Jailhouse Lawyer Law and Legal Definition

Jailhouse lawyer refers to prison inmate with some knowledge of law who gives legal advice and assistance in legal matters to fellow prisoners. An inmate's right to assist other inmates with litigation was first recognized in Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483 (U.S. 1969). The U.S. Supreme Court held that jailhouse lawyers must be permitted to assist illiterate inmates in filing petitions for post-conviction relief unless the state provides some reasonable alternative. Most of the states in the U.S. have jailhouse lawyer statutes.