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Wilkinson v. Dotson

Supreme Court of the United States

December 6, 2004, Argued ; March 7, 2005, Decided

No. 03-287

Opinion

 [*76]   [**1244]  Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court.

LEdHN[1A][] [1A] Two state prisoners brought an action under 42 USC § 1983 [42 USCS § 1983] claiming that Ohio's state parole procedures violate the Federal Constitution. The prisoners seek declaratory and injunctive relief. The question before us is whether they [**1245]  may bring such an action under Rev Stat § 1979, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [42 USCS § 1983], the Civil Rights Act of 1871, or whether they must instead seek relief exclusively under the federal habeas corpus statutes. We conclude that these actions may be brought under § 1983.

The two respondents, William Dotson and Rogerico Johnson, are currently serving lengthy terms in Ohio prisons. Dotson began to serve a life sentence in 1981. The parole board rejected his [****6]  first parole request in 1995; and a parole officer, after reviewing Dotson's records in the year 2000, determined that he should not receive further consideration for parole for at least five more years. In reaching this conclusion about Dotson's parole eligibility, the officer used parole guidelines first adopted in 1998, after Dotson  [*77]  began to serve his term. Dotson claims that the retroactive application of these new, harsher guidelines to his preguidelines case violates the Constitution's Ex Post Facto and Due Process Clauses. He seeks a federal-court declaration to that effect as well as a permanent injunction ordering prison officials to grant him an "immediate parole hearing in accordance with the statutory laws and administrative rules in place when [he] committed his crimes." App. 20 (Dotson Complaint, Prospective Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, P 3).

Johnson began to serve a 10- to 30-year prison term in 1992. The parole board considered and rejected his first parole request in 1999, finding him unsuitable for release. In making this determination, the board applied the new 1998 guidelines. Johnson too claims that the application of these new, harsher guidelines [****7]  to his preguidelines case violated the Constitution's Ex Post Facto Clause. He also alleges that the parole board's proceedings (by having too few members present and by denying him an adequate opportunity to speak) violated the Constitution's Due Process Clause. Johnson's complaint seeks a new parole hearing conducted under constitutionally proper procedures and an injunction ordering the State to comply with constitutional due process and ex post facto requirements in the future.

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544 U.S. 74 *; 125 S. Ct. 1242 **; 161 L. Ed. 2d 253 ***; 2005 U.S. LEXIS 2204 ****; 73 U.S.L.W. 4204; 18 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 164

REGINALD A. WILKINSON, DIRECTOR, OHIO DEPARTMENT OF REHABILITATION AND CORRECTION, et al., Petitioners v. WILLIAM DWIGHT DOTSON, et al.

Subsequent History: Remanded by Dotson v. Wilkinson, 448 F.3d 936, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 12995 (6th Cir.) (6th Cir., 2006)

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT.

Dotson v. Wilkinson, 329 F.3d 463, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 9555 (6th Cir.) (6th Cir. Ohio, 2003)

Disposition: Affirmed and remanded.

parole, confinement, sentence, challenges, invalidity, proceedings, duration, custody, habeas corpus, prison, respondents', credits, cases, injunction, good-time, damages, courts, state prisoner, habeas relief, exhaust, disciplinary, remedies, incarceration, federal habeas corpus, immediate release, parole hearing, per curiam, unavailable, cognizable, ordering

Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Prisoner Rights, Confinement Conditions, Criminal Law & Procedure, Jurisdiction, Cognizable Issues, General Overview, Section 1983 Actions, Scope, Postconviction Proceedings, Parole, Discipline, Imprisonment, Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Reviewability, Exhaustion of Remedies, Civil Procedure, Justiciability, Exhaustion of Remedies, Administrative Remedies, Prison Litigation Reform Act, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies