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Pease-Madore v. State, Department of Corrections

Supreme Court of Alaska

March 30, 2018

MATTHEW PEASE-MADORE, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Appellee.

          Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska Nos. 3AN-15-05561/ 05563/05564 CI, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Kevin M. Saxby, Judge.

          Jon Buchholdt, Buchholdt Law Offices, Anchorage, for Appellant.

          John K. Bodick, Assistant Attorney General, Anchorage, and Jahna Lindemuth, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee.

          Before: Stowers, Chief Justice, Maassen, Bolger, and Carney, Justices. [Winfree, Justice, not participating.]

          OPINION

          STOWERS, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         A prisoner brings three appeals of prison disciplinary proceedings for major infractions. The prisoner, representing himself, originally appealed to the superintendent and subsequently obtained counsel and appealed to the superior court.

         In Wolff v. McDonnell, the United States Supreme Court held that federal procedural due process requires "a 'written statement by the faultfinders as to the evidence relied on and reasons' for the disciplinary action."[1] In McGinnis v. Stevens, this court held that due process under the Alaska Constitution requires a "verbatim record of the [disciplinary] proceedings."[2] The superior court concluded that the incident reports and the audio recordings of the three disciplinary hearings satisfied due process, and denied the three appeals. The prisoner argues on appeal to us that the McGinnis verbatim record requirement is in addition to and not in place of the Wolff written statement requirement. He also argues that the written disciplinary decisions were inadequate and could not incorporate the incident reports or be supplemented by the verbatim records and that no showing of prejudice is required if the due process requirement set forth in Wolff is not met. We affirm the superior court's decisions.

         II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

         Matthew Pease-Madore filed nearly a dozen administrative appeals of prison disciplinary proceedings in the superior court; he filed three appeals from the superior court's decisions in this court. These three appeals have been consolidated and are the subject of this opinion. The first of the three appeals relates to a November 17, 2014 incident in which he reportedly told an officer, "I'm not going to be in jail forever and it is going to be very interesting when I meet certain people on the streets." Pease-Madore was charged with making "threats to another of future bodily harm" in violation of 22 Alaska Administrative Code (AAC) 05.400(d)(6) (2004).[3] At his December 3 disciplinary hearing regarding this incident, [4] he pleaded not guilty and testified that his statement "wasn't meant in a threatening way." The officer testified that he "perceived it as a threat" and that he "[stood] by his report as it was written." Pease-Madore was found guilty and a penalty of 20 days in punitive segregation was imposed. He appealed to the superintendent, who denied the appeal.

         The second appeal relates to a November 19, 2014 incident in which Pease-Madore reportedly yelled threats and taunts to other prisoners, including graphic descriptions of rape. The correctional officer's incident report noted that "[t]his behavior and yelling . . . had been going on all week" and Pease-Madore was charged with "[e]ngaging in a group or individual demonstration or activity that involves throwing of objects, loud yelling, loud verbal confrontation or pushing, shoving, or other physical contact that interferes with the orderly administration of the facility" in violation of 22 AAC 05.400(c)(15).[5] At his December 3 disciplinary hearing regarding this second incident, Pease-Madore pleaded not guilty and argued that he was guilty of violating subsection (d)(6), a lower-level infraction involving threats of future harm, rather than (c)(15). He also argued that it would not have been possible for the correctional officer to tell that he was the one creating the disturbance, but the officer testified that she recognized his voice and that she and others saw and heard him. Pease-Madore was found guilty and penalties of 40 days in punitive segregation and the loss of 180 days of good time were imposed. He appealed to the superintendent, who granted partial relief, concurring with the guilty finding and retaining the loss of 180 days of good time but reducing the punitive segregation from 40 to 20 days.

