In The

Supreme Court of the United States




Decided June 23, 1989

Justice O’Connor, Concurring

Topic: Civil Rights*Court vote: 5–4
Note: No other Justices joined this opinion.
Citation: 492 U.S. 1 Docket: 88–411Audio: Listen to this case's oral arguments at Oyez

* As categorized by the Washington University Law Supreme Court Database

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JUSTICE O'CONNOR concurring.

I join in THE CHIEF JUSTICE'S opinion. As his opinion demonstrates, there is nothing in the Constitution or the precedents of this Court that requires that a State provide counsel in postconviction proceedings. A postconviction proceeding is not part of the criminal process itself, but is instead a civil action designed to overturn a presumptively valid criminal judgment. Nothing in the Constitution requires the States to provide such proceedings, see Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U. S. 551 (1987), nor does it seem to me that the Constitution requires the States to follow any particular federal model in those proceedings. I also join in JUSTICE KENNEDY'S opinion concurring in the judgment, since I do not view it as inconsistent with the principles expressed above. As JUSTICE KENNEDY observes, our decision in Bounds v. Smith, 430 U. S. 817 (1977), allows the States considerable discretion in assuring that those imprisoned in their jails obtain meaningful access to the judicial process. Beyond the requirements of Bounds, the matter is one of legislative choice based on difficult policy considerations and the allocation of scarce legal resources. Our decision today rightly leaves these issues to resolution by Congress and the state legislatures.

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