MacPheat v. Mahoney, No. 00-006.

Docket NºNo. 00-006.
Citation997 P.2d 753, 2000 MT 62
Case DateMarch 09, 2000
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana

997 P.2d 753
2000 MT 62

William R. MacPHEAT, Petitioner,
v.
Mike MAHONEY, Warden, Montana State Prison, Respondent

No. 00-006.

Supreme Court of Montana.

March 9, 2000.

Amending Order on Denial of Rehearing March 30, 2000.


997 P.2d 754
OPINION AND ORDER

¶ 1 William R. MacPheat (MacPheat), pro se, an inmate at the Montana State Prison (MSP), has petitioned this Court for a writ of habeas corpus. We conclude that MacPheat's petition is meritorious as to one claim, and we remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion and order.

Background

¶ 2 From the limited record before us, the following appears to be the procedural background of this matter. In October 1995, MacPheat was charged by Amended Information with felony arson, misdemeanor assault and attempted assault, and misdemeanor criminal mischief in the Eleventh Judicial District Court, Flathead County. Pursuant to § 46-18-201(1)(e), MCA (1993), and his plea of guilty to arson under a plea agreement, MacPheat was sentenced to the Department of Corrections (DOC) for ten years with two years suspended. The sentencing judge recommended MacPheat for the Intensive Supervision Program (ISP). She imposed conditions with which MacPheat would be required to comply if admitted to probation or parole, and she ordered him to receive credit for 331 days of pre-sentence incarceration. MacPheat was placed in the ISP in Kalispell, Montana on December 1, 1995.

¶ 3 Approximately two months later, on January 24, 1996, the State filed another Information in which MacPheat was charged with felony deceptive practices. MacPheat pleaded guilty under a plea agreement and was sentenced to DOC for three years to run consecutive with the arson sentence. MacPheat was returned to the MSP on May 8, 1996.

¶ 4 MacPheat challenges the legality of his continued incarceration. He contends that he discharged his sentence on January 5, 2000. He argues that this Court should grant his petition because (1) he is being denied equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution as he did not receive good-time credit while he awaited sentencing in the county jail; and because (2) § 46-23-201(6),

997 P.2d 755
MCA (1993)1, mandates he appear before the Parole Board for a parole hearing as to his first sentence no later than February 18, 1996. We address only MacPheat's first claim as this is dispositive of his petition

Discussion

¶ 5 Habeas corpus relief is available to one illegally imprisoned or otherwise restrained of his liberty. Section 46-22-101, MCA. MacPheat contends that, had he received all of the good-time credit to which he was entitled, he would have discharged his sentence on January 5, 2000. Accordingly, he maintains that he is presently being imprisoned in violation of the law. If, in fact, MacPheat has discharged his sentence but is still imprisoned, then habeas corpus relief is available as he is being unlawfully imprisoned and restrained of his liberty.

¶ 6 Under § 53-30-105(1), MCA (1995)2 the DOC may:

[G]rant a good time allowance to inmates housed at an adult correctional facility or a supervised release program facility. The good time allowance may operate as a credit on the inmate's sentence as imposed by the court, conditioned upon the inmate's good behavior and compliance with the rules adopted by the department. The department may not grant good time allowance to exceed 1 day for each day served at an adult correctional facility or a supervised release program facility.

Under this statute, the DOC may take away all or part of an inmate's good time for attempted escape and for violations of DOC rules. Section 53-30-105(2), MCA. Persons may earn (and lose) good time while on parole, but may not earn good time while serving probation. Section 53-30-105(3), MCA. Under § 53-30-105(4), MCA, the DOC may restore all or part of previously forfeited good time for subsequent good behavior. And, under § 53-30-105(5), MCA, the DOC may grant some additional good-time credit to advance an inmate's parole eligibility in the event the MSP population exceeds the design capacity of the institution.

¶ 7 As the State correctly points out, however, there is no provision in § 53-30-105, MCA which permits the DOC to award good time to individuals who are incarcerated in a county detention center.

