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Wolff v. McDonnell

Supreme Court of the United States

April 22, 1974, Argued ; June 26, 1974, Decided

No. 73-679

Opinion

 [*542]  [***943]  [**2968]    MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

 We granted the petition for writ of certiorari in this case, 414 U.S. 1156 (1974), because it raises important questions concerning the administration of a state prison.

 Respondent, on behalf of himself and other inmates of the Nebraska Penal and Correctional Complex, Lincoln, Nebraska, filed a complaint under 42 U. S. C. § 1983 2 challenging several of the practices, rules, and regulations of the Complex. For present purposes, the pertinent  [*543]  allegations were that disciplinary proceedings did not comply with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution; that the inmate legal assistance program did not meet constitutional standards, and that the regulations governing the inspection of mail [****8]  to and from attorneys for inmates were unconstitutionally restrictive. Respondent requested damages and injunctive relief.

After an evidentiary hearing, the District Court granted partial relief. 342 F.Supp. 616 (Neb. 1972). Considering itself bound by prior Circuit authority, it rejected the procedural due process claim; but it went on to  [***944]  hold that the prison's policy of inspecting all incoming and outgoing mail to and from attorneys violated prisoners' rights of access to the courts and that the restrictions placed on inmate legal assistance were not constitutionally defective. 3

 [****9]   [*544]  The Court of Appeals reversed, 483 F.2d 1059 (CA8 1973), with respect to  [**2969]  the due process claim, holding that the procedural requirements outlined by this Court in Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471 (1972), and Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 411 U.S. 778 (1973), decided after the District Court's opinion in this case, should be generally followed in prison disciplinary hearings but left the specific requirements, including the circumstances in which counsel might be required, to be determined by the District Court on remand. With respect to a remedy, the court further held that Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973), forbade the actual restoration of good-time credits in this § 1983 suit but ordered expunged from prison records any determinations of misconduct arrived at in proceedings that failed to comport with due process as defined by the court. The court generally affirmed the judgment of the District Court with respect to correspondence with attorneys, 4 but ordered further proceedings to determine whether the State was meeting its burden under Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483 (1969),  [****10]  to provide legal assistance to prison inmates, the court holding that the State's duty extended to civil rights cases as well as to habeas corpus proceedings. 5

We begin with the due process claim. An understanding of the issues involved requires a detailing of the prison disciplinary regime set down by Nebraska statutes and prison regulations.

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418 U.S. 539 *; 94 S. Ct. 2963 **; 41 L. Ed. 2d 935 ***; 1974 U.S. LEXIS 91 ****; 71 Ohio Op. 2d 336

WOLFF, WARDEN, ET AL. v. McDONNELL

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

Disposition:  483 F.2d 1059, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

CORE TERMS

inmate, prison, cross-examination, good time, misconduct, rights, mail, deprivation, parole, witnesses, disciplinary proceeding, disciplinary, confrontation, discipline, due process, confinement, cases, preparation, charges, prison official, proceedings, adverse witness, Corrections, parolee, constitutional right, circumstances, restoration, accusers, guards, inspection

Criminal Law & Procedure, Postconviction Proceedings, Imprisonment, Governments, Legislation, Statutory Remedies & Rights, Parole, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Prisoner Rights, Discipline, General Overview, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Access to Courts, Discrimination, Freedom of Religion, Fundamental Freedoms, Freedom of Religion, Substantive Due Process, Scope, Equal Protection, Nature & Scope of Protection, Civil Procedure, Sanctions, Scope of Protection, Sentencing, Credits, Cognizable Issues, Threshold Requirements, Due Process, Criminal Process, Assistance of Counsel, Counsel, Right to Counsel, Sentencing Alternatives, Probation, Revocation, Public Health & Welfare Law, Social Services, Legal Aid, Labor & Employment Law, Employee Privacy, Disclosure of Employee Information, Public Employees, Section 1983 Actions