State ex rel. Anstey v. Davis, No. 25155-25158.

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtMAYNARD, Justice
Citation203 W.Va. 538,509 S.E.2d 579
PartiesSTATE of West Virginia ex rel. Samuel ANSTEY, Petitioner, v. William K. DAVIS, Commissioner, Division of Corrections, and George Trent, Warden, Mt. Olive Correctional Center, Respondents. State of West Virginia ex rel. Gary W. Sheppard and Dwaine C. King, Petitioners, v. William K. Davis, Commissioner, Division of Corrections, and George Trent, Warden, Mt. Olive Correctional Center, Respondents. State of West Virginia ex rel. Larry E. James, Jr., Petitioner, v. William K. Davis, Commissioner, Division of Corrections, and George Trent, Warden, Mt. Olive Correctional Center, Respondents. Charles Plantz, Appellant, v. George Trent, Warden, Mt. Olive Correctional Center, Appellee.
Docket Number No. 25155-25158.
Decision Date20 November 1998

509 S.E.2d 579
203 W.Va.
538

STATE of West Virginia ex rel. Samuel ANSTEY, Petitioner,
v.
William K. DAVIS, Commissioner, Division of Corrections, and George Trent, Warden, Mt. Olive Correctional Center, Respondents.
State of West Virginia ex rel. Gary W. Sheppard and Dwaine C. King, Petitioners,
v.
William K. Davis, Commissioner, Division of Corrections, and George Trent, Warden, Mt. Olive Correctional Center, Respondents.
State of West Virginia ex rel. Larry E. James, Jr., Petitioner,
v.
William K. Davis, Commissioner, Division of Corrections, and George Trent, Warden, Mt. Olive Correctional Center, Respondents.
Charles Plantz, Appellant,
v.
George Trent, Warden, Mt. Olive Correctional Center, Appellee

Nos. 25155-25158.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Submitted September 8, 1998.

Decided November 20, 1998.

Concurring Opinion of Chief Justice Davis December 14, 1998.


509 S.E.2d 582
Stephen Warner, Esq., Assistant Public Defender, Charleston, West Virginia, Attorney for the Petitioners and Appellant

Darrell V. McGraw, Jr., Esq., Attorney General, Charles Houdyschell, Jr., Esq., Assistant Attorney General, Charleston, West Virginia, Attorneys for the Respondents and Appellee.

MAYNARD, Justice:

These consolidated proceedings involve five inmates of the Mount Olive Correctional Center who complain that the respondents and appellees, William K. Davis, Commissioner of the Division of Corrections, and George Trent, Warden of the Mount Olive Correctional Center, have deprived them of their personal computers without procedural due process of law and in retaliation for litigation against the Division of Corrections by "jailhouse lawyers." Four of the inmates, Samuel Anstey, Gary Shepherd, Dwaine King, and Larry James brought original jurisdiction petitions in this Court. The fifth inmate, Charles Plantz, appeals a dismissal of his petition for writ of mandamus in the Circuit Court of Fayette County. These cases were consolidated for argument and opinion. After a careful review of the issues

509 S.E.2d 583
raised and the documents filed in these actions, we deny the inmates the relief which they seek

I.

FACTS1

For over a decade, state inmates were permitted to purchase and use personal computers in their prison cells subject to certain limitations.2 Early in 1996, prison officials at the Mount Olive Correctional Center ("Mount Olive") confiscated eleven personal computers after discovering that some inmates were using the computers to write letters to various companies containing threats of lawsuits. In addition, some inmates were charging fellow inmates for legal work done on the computers. Among the computers confiscated were those belonging to Kenneth Blevins, described as a jailhouse lawyer, and the appellant in the present case, Charles Plantz. The majority of inmates who possessed computers in their cells were allowed to keep them at that time.

Subsequently, Kenneth Blevins and other inmates instituted litigation in federal court challenging the confiscation of their computers. Apparently, this litigation resulted in settlement agreements between prison officials and inmates in which the computers of Kenneth Blevins and Charles Plantz were returned to them.3 In their brief to this Court, the relators and the appellant (hereafter "inmates")allege that during the settlement process in the federal litigation, respondent and appellee, Mount Olive Warden George Trent,4 threatened to remove all personal computers from Mount Olive if the lawsuit was continued.5

On August 23, 1996, Warden Trent issued a directive to the inmates at Mount Olive stating, in part, that computers and related items would be "grandfathered." That is, inmates owning computers as of the date of the directive, and who met several criteria, were permitted to retain possession of their computers. However, no new computers would be permitted in the cells of inmates at Mount Olive after this date.

