Cooper v. Gwinn, No. 15153

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtMcGRAW; NEELY; MILLER
Citation171 W.Va. 245,298 S.E.2d 781
PartiesMary Jane COOPER, Tahlia Bell, Twila Harris, Faye Hickman, Joann Scales, Patricia Jackson, Darleen Johnson, Sherry Mead, Connie Ray and Kathryn Fencil v. Philip J. GWINN, Warden, West Virginia State Prison For Women at Pence Springs; and W. Joseph McCoy, Commissioner, West Virginia Department of Corrections. Case
Decision Date18 December 1981
Docket NumberNo. 15153

Page 781

298 S.E.2d 781
171 W.Va. 245
Mary Jane COOPER, Tahlia Bell, Twila Harris, Faye Hickman,
Joann Scales, Patricia Jackson, Darleen Johnson,
Sherry Mead, Connie Ray and Kathryn Fencil
v.
Philip J. GWINN, Warden, West Virginia State Prison For
Women at Pence Springs; and W. Joseph McCoy,
Commissioner, West Virginia Department
of Corrections.
Case No. 15153.
Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.
Dec. 18, 1981.
Concurring Dec. 18, 1981.
Concurring Sept. 3, 1982.

Page 784

[171 W.Va. 248] Syllabus by the Court

1. Inherent in the republican form of government established by our State Constitution is a concept of due process that insures that the people receive the benefit of legislative enactments.

2. Inmates incarcerated in West Virginia state prisons have a right to rehabilitation established by W.Va.Code §§ 62-13-1 and 62-13-4 (Cum.Supp.1980), and enforceable through the substantive due process mandate of article 3, section 10 of the West Virginia Constitution.

3. Before this Court may properly issue a writ of mandamus three elements must coexist: (1) the existence of a clear right in the petitioner to the relief sought; (2) the existence of a legal duty on the part of the respondent to do the thing the petitioner seeks to compel; and (3) the absence of another adequate remedy at law.

4. While it is true that mandamus is not available where another specific and adequate remedy exists, if such other remedy is not equally as beneficial, convenient, and effective, mandamus will lie.

Daniel F. Hedges, Charleston, for petitioners.

Penelope Crandall, Crandall, Pyles, Crandall & Poyourow, Charleston, for amicus curiae (WV NOW)

Chauncey H. Browning, Atty. Gen., David P. Cleek, Deputy Atty. Gen., Gray Silver, III, Asst. Atty. Gen., Charleston, for respondents.

McGRAW, Justice:

This is an original proceeding in mandamus. The petitioners are inmates at the West Virginia State Prison for Women at Pence Springs. The respondents are Philip J. Gwinn, Warden of the State Prison for Women, and W. Joseph McCoy, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections. The petitioners seek a writ of mandamus to compel the respondents to provide them with meaningful educational and rehabilitative programs and to permit them daily exercise, as mandated by W.Va.Code §§ 62-13-1 and 62-13-4 (Cum.Sup.1980). As we read the law the Legislature has passed, we are lead to the unavoidable conclusion that by virtue of the constitutional guarantee of due process, the inmates of the women's penitentiary, as well as other classes of citizens, are entitled to the benefit of law which the Legislature has enacted. We will begin our scrutiny of the issues presented in this case by exploring the theoretical rationale underlying the petitioners' claim to the benefit of law in relation to the purpose and function of our system of government and the constitutional guarantee of due process of law.

I

We, as justices, upon taking office, are required to make oath or affirmation that we will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this State, and that we will faithfully discharge the duties of this office to the best of our skill and judgment. W.Va. Const. art. 4, § 5. We are admonished by the Constitution we have sworn to uphold that "[f]ree government and the blessings of liberty can be preserved to any people only by a firm adherence to justice ... and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles." W.Va. Const. art. 3, § 20.

