Definitions

jailhouse-lawyer

Jailhouse lawyer

Jailhouse lawyer is a colloquial term in North American English to refer to an inmate in a jail or other prison who, though usually never having practiced law nor having any formal legal training, informally assists other inmates in legal matters relating to their sentence (e.g. appeal of their sentence, pardons, stays of execution, etc.) or to their conditions in prison. Sometimes, he or she also assists other inmates in civil matters of a legal nature.

The term can also refer to a prison inmate who is representing themselves in legal matters relating to their sentence.

Many states in the U.S. have Jailhouse Lawyer Statutes, some of which exempt inmates acting as jailhouse lawyers from the licensing requirements imposed on other attorneys when they are helping indigent inmates with legal matters.

Cases brought by inmates have also called attention to the need for jailhouse lawyers to have access to law libraries.

The Center for Constitutional Rights and National Lawyer's Guild wrote "The Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook" in 2003 for inmates needing rudimentry information on jailhouse lawyering, which is the authoritative work on the subject.

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