WA Supreme Court: No Prima Facia Discipline Requirement for Prisoners Seeking Review

by

PRP of Grantham

Grantham was disciplined for sneaking in no no substances. At issue was whether he could get a PRP review based on the fact that he had had no other review in courts (only a hearing). In other words, did Grantham have to make a prima facie case? The Court explains the nuance in the issue better than I ever could:

In his initial ruling, Washington State Supreme Court Commissioner Steven M. Goff noted that the Court of Appeals relied on the actual and substantial prejudice standard, that the standard “does not apply where the petitioner has had no previous opportunity for judicial review,” and directed the department to file supplemental briefing “in light of the proper standard of review.” Ruling at 2-3. The department filed a vigorous brief arguing its disagreement with the commissioner on the proper standard and contending that, notwithstanding our opinion in In re Personal Restraint of Isadore, 151 Wn.2d 294, 299, 88 P.3d 390 (2004), prisoners facing discipline are still required to meet the Lord1 prima facie standard when challenging disciplinary decisions. We accepted review.  In re Pers. Restraint of Grantham, noted at 166 Wn.2d 1006, 211 P.3d 1029 (2009).

Held: If you have had no review of your claim, then a PRP need not make a prima facie case. Here, Graham was , and directly sought a PRP. However, it was also held that there was no prejudice to Graham in the disciplinary action:

A prisoner is only entitled to minimum due process protections, which include notice, an opportunity to provide evidence and call witnesses “when not unduly hazardous to institutional safety and correctional goals,” and to receive a written statement of the evidence relied upon and the reasons for the discipline.

While we agree with Grantham that prisoners challenging prison discipline need not make a prima facie case of constitutional error and actual and substantial prejudice or nonconstitutional error and total miscarriage of justice, that simply means that we more easily reach the substantive question.  However, when applying the well established substantive law, the prison’s disciplinary decision was not so arbitrary and capricious as to deny a fundamentally fair proceeding.  Grantham was informed of the charges against him and given an opportunity to defend himself. He has not shown that he was denied a fundamentally fair proceeding or that he was prejudiced by the process he received.

On a side note, this opinion offers a great review of the evolution of the Personal Restraint Petition, and its development from the Writ of Habeas Corpus.

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