The fundamental principles which must guide us in the interpretation of the law are those principles embodied in the documents constituting the organic law, i.e. the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of West Virginia. First and foremost among the documents constituting the organic law of this jurisdiction is the Constitution of the United States, for as we are informed by the State Constitution: "The State of West Virginia is, and shall remain, one of the United States of America. The Constitution of the United States of America, and the laws and treaties made in pursuance thereof, shall be the supreme law of the land." W.Va. Const. art. 1, § 1.

The government of the United States is a government of enumerated powers and all powers not delegated to it by the Constitution,

Page 785

nor prohibited by the Constitution to [171 W.Va. 249] the States, are reserved to the States or the people thereof. U.S. Const.amend. X; W.Va. Const. art. 1, § 2. Among the powers so reserved to the states is the exclusive regulation of their own internal government and police; and it is the high and solemn duty of the several departments of government created by the State Constitution to guard and protect the people of this State from all encroachments upon the rights so reserved. W.Va. Const. arts. 1, 2.

The power of the State to exclusively regulate its own internal government and police, however, is subject to the Guaranty Clause of the United States Constitution, which provides: "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government ...." U.S. Const. art. IV, § 4. The classical American form of republican government was adopted by the people of West Virginia in the State Constitution. But before that specification of form the people reserved to themselves certain powers. For example, article 2, section 2 of the West Virginia Constitution provides that "[t]he powers of government reside in all the citizens of the State, and can be rightfully exercised only in accordance with their will and appointment." Article 2, section 4 of the West Virginia Constitution provides that "[e]very citizen shall be entitled to equal representation in the government ...." Article 3, section 2 of the West Virginia Constitution provides that "[a]ll power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people. Magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them." Article 3, section 3 of the West Virginia Constitution provides that:

Government is instituted for the common benefit protection and security of the people, nation or community. Of all its various forms that is the best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration; and when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community has an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter or abolish it in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

Finally, the people also provided in the State Constitution that "[n]o person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, and the judgment of his peers." W.Va. Const. art. 3, § 10.

After reserving to themselves specific rights of which the foregoing are examples, the people then proceeded to create the republican form of government as contemplated by the Constitution of the United States. Through the State Constitution the people provided that "[t]he legislative, executive and judicial departments shall be separate and distinct, so that neither shall exercise the powers properly belonging to either of the others; nor shall any person exercise the powers of more than one of them at the same time ...." W.Va. Const. art. 5, § 1.

The legislative branch of government is the first of these three departments dealt with by the State Constitution. The legislative powers are vested in a senate and house of delegates, which are given detailed instructions in article 6 of the State Constitution respecting the procedures by which laws may be enacted. These article 6 procedures are the law of the land and the Legislature is bound by its oath to follow that law. W.Va. Const. art. 6, § 16. These constitutional provisions respecting mandatory legislative procedures can therefore properly be deemed a form of procedural due process. The culmination of these procedures results in law, law being a public policy statement of the people acting through their legislature in the republican form of government.

Having thus created a legal devise by which public policy could be addressed and law established, the people, acting through the State Constitution, next created the executive department, see W.Va. Const. art. 7, § 1, and vested in the Governor the chief executive power and the duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

Page 786

W.Va. Const. art. 7, § 5. Should the Governor fail to take care that the laws [171 W.Va. 250] be faithfully executed, or refuse to expedite the will of the people as expressed through their Legislature, redress is afforded by application to the judiciary, the third branch of the republican form of government created by the people in the State Constitution and guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

The people, wisely anticipating that men are not angels and knowing the mischief and injustice that can result from unequal application of the law, or from the failure of government to follow the law of the land, provided in their organic law that "[t]he courts of this State shall be open, and every person, for an injury done to him, in his person, property or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law; and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay." W.Va. Const. art. 3, § 17. And this judicial power the people vested "solely in a supreme court of appeals and in the circuit courts, and in such intermediate appellate and magistrate courts as shall be hereafter established by the legislature, and in the justices, judges and magistrates of such courts." W.Va. Const. art. 8, § 1.