         The third appeal relates to a November 20, 2014 incident in which Pease-Madore reportedly told an officer, "You know what's funny? You guys won't even know you are being victimized until it's too late." Pease-Madore was again charged with making threats to another of future bodily harm in violation of 22 AAC 05.400(d)(6). At his December 3 disciplinary hearing regarding this third incident, he pleaded not guilty and argued that his statement was not threatening but funny. The correctional officer testified at the hearing that he perceived it as a threat. Pease-Madore was found guilty and penalties of 20 days in punitive segregation and the loss of 90 days of good time were imposed. He appealed to the superintendent, who granted partial relief, concurring with the guilty finding but reducing the penalties to 10 days in punitive segregation and the loss of 45 days of good time.

         Pease-Madore subsequently obtained counsel and filed eleven administrative appeals in superior court, arguing that his due process rights had been violated. The superior court denied the three appeals in this case[6] on the basis that the incident reports and the audio recordings of the disciplinary hearings satisfied due process. The court also found that he had shown no prejudice. Pease-Madore appeals.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "Whether an inmate has received procedural due process is an issue of constitutional law that we review de novo."[7] Whether a party has suffered prejudice is likewise reviewed de novo.[8] And "[i]n an appeal from a judgment of a superior court acting as an intermediate court of appeal, " we review the agency decision de novo.[9] "The interpretation of a statute [or regulation] is a question of law to which we apply our independent judgment, interpreting the statute [or regulation] according to reason, practicality, and common sense, considering the meaning of the statute's [or regulation's] language, its legislative history, and its purpose."[10] "We review de novo whether a party has waived a claim on appeal."[11]

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. An Audio Recording Of A Disciplinary Hearing Satisfies Wolff's Requirement For A Written Statement.

         In Wolff v. McDonnell, an action brought by inmates against a state prison alleging that the prison's disciplinary proceedings did not comply with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the United States Supreme Court held that procedural due process requires "a 'written statement by the faultfinders as to the evidence relied on and reasons' for the disciplinary action."[12] The Court identified three bases for its written statement requirement: (1) "[w]ritten records of proceedings will. . . protect the inmate against collateral consequences based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the original proceeding"; (2) "the provision for a written record helps to [e]nsure that administrators, faced with possible scrutiny by state officials and the public, and perhaps even the courts, where fundamental constitutional rights may have been abridged, will act fairly"; and (3) "[w]ithout written records, the inmate will be at a severe disadvantage in propounding his own cause to or defending himself from others."[13] In McGinnis v. Stevens, we identified three bases for the verbatim record requirement under the Alaska Constitution: (1) "a verbatim record will help [e]nsure that administrators faced with possible scrutiny by state officials and the public, and even the courts when it is asserted that fundamental constitutional rights may have been abridged, will act fairly"; (2) "[a] verbatim record of the proceedings will furnish a more complete and accurate source of information than the 'written statement' requirement of Wolff; and (3) a verbatim record "will assist in facilitating a more intelligent review of the disciplinary proceeding."[14]

         Pease-Madore argues that the requirement of a verbatim record of the proceedings under McGinnis does not satisfy Wolff but rather is an additional requirement under the Alaska Constitution[15] and that "the written statement and the verbatim record serve separate purposes and actually preserve separate phases of the disciplinary proceedings." Specifically, he argues that the Supreme Court's concern about protecting the inmate against consequences from misunderstanding the original proceeding is not mentioned in McGinnis; he also argues that because McGinnis explained that the verbatim recording furnished a more accurate source of information and facilitated a more intelligent review of the proceedings, the verbatim record requirement must have been in addition to rather than in place of the written statement requirement. He asserts that the Wolff written statement requirement memorializes "the evidence relied upon and the reasons for the decision" whereas the McGinnis verbatim record requirement memorializes the proceeding itself, except for the part where the evidence and reasons for the decision are discussed.[16]

         Pease-Madore's argument that the McGinnis verbatim record requirement is an additional requirement under the Alaska Constitution is not correct. Our language setting forth the verbatim record requirement in McGinnis clearly reflects our understanding that the verbatim record ...


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