner housed at Tennessee's State Penitentiary, Nashville, submitted a motion to the United States District Court, Middle District of Tennessee, seeking law books, a typewriter, and release from solitary confinement. The plaintiff alleged that his ongoing solitary confinement, as punishment for helping other inmates prepare habeas petitions, violated his 14th Amendment right to due process; he sought injunctive relief. The Court treated the motion as a petition for habeas corpus.

On January 21, 1966, the district court (Chief Judge William E. Miller) granted the writ, holding that defendants' regulation banning prisoners from giving each other legal assistance was void because it effectively withheld access to federal habeas corpus from illiterate prisoners and conflicted with 28 U.S.C. §2242. The Court ordered defendants to release plaintiff from solitary confinement and restored to ordinary prisoner status. Johnson v. Avery, 252 F.Supp 783 (M.D. Tenn. 1966).

By the time the district court order was entered, plaintiff had been transferred out of the maximum security building into a disciplinary cell block that still had fewer privileges than ordinary prisoners. He was released into regular prison conditions only after he promised to not assist other inmates with their legal issues.

In March 1966, the district court held another hearing on defendants' compliance with its earlier order. The Court reaffirmed its earlier order and the state appealed.

On August 31, 1967, the Court of Appeals (Chief Justice Weick) reversed, holding that defendants' regulation was justified by the state's interest in preserving prison discipline and limiting the practice of law to licensed attorneys. Johnson v. Avery, 383 F.2d 353 (6th Cir. 1967).

On February 24, 1969, the Supreme Court (Justice Fortas) reversed the appellate court, invalidating the regulation as incompatible with inmates' federal habeas corpus rights. Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483 (1969).

Summary Authors

Timothy Shoffner (5/1/2013)

People


Judge(s)

Black, Hugo Lafayette (District of Columbia)

Cecil, Lester LeFevre (Ohio)

Miller, William Ernest (Tennessee)

Peck, John Weld II (Ohio)

Weick, Paul Charles (Ohio)

White, Byron Raymond (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Warden, Karl P. (Tennessee)

Winningham, Pierce (Tennessee)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Fox, Thomas E (Tennessee)

McCanless, George F (Tennessee)

Judge(s)

Black, Hugo Lafayette (District of Columbia)

Cecil, Lester LeFevre (Ohio)

Miller, William Ernest (Tennessee)

Peck, John Weld II (Ohio)

Weick, Paul Charles (Ohio)

White, Byron Raymond (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Warden, Karl P. (Tennessee)

Winningham, Pierce (Tennessee)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Fox, Thomas E (Tennessee)

McCanless, George F (Tennessee)

McMackin, David W. (Tennessee)

Other Attorney(s)

Glen, Kristin (New York)

Granucci, Robert R. (California)

Harris, Albert W Jr (California)

Lynch, Thomas C. (California)

Nock, George (California)

Wulf, Melvin L. (New York)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Opinion [district ct]

252 F.Supp. 783

Jan. 21, 1966 Order/Opinion

Opinion [reversing district ct]

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

382 F.2d 353

Aug. 31, 1967 Order/Opinion

Opinion [granting motion to proceed in forma pauperis]

Supreme Court of the United States

390 U.S. 943

March 4, 1968 Order/Opinion

Brief for the People of the State of California, Amicus Curiae in Support of Respondents

Supreme Court of the United States

May 17, 1968 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Brief for the Petitioner

Supreme Court of the United States

May 29, 1968 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Brief for the Respondents

Supreme Court of the United States

July 9, 1968 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Motion for Leave to File Brief, and Brief Amici Curiae of the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee

Supreme Court of the United States

Oct. 21, 1968 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Opinion [reversing appellate ct]

Supreme Court of the United States

393 U.S. 483

Feb. 24, 1969 Order/Opinion

Supplemental Reply Brief

Supreme Court of the United States

None Pleading / Motion / Brief

Resources

Title Description External URL

Johnson v. Avery

Oyez

Petitioner, a Tennessee prisoner, was disciplined for violating a prison regulation which prohibited inmates from assisting other prisoners in preparing writs. The District Court held the regulation … Feb. 24, 1969 https://www.oyez.org/cases/1968/40

Stateville: The Penitentiary in Mass Society

James B. Jacobs

Jan. 1, 1977

Johnson v. Avery (1969)

David L. Hudson Jr.

In Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483 (1969), the Supreme Court invalidated a Tennessee prison rule that prohibited inmates from assisting others with legal matters, including preparing writs of habeas c… https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/534/johnson-v-avery

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Tennessee

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: 1965

Closing Date: 1966

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

a prisoner housed at Tennessee's State Penitentiary who had given legal assistance to other prisoners

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: Yes

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

State of Tennessee, State

Defendant Type(s):

Corrections

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Habeas Corpus, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2253; 2254; 2255

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Issues

General:

Conditions of confinement

Disciplinary segregation

Law library access

Type of Facility:

Government-run