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McKinnon v. Patterson

decided: September 15, 1977.

KHALIEB MCKINNON, LAURENCE MINCY AND DAVID WHEELER, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES AND CROSS-APPELLANTS,
v.
J. W. PATTERSON, JOSEPH W. PERRIN, AND ROBERT E. MCCLAY, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS FORMER OFFICIALS OF EASTERN CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; AND BENJAMIN WARD AND PETER PREISER, AS PRESENT AND FORMER COMMISSIONERS OF CORRECTIONS OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS AND CROSS-APPELLEES



Cross-appeals by state prisoners and state prison officials from judgment entered in civil rights action in the Southern District of New York, Charles E. Stewart, District Judge, Lumbard and Timbers, Circuit Judges, and Oscar H. Davis,*fn* Court of Claims Judge.

Author: Timbers

TIMBERS, Circuit Judge.

These are cross-appeals by state prisoners and state prison officials from a judgment entered October 12, 1976 in the Southern District of New York, Charles E. Stewart, District Judge, 425 F. Supp. 383, which granted declaratory relief with respect to certain constitutional infirmities the court found in prison disciplinary proceedings but denied monetary relief.

One of the essential questions presented is whether and to what extent the rule of Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 41 L. Ed. 2d 935, 94 S. Ct. 2963 (1974), requiring 24-hour advance written notice of charges in certain prison disciplinary proceedings, applies to proceedings in which the sanction for misbehavior may be "keeplock" of not more than two weeks. We affirm the judgment as modified.

I. FACTS AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

The events that gave rise to this action began on June 5, 1973 in the laundry room of Eastern Correctional Facility at Napanoch, New York. Eastern is a medium security prison. The three prisoners named as plaintiffs were assigned to work in the laundry room. On June 5 a dispute took place between prisoners in the laundry room and certain corrections officials. Just what caused the dispute remains unclear: the prisoners contend that the officials would not let them do "personal" laundry, while the officials say the prisoners were violating prison rules by attempting to do "contract" laundry, or laundry for other inmates for a profit. For our purposes the underlying cause of the dispute is irrelevant. The relevant thing was the result. The prisoners in the laundry room refused to work; and after lunch that day they were confined to their cells ("keeplocked").

By the following day some of the prisoners had been interviewed by prison personnel and released from keeplock. Their misbehavior reports were withdrawn. Other prisoners, including plaintiffs, were kept in keeplock and their misbehavior reports were sent to the Adjustment Committee. The Committee met and held hearings on June 7. The prisoners were informed of the charges against them at their individual hearings, but not before; and they were given an opportunity to respond. The Committee imposed on each prisoner, including plaintiffs, punishment of seven days keeplock. Although each prisoner was told he would be reinterviewed (or given a "review") after seven days, 7 N.Y. Code of Rules and Regulations § 252.5(f) (1973), none of the plaintiffs was given a second interview. They were kept in keeplock for two weeks.

In keeplock plaintiffs were confined to their own cells 23 to 24 hours a day. They were denied contact with other inmates and could not participate in the normal routine of the institution, were not allowed to work at their jobs or earn wages, and had limited access to showers and physical activity.

The Program Committee, which is responsible for inmate assignments, met on June 8 and recommended that plaintiffs be transferred out of Eastern. After the recommendations were approved by defendant Patterson, then Superintendent of Eastern, the transfers were approved by defendant Preiser, then Commissioner of Corrections. At the end of June, each of the plaintiffs was transferred to a different maximum security institution. Defendant McClay, then Deputy Superintendent of Eastern, testified that the Program Committee's recommendations "could have" been based on the Adjustment Committee's determinations the day before.

In their action commenced September 19, 1973, plaintiffs claimed that they had been deprived of their constitutional rights guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1970). The parties agree that of the five claims asserted only the first is relevant to the instant appeals. In that claim plaintiffs alleged that they had been punished, by confinement in keeplock and then by transfer to maximum security prisons, without adequate notice or hearings, in violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. They requested declaratory and injunctive relief, expungement from their records of any mention of the laundry incident, and monetary damages from all defendants except defendant Ward who became Commissioner after the events in question.

Following a three day trial in May 1976 the district court filed its opinion which ordered dismissal of all of plaintiffs' claims except the one stated above, the first claim. Plaintiffs have not appealed with respect to the dismissed claims. As to the first claim the court held that plaintiffs had no right to a hearing before being transferred to other facilities, citing the Supreme Court's recent decisions in Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 49 L. Ed. 2d 451, 96 S. Ct. 2532 (1976), and Montanye v. Haymes, 427 U.S. 236, 49 L. Ed. 2d 466, 96 S. Ct. 2543 (1976); but it held that the hearings given plaintiffs were constitutionally inadequate because the Adjustment Committee was not an impartial tribunal and because plaintiffs did not receive adequate notice of the charges against them.*fn1 The court rejected plaintiffs' contention that the Adjustment Committee had breached New York regulations by failing to reinterview plaintiffs after seven days in keeplock. Accordingly, the court ordered that

"in future adjustment committee proceedings involving keeplock, 1) formal written notification of the charges must be given to the inmate at least 24 hours before the hearing and 2) no one with direct, personal involvement in the incident upon which the complaint against the inmate is based may sit on that case." 425 F. Supp. at 393.

The court refused to award damages or to order that references to the laundry room incident be expunged from plaintiffs' records.

Plaintiffs appeal from so much of the judgment as denied their requests for monetary relief and expungement. Defendants appeal from so much of the judgment as requires them to give 24 hours advance written notice of charges before keeplock may be imposed and from the grant of relief to anyone other than the three named plaintiffs, insofar as the court's decision may be read to provide such relief.

II. DISCUSSION

(A) PLAINTIFFS' ...


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