On August 18, 1997, respondent and appellant herein, William Davis, Commissioner of the Division of Corrections, issued policy directive 639.01 which states that inmates would no longer be permitted to possess personal computers or any related components. Inmates were to be given thirty days to make arrangements for sending their computers out of the facility, at the end of which the institution would be responsible for sending any remaining computers out of the facility. Each correctional facility was to determine the beginning date of this thirty day period. On September 8, 1997, Commissioner Davis issued policy directive 653.00, the purpose of which is to set minimum standards for the establishment and operation of law library materials and related support equipment in adult correctional facilities.

On November 10, 1997, Warden Trent issued a memorandum stating that as of December 1, 1997, personal computers and any related components would be considered

509 S.E.2d 584
"contraband."6 Consequently, the relators sought relief by filing pro se habeas or mandamus petitions with this Court. The appellant appealed pro se from the denial of a mandamus petition in the Fayette County Circuit Court

By Order of May 20, 1997, this Court issued a rule to show cause why the relief requested in the petitions should not be granted against the respondents; granted the petition for appeal; consolidated the cases herein; and appointed legal counsel for the inmates.7

The inmates request that this Court remand their cases to the Circuit Court of Kanawha County to be consolidated with the case of Kenneth Ray Blevins v. George Trent, Warden, et al., for the taking of evidence and to develop the record concerning the issues raised in their brief to this Court.8

II.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

As noted above, these consolidated cases include original proceedings in both habeas corpus and mandamus and an appeal from the circuit court's denial of a mandamus petition. "Our standard of appellate review of a circuit court's decision to refuse to grant relief through an extraordinary writ of mandamus is de novo." State ex rel. Warner v. Jefferson County Com'n, 198 W.Va. 667, 671, 482 S.E.2d 652, 656 (1996). Further,

A writ of mandamus will not issue unless three elements coexist—(1) a clear legal right in the petitioner to the relief sought; (2) a legal duty on the part of respondent to do the thing which the petitioner seeks to compel; and (3) the absence of another adequate remedy.

Syllabus Point 2, State ex rel. Kucera v. City of Wheeling, 153 W.Va. 538, 170 S.E.2d 367 (1969).

III.

DISCUSSION

A.

Preliminary Considerations

Concerning the appropriateness of an original proceeding in habeas corpus to challenge the policy at issue, we note that "[h]abeas corpus lies to test the legality of

509 S.E.2d 585
the restraint under which a person is detained." Tasker v. Griffith, 160 W.Va. 739, 742, 238 S.E.2d 229, 231 (1977). We have distinguished between two types of restraint. See Tasker. The traditional use of habeas corpus, not involved here, is to challenge the restraint imposed on the petitioner by testing the constitutionality of his underlying conviction. The second is the restraint imposed on the petitioner because of his incarceration and is not related to the original conviction. This includes, for example, challenges to the constitutionality of prison discipline, conditions, and regulations. This Court has held that the scope of the writ of habeas corpus extends to cover challenges to this second type of restraint. See Tasker, supra (finding that the scope of the writ of habeas corpus extends to cover a challenge to the petitioner's restraint in administrative segregation because of his alleged infraction of prison rules and regulations). In fact, this Court has had ample occasion to grapple with the issue of prison conditions in recent decades. See, e.g., Crain v. Bordenkircher, 176 W.Va. 338, 342 S.E.2d 422 (1986); Hackl v. Dale, 171 W.Va. 415, 299 S.E.2d 26 (1982); Hickson v. Kellison, 170 W.Va. 732, 296 S.E.2d 855 (1982); Harrah v. Leverette, 165 W.Va. 665, 271 S.E.2d 322 (1980); Tasker, supra; and State ex rel. Pingley v. Coiner, 155 W.Va. 591, 186 S.E.2d 220 (1972).

