Court says states can't bar some rights suits

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court has ruled that states may not prevent people from filing civil rights claims against government workers in state courts.

The court, by a 5-4 vote Tuesday, said people have a choice whether to file their claims in federal or state courts. Filing fees are cheaper and courthouses often are closer in the state system, potentially important factors for prison inmates and the poor.

Justice John Paul Stevens said in his majority opinion that a New York appeals court was wrong to throw out a lawsuit filed by state prison inmate Keith Haywood.

Haywood is an inmate at the state prison at Attica. He sued state Department of Corrections employees for alleged violations of his civil rights. New York courts dismissed his complaints.

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