¶ 8 Notwithstanding this seeming statutory restriction, MacPheat argues that he is entitled to good-time credit for the time that he was incarcerated in the county jail.3 For his position, he relies on MacFarlane v. Walter (9th Cir.1999), 179 F.3d 1131. Before discussing this case, though, some further legal background is necessary.

¶ 9 In 1973, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in McGinnis v. Royster (1973), 410 U.S. 263, 93 S.Ct. 1055, 35 L.Ed.2d 282. The McGinnis Court upheld the constitutionality of a New York sentencing scheme against an equal protection challenge. McGinnis, 410 U.S. at 277, 93 S.Ct. at 1063. The New York sentencing statute at issue denied certain state prisoners good-time credit toward parole eligibility for the period of their pre-sentence county jail incarceration, whereas those released on bail prior to sentence received under the statute full allowance for good-time credit for the entire period of their prison confinement. McGinnis, 410 U.S. at 263, 93 S.Ct. at 1056. The Court held that the New York scheme for good-time credit took into account a prisoner's performance under the program of rehabilitation that is fostered under the state prison system, but not in the county jails, which served primarily as detention centers. The Court recognized that the New York statutory scheme may have caused indigent defendants who could not make bail to serve

997 P.2d 756
longer actual jail time than those defendants who were able to make bail. McGinnis, 410 U.S. at 263, 93 S.Ct. at 1058. However, the Court also reasoned that since county jails have no significant rehabilitation programs, a rational basis exists for declining to give good-time credit for the pre-trial jail-detention period. McGinnis, 410 U.S. at 271, 93 S.Ct. at 1060

¶ 10 McGinnis would, thus, seem to provide the legal basis for rejecting MacPheat's similar equal protection claim. Specifically, under § 53-30-105, MCA, good-time credit is awarded as an incentive for good behavior and to foster rehabilitation through compliance with rules and participation in programs at the MSP. Similarly, good-time credit is forfeited for bad behavior and violation of the prison rules. For purposes of this matter, we assume that the Flathead County detention facility does not have significant rehabilitation programs. At least, if the contrary is true, that has not been affirmatively argued by the State. Therefore, under the McGinnis decision, a rational basis would appear to exist for denying MacPheat good-time credit for his pre-trial detainment in the Flathead County detention facility.

¶ 11 In 1983, however, the U.S. Supreme Court applied the due process "fundamentally unfair or arbitrary" test to hold that a probationer's probation could not be revoked simply because he was unable to pay a fine. Bearden v. Georgia (1983) 461 U.S. 660, 672, 103 S.Ct. 2064, 2073, 76 L.Ed.2d 221. Bearden did not involve an issue of good-time credit being denied to those persons who remained incarcerated in county detention facilities because they were unable to bail out pre-sentence. In fact, nowhere in Bearden did the Court even refer to McGinnis much less overrule the holding in that case.

¶ 12 Rather, noting its long history of sensitivity to the treatment of indigents in the criminal justice system and grounding its decision in the convergence of due process and equal protection principles, Bearden, 461 U.S. at 664-65, 103 S.Ct. at 2068, the Court focused on the effect that indigency often plays in probation revocations. Bearden, 461 U.S. at 666, 103 S.Ct. at 2069. The Court stated that, absent the probationer willfully refusing to pay a fine or restitution when he has the means to pay or failing to make a bona fide effort to seek employment or borrow the money and having made all reasonable efforts to pay "it is fundamentally unfair to revoke probation automatically without considering whether adequate alternative methods of punishing the defendant are available." Bearden, 461 U.S. at 668-69, 103 S.Ct. at 2070-71. "Only if alternate measures are not adequate to meet the State's interests in punishment and deterrence may the court imprison a probationer who has made sufficient bona fide efforts to pay." Bearden, 461 U.S. at 672, 103 S.Ct. at 2073. To deprive a probationer of his conditional freedom simply because, through no fault of his own, he was unable to pay a fine or restitution "would be contrary to the fundamental fairness required by the Fourteenth Amendment." Bearden, 461 U.S. at 672-73, 103 S.Ct. at 2073.