When considering challenges to prison regulations, we are ever mindful of both the natural conditions which accompany incarceration for breaking society's laws and the contrasting roles of prison administrators and judges. Incarceration necessarily involves substantial limitations upon a prisoner's personal liberty. "Lawful imprisonment necessarily makes unavailable many rights and privileges of the ordinary citizen, a `retraction justified by the considerations underlying our penal system.'" Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 555, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 2974, 41 L.Ed.2d 935, 950 (1974) (citation omitted). The primary responsibility for ensuring the orderly and effective maintenance of our penal system rests with prison administrators. These administrators are the ones responsible for developing and implementing the policies and procedures which are designed to guarantee that the various goals of incarceration are realized. This Court has recognized that prison administrators have broad discretion in the management of correctional facilities. For example, this Court has stated that "[t]he maintenance of discipline in a jail is essential to the effective and proper operation of a penal system and is an executive function with which courts ordinarily will not interfere." Syllabus Point 2, Drake v. Airhart, 162 W.Va. 98, 245 S.E.2d 853 (1978). Also, "[p]rison officials are vested with wide discretion in disciplining prisoners committed to their custody[.]" Syllabus Point 3, in part, Id.

On the other hand, "a prisoner is not wholly stripped of constitutional protections when he is imprisoned for crime." Wolff, 418 U.S. at 555, 94 S.Ct. at 2974, 41 L.Ed.2d at 950. For example, we have stated that "[c]ertain conditions of jail confinement may be so lacking in the area of adequate food,...

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27 practice notes
  • Trimble v. West Virginia Bd. of Directors, No. 28490.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • April 6, 2001
    ...of events without any evidence to support the claim. 10. This Court recently held in Syllabus point 6 of State ex rel. Anstey v. Davis, 203 W.Va. 538, 509 S.E.2d 579 (1998), that: To have a property interest, an individual must demonstrate more than an abstract need or desire for it. He mus......
  • Morris v. Painter, No. 29758.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 3, 2002
    ...that we "will disturb the actions of prison administrators that infringe basic constitutional rights." State ex rel. Anstey v. Davis, 203 W.Va. 538, 545, 509 S.E.2d 579, 585 Based upon the foregoing constitutional concerns, I conclude that a prison inmate may seek habeas corpus relief in ci......
  • Stonerise Healthcare, LLC v. Oates, No. 19-0215
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 16, 2020
    ...a reasonable expectationPage 20 of entitlement deriving from the independent source." Syllabus Point 6, State ex rel. Anstey v. Davis, 203 W.Va. 538, 509 S.E.2d 579 (1998).Collins v. City of Bridgeport, 206 W. Va. 467, 470, 525 S.E.2d 658, 661 (1999) (emphasis added); see also Goldstein v. ......
  • Cerniglia v. Price, Case No. 1:17-cv-00753-AWI-JLT (PC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • October 27, 2017
    ...for us to rule that there is a constitutional right to typewriters of a specific memory capacity."); State ex rel. Anstey v. Davis, 203 W.Va. 538, 545, 509 S.E.2d 579 (1998) ("We are persuaded by the uniformity of opinion on this issue and therefore hold that prison inmates have no constitu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
27 cases
  • Trimble v. West Virginia Bd. of Directors, No. 28490.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • April 6, 2001
    ...of events without any evidence to support the claim. 10. This Court recently held in Syllabus point 6 of State ex rel. Anstey v. Davis, 203 W.Va. 538, 509 S.E.2d 579 (1998), that: To have a property interest, an individual must demonstrate more than an abstract need or desire for it. He mus......
  • Morris v. Painter, No. 29758.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 3, 2002
    ...that we "will disturb the actions of prison administrators that infringe basic constitutional rights." State ex rel. Anstey v. Davis, 203 W.Va. 538, 545, 509 S.E.2d 579, 585 Based upon the foregoing constitutional concerns, I conclude that a prison inmate may seek habeas corpus relief in ci......
  • Stonerise Healthcare, LLC v. Oates, No. 19-0215
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 16, 2020
    ...a reasonable expectationPage 20 of entitlement deriving from the independent source." Syllabus Point 6, State ex rel. Anstey v. Davis, 203 W.Va. 538, 509 S.E.2d 579 (1998).Collins v. City of Bridgeport, 206 W. Va. 467, 470, 525 S.E.2d 658, 661 (1999) (emphasis added); see also Goldstein v. ......
  • Cerniglia v. Price, Case No. 1:17-cv-00753-AWI-JLT (PC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • October 27, 2017
    ...for us to rule that there is a constitutional right to typewriters of a specific memory capacity."); State ex rel. Anstey v. Davis, 203 W.Va. 538, 545, 509 S.E.2d 579 (1998) ("We are persuaded by the uniformity of opinion on this issue and therefore hold that prison inmates have no constitu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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