Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 9 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 403 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

fendants here did not act contrary to "clearly established constitutional norms that a reasonable official would understand" in being less than "forthcoming in discussing the intelligence that they received about Bamaca." Id., at 48a-49a.


Harbury did not pursue her claims for declaratory or injunctive relief, and appealed only the dismissal of the Bivens causes of action. Harbury v. Deutch, 233 F. 3d 596, 600-601 (CADC 2000). The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Bivens claims of violations of Bamaca's due process rights, 233 F. 3d, at 604, Harbury's rights of familial association, id., at 606-607, and her free speech and petition rights.4 It reversed the dismissal, however, of Harbury's Bivens claim against the State Department and NSC defendants for denial of access to courts. Id., at 607-611.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court that a plaintiff who merely alleges without factual basis in the conduct of a prior lawsuit that " 'key witnesses . . . may now be dead or missing, . . . crucial evidence may have been destroyed, and . . . memories may have faded' " generally falls short of raising a claim for denial of access to courts. Id., at 609 (quoting the District Court). The court held, however, that Harbury's allegations stated a valid access claim insofar as she alleged that the Government's conduct had "effectively prevented her from seeking emergency injunctive relief in time to save her husband's life." Ibid. The District of Columbia Circuit went on to conclude that "[b]e-cause his death completely foreclosed this avenue of relief, nothing would be gained by requiring Harbury to postpone this aspect of her access to courts cause of action until she

4 The Court of Appeals did not explicitly say that this Bivens claim (count 17) was dismissed, but, in reversing the District Court, it spoke only of a single claim of "access to courts." 233 F. 3d, at 611 ("[W]e reverse the district court's dismissal of Harbury's access to courts claim").


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