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Texas Court Ordered to Accept Prisoners’ Correspondence

Texas Court Ordered to Accept Prisoners' Correspondence

In a bizarre case, a Court of Appeals in Texas had to order a state district court to accept correspondence from prisoners.

Felix DeLeon, a Texas state prisoner, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas (CCA) seeking an order instructing the District Clerk of Lynn County to accept his correspondence. DeLeon had attempted multiple times to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the 109th Judicial District Court, but each time the mailing had been returned with "refused" marked on it.

The district clerk explained to the CCA that three or four years earlier the clerk's office had begun a practice of refusing mailings from prisoners that had not been screened for anthrax. The CCA quickly concluded that DeLeon had a constitutional right (of access to courts) and a statutory right to file his habeas corpus applications under Article I, Section 12 of the Texas Constitution and Article 11.07(3)(b) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Thus, the clerk had a duty to accept the application when it arrived in the mail. Therefore, the CCA conditionally granted the writ of mandamus and ordered the clerk to accept DeLeon?s mailings.

The insanity of this is magnified when one considers that it takes a biological weapons laboratory to manufacture anthrax as a weapon. Perhaps that is why there has never been a case of a prisoner mailing anybody anthrax. One wonders whether the clerk's practice was just another knee-jerk and unthinking reaction in the name of fighting terrorism or whether it harbored the darker motivation of keeping the judge's docket clear of prisoner petitions. See: DeLeon v. District Clerk, Lynn County, 187 S.W.3.d 473 (Tex.Crim.App., 2006).

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Related legal case

DeLeon v. District Clerk, Lynn County