583 P.2d 488 (Okla. 1978), 51721, Phillips v. Williams

Docket Nº:51721.
Citation:583 P.2d 488
Party Name:Jimmy Louis PHILLIPS, Petitioner, v. Bill WILLIAMS et al., Respondents.
Case Date:April 25, 1978
Court:Supreme Court of Oklahoma

Page 488

583 P.2d 488 (Okla. 1978)

Jimmy Louis PHILLIPS, Petitioner,


Bill WILLIAMS et al., Respondents.

No. 51721.

Supreme Court of Oklahoma.

April 25, 1978.

Rehearing Denied Nov. 13, 1978.


Merton M. Bulla, Bulla, Horning & Johnson, Oklahoma City, for petitioner.

Larry Derryberry, Atty. Gen. of Okl., Harold B. McMillan, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., Oklahoma City, for respondents.

DOOLIN, Justice:

Petitioner Jimmy Louis Phillips, incarcerated in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, is seeking relief by this special application asking this court to require the Pardon and Parole Board to furnish a written statement of the reasons he has been denied a recommendation for parole.

Petitioner originally sought relief from the Court of Criminal Appeals in November of 1977. That court refused to reach the merits of his petition denying it had jurisdiction to hear the application by virtue of Jerry v. Pardon and Parole Board, 546 P.2d 650 (Okl.Cr.1976). In Jerry the same request for a written statement from the Pardon and Parole Board was presented to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals which held it had no power to issue a writ of mandamus to any administrative body. 1

Page 489

Petitioner was placed on the March 1977 parole docket by the Correctional Review Committee (CRC) in October of 1976. He was subsequently removed from consideration by the Pardon and Parole Board (Board). In the present application petitioner seeks to require Board to state its reasons for his removal from the parole docket and thus his denial of parole.

In Oklahoma the power to grant parole lies solely with the governor. The governor considers for parole only those inmates recommended to him by the Board. According to the Board's rules, an inmate may be placed on the docket for consideration of parole in three ways: (1) under Forgotten Man Act 57 O.S.1971 § 332.7 which requires that an inmate must be considered for parole upon completion of 1/3 of his maximum sentence or 15 years; (2) by a member of the Board; or (3) through a recommendation by the CRC.

The CRC is a committee established under the Division of Community Services by the authority of 57 O.S.1977 Supp. § 514 2 to provide effective and efficient services to prison inmates and to the Board respecting parole. 3 In addition to reviewing and making recommendations regarding inmates routinely at the completion of 1/3 of their sentences, the CRC also recommends inmates be placed on the parole docket based on other criteria established as bases for a recommendation of parole.

In petitioner's case the CRC initially notified him it had recommended to Board that he be considered for parole and placed on the docket. He was subsequently notified he had been removed from the docket by the Board. Petitioner claims this is tantamount to a denial of parole by the Board for which it should be required to give reasons.

The Board is expressly excluded from the Oklahoma Administrative Procedures Act, 75 O.S.1971, § 301 et seq. and thus its requirements of findings of fact and conclusions of law. Any right of petitioner to the requested statements must come through constitutional due process.

In Jerry v. Pardon & Parole Board, supra, while not reaching the merits of the question, the Court of Criminal Appeals recognized the clear trend of decisions requires the Board to give its reasons for denial of parole to an inmate, citing:

Childs v. United States Board of Parole, 167 U.S.App.D.C. 268, 511 F.2d 1270 (1974); Cook v. Whiteside, 505 F.2d 32 (5th Cir. 1974); Mower v. Britton, 504 F.2d 396 (10th Cir. 1974); United States ex rel. Johnson v. Chairman, N.Y. St. Bd. of P., 500 F.2d 925 (2nd Cir. 1974) (vacated as moot Regan v. Johnson, 419 U.S. 1015, 95 S.Ct. 488, 42 L.Ed.2d 289 (1974)); King v. United States, 492 F.2d 1337 (7th Cir. 1974); Fischer v. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991 (3rd Cir. 1973); Solari v. Vincent, 46 A.D.2d 453, 363 N.Y.S.2d 332 (1975); In re Sturm, 11 Cal.3d 258, 113 Cal.Rptr. 361, 521 P.2d 97 (1974); State v. Goulette, 65 Wis.2d 207, 222 N.W.2d 622 (1974); Moore v. Florida Parole and Probation Commission, 289 So.2d 719 (Fla.1974); Monks v. New Jersey State Parole Board, 58 N.J. 238, 277 A.2d 193 (1971).

The majority of these cases hold although the full range of constitutional rights do not apply to parole decisions, minimal due process in required. For example in Childs v. United States Board of Parole, supra, the circuit court held federal prisoners were entitled to a written statement of reasons for a denial of parole in order to assure the validity of the parole procedure. In Fischer v. Cahill, supra, a New Jersey applicant was held entitled to a statement of reasons for

Page 490

denial of parole under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 of the Civil Rights Act. The second circuit, in Johnson v. Chairman, N.Y. St. Board of Parole, supra, based on due process held inmates must be given a statement by the Board, including the grounds for its decision and the essential facts upon which its inferences were based.

State courts have also joined in making such a requirement. Monks v. New Jersey State Parole Board, supra, found a rule by the New Jersey Board that it would not reveal the basis for denial of parole was invalid. The court stated that rule must be replaced by a rule "designed generally toward...

To continue reading