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Law School Case Brief

Morrissey v. Brewer - 408 U.S. 471, 92 S. Ct. 2593 (1972)


The liberty of a parolee, although indeterminate, includes many of the core values of unqualified liberty and its termination inflicts a "grievous loss" on the parolee and often on others. The liberty is valuable and must be seen as within the protection of U.S. Const. amend. XIV. Its termination calls for some orderly process, however informal.


Petitioners Morrissey and Booher had been convicted of crimes based upon their guilty pleas. After serving some time, both were paroled from the Iowa State Penitentiary. Subsequently, based upon their respective parole officer's report, their paroles were revoked by the Iowa Board of Parole.  Both Morrisseey and Booher filed habeas corpus petitions in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, alleging that they were denied due process because their paroles were revoked without a hearing. The District Court denied the petitions on the ground that due process did not require a pre-revocation hearing, which the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari review.


In order to observe the due process of law, should parolees be granted a hearing prior to parole revocation?




The United States Supreme Court held that one's freedom was valuable and, therefore, its termination called for some orderly process. According to the Court, the minimum requirements of due process in revoking paroles include (a) written notice of the claimed parole violations; (b) disclosure to the parolee of evidence against him; (c) opportunity to be heard in person and to present witnesses and documentary evidence; (d) the right to confront and cross- examine adverse witnesses (unless the hearing officer specifically finds good cause for not allowing confrontation); (e) a neutral and detached hearing body such as a traditional parole board, members of which need not be judicial officers or lawyers; and (f) a written statement by the fact finders as to the evidence relied on and reasons for revoking parole. As such, the Court reversed the decision of the lower court denying the necessity for such a hearing and remanded both cases for further adjudication.

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