Cite as: 536 U. S. 403 (2002)
Opinion of the Court
sider examples in the Courts of Appeals 7 as well as our own, two categories emerge. In the first are claims that systemic official action frustrates a plaintiff or plaintiff class in preparing and filing suits at the present time. Thus, in the prison-litigation cases, the relief sought may be a law library for a prisoner's use in preparing a case, Bounds v. Smith, 430 U. S. 817, 828 (1977); Lewis v. Casey, 518 U. S. 343, 346-348 (1996), or a reader for an illiterate prisoner, id., at 347-348, or simply a lawyer, ibid. In denial-of-access cases challenging filing fees that poor plaintiffs cannot afford to pay, the object is an order requiring waiver of a fee to open the courthouse door for desired litigation, such as direct appeals or federal habeas petitions in criminal cases,8 or civil suits asserting family-law rights, e. g., Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U. S. 371, 372 (1971) (divorce filing fee); M. L. B. v. S. L. J., 519 U. S. 102, 106-107 (1996) (record fee in parental-rights termination action). In cases of this sort, the essence of the access claim is that official action is presently denying an opportunity to litigate for a class of potential plaintiffs. The opportunity has not been lost for all time, however, but only in the short term; the object of the denial-of-access suit, and the justification for recognizing that claim, is to place the plaintiff in a position to pursue a separate claim for relief once the frustrating condition has been removed.
The second category covers claims not in aid of a class of suits yet to be litigated, but of specific cases that cannot now
7 See, e. g., Delew v. Wagner, 143 F. 3d 1219, 1222-1223 (CA9 1998); Swekel v. River Rouge, 119 F. 3d 1259, 1263-1264 (CA6 1997); Vasquez v. Hernandez, 60 F. 3d 325, 329 (CA7 1995); Foster v. Lake Jackson, 28 F. 3d 425, 429-431 (CA5 1994); Williams v. Boston, 784 F. 2d 430, 435 (CA1 1986); Bell v. Milwaukee, 746 F. 2d 1205, 1260-1266 (CA7 1984); Ryland v. Shapiro, 708 F. 2d 967, 974-975 (CA5 1983).
8 E. g., Smith v. Bennett, 365 U. S. 708, 713-714 (1961) (filing fee for habeas petitions); Burns v. Ohio, 360 U. S. 252, 255-258 (1959) (fee for direct appeal in a criminal case); Mayer v. Chicago, 404 U. S. 189, 195-196 (1971) (same, as to petty crime); Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U. S. 12, 16-20 (1956) (transcript fee for appellate review in a criminal case).
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