422 U.S. 395 (1975), 74-107, Preiser v. Newkirk

Docket Nº:No. 74-107
Citation:422 U.S. 395, 95 S.Ct. 2330, 45 L.Ed.2d 272
Party Name:Preiser v. Newkirk
Case Date:June 25, 1975
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 395

422 U.S. 395 (1975)

95 S.Ct. 2330, 45 L.Ed.2d 272




No. 74-107

United States Supreme Court

June 25, 1975

Argued January 20, 1975




After being transferred, without explanation or hearing, from a medium security to a maximum security prison in New York because of his involvement in a conflict among inmates concerning a petition for a prisoners' "union" at the former prison, respondent brought suit under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1343(3) and (4) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against petitioner prison officials, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The District Court, granting relief in part, ruled that the transfer violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because it was made without any explanation to respondent or opportunity to be heard. The Court of Appeals affirmed with some modification, holding, inter alia, that the suit was not mooted by the fact that respondent was returned to the medium security prison prior to the District Court's ruling. Respondent was later transferred to a minimum security prison, and will soon be eligible for parole.

Held: In light of respondent's return to the medium security prison and later transfer to a minimum security prison, the suit does not present a case or controversy as required by Art. III of the Constitution, but is now moot, and must be dismissed, since, as to the original complaint, there is now no reasonable expectation that the wrong will be repeated, and the question presented does not fall within the category of harm capable of repetition, yet evading review. Pp. 401-403.

499 F.2d 1214, vacated and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a concurring statement, post, p. 404. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting statement, post, p. 404.

Page 396

BURGER, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondent Newkirk has been an inmate of the New York prison system [95 S.Ct. 2332] since his conviction for murder in the second degree in 1962. He had initially been confined at the Ossining Correctional Facility and, subsequently, at the Attica Correctional Facility, the Green Haven Correctional Facility, and the Auburn Correctional Facility. These facilities were maximum security institutions1 at the time respondent was confined in them, and are located in different parts of New York. In April, 1971, nine years after his initial confinement, he was transferred to the Wallkill Correctional Facility, a medium security institution. The District Court and

Page 397

the Court of Appeals found, and it is not seriously disputed here, that the Wallkill facility is "unique," and has advantages over other correctional institutions in the New York system in that there are fewer restrictions and physical restraints, as well as a more comprehensive rehabilitation program.

Early in 1972, a petition aimed at the formation of a prisoners' "union" was circulated at Wallkill. This event produced some vociferous controversy among the prisoners. Tension among the inmates, according to the District Court, stemmed in part from the hostility of an existing prisoner representative committee toward the "union" movement. The prison administration, however, did not forbid or actively discourage the circulation of the petition. The administrators did, however, monitor the level of unrest within the prison brought on by the clash of opinions on the petition. On June 2, 1972, there was a general meeting of the inmates at which the petition was discussed loudly by the contending factions; the meeting dispersed peacefully, however, without incidents of violence. Respondent did not attend this meeting, but he had previously signed a proposed "union" constitution and, immediately prior to the meeting, had received a petition from a fellow inmate, signed it, and passed it along.

A report prepared by the assistant deputy superintendent identified Newkirk as one of the inmates who had been canvassing for the "union," but did not charge him with any violation of regulations or misconduct. This report -- including its naming of Newkirk -- was apparently based on information other officers had given the assistant deputy...

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