¶ 13 In two decisions handed down after Bearden, both involving the same issue raised in McGinnis, the circuit courts of appeal applied McGinnis in reviewing state habeas proceedings to uphold the state sentencing schemes at issue against the same sort of equal protection challenge that MacPheat raises in the case at bar. See Lemieux v. Kerby (10th Cir.1991) 931 F.2d 1391; Chestnut v. Magnusson (1st Cir.1991) 942 F.2d 820. Indeed, Lemieux specifically rejected an argument that Bearden overruled McGinnis. Lemieux, 931 F.2d at 1393 n. 4. See also State v. Aqui (1986), 104 N.M. 345, 721 P.2d 771, 775, cert. denied, (1986), 479 U.S. 917, 107 S.Ct. 321, 93 L.Ed.2d 294, accord.

¶ 14 That, in turn, brings us back to the Ninth Circuit's 1999 decision in MacFarlane. In MacFarlane the state habeas petitioners alleged...

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8 practice notes
  • McDermott v. MONTANA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, No. 01-074.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • July 31, 2001
    ...for inmates. Orozco v. Day (1997), 281 Mont. 341, 354, 934 P.2d 1009, 1016, and indigent presentence detainees. MacPheat v. Mahoney, 2000 MT 62, 299 Mont. 46, 997 P.2d 753. However, this Court has not addressed the question of whether, or under what circumstances, § 53-30-105, MCA (1993), c......
  • Campbell v. Mahoney, No. 01-247.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • August 7, 2001
    ...for their custody. The only check on that indifference is the judiciary. Sometimes the system works. (See e.g., MacPheat v. Mahoney, 2000 MT 62, 299 Mont. 46, 997 P.2d 753.) Sometimes it does not. (See e.g., Sebastian v. Mahoney, 2001 MT 88, 305 Mont. 158, 25 P.3d 163.) That's too bad. When......
  • State v. Johnson, DA 16-0657
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • November 20, 2018
    ...he lacks the financial resources to buy his liberty would be contrary to the fundamental fairness required by the Fourteenth Amendment. 2000 MT 62, ¶ 21, 299 Mont. 46, 997 P.2d 753. The parties do not cite a case where revocation of a sentence for failure to pay restitution was a violation ......
  • Eisenman v. State, No. 00-204.
    • United States
    • July 6, 2000
    ...supervisory control and motion to proceed in forma pauperis. Eisenman grounds his application in our recent decision, MacPheat v. Mahoney, 2000 MT 62, 997 P.2d 753, 57 St.Rep.291, and requests that we remand this case to the District Court for fact-finding as we did in ¶ 2 The State respond......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • McDermott v. MONTANA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, No. 01-074.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • July 31, 2001
    ...for inmates. Orozco v. Day (1997), 281 Mont. 341, 354, 934 P.2d 1009, 1016, and indigent presentence detainees. MacPheat v. Mahoney, 2000 MT 62, 299 Mont. 46, 997 P.2d 753. However, this Court has not addressed the question of whether, or under what circumstances, § 53-30-105, MCA (1993), c......
  • Campbell v. Mahoney, No. 01-247.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • August 7, 2001
    ...for their custody. The only check on that indifference is the judiciary. Sometimes the system works. (See e.g., MacPheat v. Mahoney, 2000 MT 62, 299 Mont. 46, 997 P.2d 753.) Sometimes it does not. (See e.g., Sebastian v. Mahoney, 2001 MT 88, 305 Mont. 158, 25 P.3d 163.) That's too bad. When......
  • State v. Johnson, DA 16-0657
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • November 20, 2018
    ...he lacks the financial resources to buy his liberty would be contrary to the fundamental fairness required by the Fourteenth Amendment. 2000 MT 62, ¶ 21, 299 Mont. 46, 997 P.2d 753. The parties do not cite a case where revocation of a sentence for failure to pay restitution was a violation ......
  • Eisenman v. State, No. 00-204.
    • United States
    • July 6, 2000
    ...supervisory control and motion to proceed in forma pauperis. Eisenman grounds his application in our recent decision, MacPheat v. Mahoney, 2000 MT 62, 997 P.2d 753, 57 St.Rep.291, and requests that we remand this case to the District Court for fact-finding as we did in ¶ 2 The State respond......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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