425 U.S. 308 (1976), 74-1187, Baxter v. Palmigiano

Docket Nº:No. 74-1187
Citation:425 U.S. 308, 96 S.Ct. 1551, 47 L.Ed.2d 810
Party Name:Baxter v. Palmigiano
Case Date:April 20, 1976
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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425 U.S. 308 (1976)

96 S.Ct. 1551, 47 L.Ed.2d 810

Baxter

v.

Palmigiano

No. 74-1187

United States Supreme Court

April 20, 1976

Argued December 15, 1975

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE FIRST CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Respondent state prison inmates in No. 74-1194 filed an action for declaratory and injunctive relief alleging that procedures used in prison disciplinary proceedings violated their rights to due process and equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. The District Court granted relief, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that minimum notice and a right to respond are due an inmate faced even with a temporary suspension of privileges, that an inmate at a disciplinary hearing who is denied the privilege of confronting and cross-examining witnesses must receive written reasons or the denial will be deemed prima facie evidence of abuse of discretion, and that an inmate facing prison discipline for a violation that might also be punishable in state criminal proceedings has a right to counsel (not just counsel substitute) at the prison hearing. Respondent state prison inmate in No. 74-1187, upon being charged with inciting a prison disturbance, was summoned before prison authorities and informed that he might be prosecuted for a violation of state law, that he should consult an attorney (although the attorney would not be permitted to be present during the disciplinary hearing), and that he had a right to remain silent during the hearing, but that, if he did so, his silence would be held against him. On the basis of the hearing, at which respondent remained silent, he was placed in "punitive segregation" for 30 days. He then filed an action for damages and injunctive relief, claiming that the disciplinary hearing violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The District Court denied relief, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that an inmate at a prison disciplinary proceeding must be advised of his right to remain silent, that he must not be questioned further once he exercises that right, that such silence may not be used against him at that time or in future proceedings, and that, where criminal charges

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are a realistic possibility, prison authorities should consider whether defense counsel, if requested, should be permitted at the proceeding.

Held: The procedures required by the respective Courts of Appeals are either inconsistent with the "reasonable accommodation" reached in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, between institutional needs and objectives and the constitutional provisions of general application, or are premature on the basis of the case records. Pp. 314-324.

(a) Prison inmates do not "have a right to either retained or appointed counsel in disciplinary hearings." Wolff, supra, at 570. Pp. 314-315.

(b) Permitting an adverse inference to be drawn from an inmate's silence at his disciplinary proceedings is not, on its face, an invalid practice, and there is no basis in the record for invalidating it as applied to respondent in No. 74-1187. Pp. 316-320.

(c) Mandating that inmates should have the privilege of confrontation and cross-examination of witnesses at prison disciplinary proceedings, except where prison officials can justify their denial of such privilege on grounds that would satisfy a court of law, effectively preempts the area that Wolff, supra, left to the sound discretion of prison officials, and there is no evidence of abuse of such discretion by the prison officials in No. 74-1194. Pp. 320-323.

(d) Where there was no evidence that any of the respondents in No. 74-1194 were subject to the "lesser penalty" of loss of privileges, but rather it appeared that all were charged with "serious misconduct," the Court of Appeals acted prematurely to the extent it required procedures such as notice and an opportunity to respond even when an inmate is faced with a temporary suspension of privileges. Pp. 323-324.

No. 74-1187, 510 F.2d 534; No. 74-1194, 510 F.2d 613, reversed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, and in Part V of which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 324. STEVENS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.

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WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases present questions as to procedures required at prison disciplinary hearings and as to the reach of our recent decision in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974).

I

A. No. 7-1191

Respondents are inmates of the California penal institution at San Quentin. They filed an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and alleging that the procedures used in disciplinary proceedings at San Quentin violated their rights to due process and equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.1 After an evidentiary

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hearing, the District Court granted substantial relief. Clutchette v. Procunier, 328 F.Supp. 767 (ND Cal.1971). The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, with one judge dissenting, affirmed, 497 F.2d 809 (1974), holding that an inmate facing a disciplinary proceeding at San Quentin was entitled to notice of the [96 S.Ct. 1555] charges against him, to be heard and to present witnesses, to confront and cross-examine witnesses, to face a neutral and detached hearing body, and to receive a decision based solely on evidence presented at the hearing. The court also held that an inmate must be provided with counsel or a counsel substitute when the consequences

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of the disciplinary action are "serious," such as prolonged periods of "isolation." Id. at 821. The panel of the Court of Appeals, after granting rehearing to reconsider its conclusions in light of our intervening decision in Wolff, supra, reaffirmed its initial judgment -- again with one judge dissenting -- but modified its prior opinion in several respects. 510 F.2d 613 (1975). The Court of Appeals held that minimum notice and a right to respond are due an inmate faced even with a temporary suspension of privileges, that an inmate at a disciplinary hearing who is denied the privilege of confronting and cross-examining witnesses must receive written reasons for such denial or the denial "will be deemed prima facie evidence of abuse of discretion," id. at 616, and -- reaffirming its initial view -- that an inmate facing prison discipline for a violation that might also be punishable in state criminal proceedings has a right to counsel (not just counsel substitute) at the prison hearing. We granted certiorari and set the case for oral argument with No. 74-1187. 421 U.S. 1010 (1975).

B. No. 74-1187

Respondent Palmigiano is an inmate of the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institution serving a life sentence for murder. He was charged by correctional officers with "inciting a disturbance and disrupt[ion] of [prison] operations, which might have resulted in a riot." App. 197 (No. 74-1187). He was summoned before the prison Disciplinary Board and informed that he might be prosecuted for a violation of state law, that he should consult his attorney (although his attorney was not permitted by the Board to be present during the hearing), that he had a right to remain silent during the hearing, but that, if he remained silent, his silence would be held against him. Respondent availed himself of the counsel substitute provided for by prison rules and remained

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silent during the hearing. The Disciplinary Board's decision was that respondent be placed in "punitive segregation" for 30 days and that his classification status be downgraded thereafter.

Respondent filed an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for damages and injunctive relief, claiming that the disciplinary hearing violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.2 The District

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Court held an evidentiary [96 S.Ct. 1556] hearing and denied relief. The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, with one judge dissenting, reversed, holding that respondent

was denied due process in the disciplinary hearing only insofar as he was not provided with use immunity for statements he might have made within the disciplinary hearing, and because he was denied access to retained counsel within the hearing.

487 F.2d 1280, 1292 (1973). We granted certiorari, vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals, and remanded to that court for further consideration in light of Wolff v. McDonnell, supra, decided in the interim. 418 U.S. 908 (1974). On remand, the Court of Appeals affirmed its prior decision, but modified its opinion. 510 F.2d 534 (1974). The Court of Appeals held that an inmate at a prison disciplinary proceeding must be advised of his right to remain silent, that he must not be questioned further once he exercises that right, and that such silence may not be used against him at that time or in future proceedings. With respect to counsel, the Court of Appeals held:

[I]n cases where criminal charges are a realistic possibility, prison authorities should consider whether defense counsel, if requested, should not be let into the disciplinary proceeding, not because Wolff requires it in that proceeding, but because Miranda [v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)] requires it in light of future criminal prosecution.

Id. at 537.

We granted certiorari and heard the case with No. 74-1194. 421 U.S. 1010 (1975).

II

In Wolff v. McDonnell, supra, drawing comparisons to Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 411 U.S. 778 (1973), we said:

The insertion of counsel into the [prison] disciplinary process would inevitably give the proceedings

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a more adversary cast and tend to reduce their utility as a means to...

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