It is thus the duty of courts to administer justice consistent with the organic law created by the people. It is in the performance of this duty that we are of necessity called upon to interpret the meaning of the law enacted by the Legislature in order to insure...

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84 practice notes
  • State v. Allen, No. 25980.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 17, 1999
    ...rehabilitation. He contends that the law of this State provides him with a right to rehabilitation. Citing Syl. pt. 2, Cooper v. Gwinn, 171 W.Va. 245, 298 S.E.2d 781 (1981) ("Inmates incarcerated in West Virginia state prisons have a right to rehabilitation established by W. Va.Code §§......
  • Woodruff v. Board of Trustees of Cabell Huntington Hosp., No. 16313
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 11, 1984
    ...if such other remedy is not equally as beneficial, convenient, and effective, mandamus will lie." Syl. pt. 4, Cooper v. Gwinn, 298 S.E.2d 781 (W.Va.1981); United Mine Workers of America v. Miller, 291 S.E.2d 673, 677 (W.Va.1982). Because of the importance of the constitutional issues r......
  • State ex rel. Blankenship v. Richardson, No. 23119
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 17, 1996
    ...to do the thing the petitioner seeks to compel; (3) the absence of another adequate remedy at law.' Syllabus Point 3, Cooper v. Gwinn, 171 W.Va. 245, 298 S.E.2d 781 (1981)." Syl. pt. 1, Meadows v. Lewis, 172 W.Va. 457, 307 S.E.2d 625 3. " ' " 'Where economic rights are concer......
  • State ex rel. ACF Industries v. Vieweg, No. 25142.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • February 5, 1999
    ...exists, if such other remedy is not equally as beneficial, convenient, and effective, mandamus will lie.' Syl. pt. 4, Cooper v. Gwinn, 171 W.Va. 245, 298 S.E.2d 781 (1981)." Syl. pt. 2, Trumka v. Moore, 180 W.Va. 284, 376 S.E.2d 178 (1988). Accord Syl. pt. 2, State ex rel. Smoleski v. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
84 cases
  • State v. Allen, No. 25980.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 17, 1999
    ...rehabilitation. He contends that the law of this State provides him with a right to rehabilitation. Citing Syl. pt. 2, Cooper v. Gwinn, 171 W.Va. 245, 298 S.E.2d 781 (1981) ("Inmates incarcerated in West Virginia state prisons have a right to rehabilitation established by W. Va.Code §§ 62-1......
  • Woodruff v. Board of Trustees of Cabell Huntington Hosp., No. 16313
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 11, 1984
    ...exists, if such other remedy is not equally as beneficial, convenient, and effective, mandamus will lie." Syl. pt. 4, Cooper v. Gwinn, 298 S.E.2d 781 (W.Va.1981); United Mine Workers of America v. Miller, 291 S.E.2d 673, 677 (W.Va.1982). Because of the importance of the constitutional issue......
  • State ex rel. Blankenship v. Richardson, No. 23119
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 17, 1996
    ...to do the thing the petitioner seeks to compel; (3) the absence of another adequate remedy at law.' Syllabus Point 3, Cooper v. Gwinn, 171 W.Va. 245, 298 S.E.2d 781 (1981)." Syl. pt. 1, Meadows v. Lewis, 172 W.Va. 457, 307 S.E.2d 625 3. " ' " 'Where economic rights are concerned, we look to......
  • State ex rel. ACF Industries v. Vieweg, No. 25142.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • February 5, 1999
    ...exists, if such other remedy is not equally as beneficial, convenient, and effective, mandamus will lie.' Syl. pt. 4, Cooper v. Gwinn, 171 W.Va. 245, 298 S.E.2d 781 (1981)." Syl. pt. 2, Trumka v. Moore, 180 W.Va. 284, 376 S.E.2d 178 (1988). Accord Syl. pt. 2, State ex rel. Smoleski v. Count......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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