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Book Review: The Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual: A Guided Tour of Wonderland

by Dan Manville, 350 pages, paperback

Review by Stuart G. Friedman

As any criminal litigator knows, dealing with prison issues feels like jumping through the looking glass and into Wonderland. Despite court statements suggesting that only a high school education is necessary to cope with this area of law,1 the bottom line is that prison law is a highly technical area of law full of highly byzantine rules and procedural default mechanisms that makes a criminal appeal look like a trip down a modern superhighway on a sunny day. Dan Manville's book Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual provides a carefully guided tour of this circuitous area of the law and the numerous obstacles in the path of any potential litigant.

The book is a supplement to the author's Prisoner Self-Help Litigation Manual.2 Like that book, it is written from perspective of a prisoner helping himself. It is organized around the problems that a prisoner will find in his or her day to day prison life.3 The focus of the book is on the individual (usually pro se) litigant trying to deal with the adverse effect of a prison misconduct ticket. Such tickets can have long lasting effect on a prisoner's life both in prison and in any retrial of his/her criminal case.4 Scant time is spent addressing institutional litigation issues. Instead, the focus is on fighting misconduct tickets protecting and securing favorable institutional placements, securing individual- ized due process in the prison system, obtaining good time restorations, seeking judicial review of adverse administrative determinations, together with pursuing monetary damage claims. While the book does briefly cover habeas corpus litigation, it does so mostly to explain the often murky border between what issues must be litigated as a habeas corpus action and what actions can be litigated under the federal civil rights statute.5

Despite the fact that the book is nominally directed at a pro se litigant, it is exceptionally helpful to a lawyer. The book has extensive case citations and covers in detail the standard defenses to claims employed by state attorney generals. While the author is a Michigan lawyer and shows some favoritism towards Michigan law in his treatment of prison law, he is clearly conscious of this bias and has taken great efforts to provide a detailed analysis of most state's law. In fact, Chapter 7 of his book is devoted to a state by state analysis of due process requirements which are actually fifty mini-treatises on the state of state law. Chapter 8 of the book deals with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and issues which are unique for federal prisoners.

The book is a highly useful addition to any criminal and prisoner rights litigator's desk. Even if the attorney does not do prisoner's rights, it provides an answer to many questions which will help such attorneys in day to day practice and in referring clients to the appropriate person or persons.

The DSHLM can be ordered from: Daniel E. Manville, P.C., P.O. Box 20321, Ferndale, MI. 48220. Price, which includes postage, for prisoners is $34.95 and for non-prisoners is $64.95. Allow 2-4 weeks for delivery.


1See, e.g. Hadix v. Johnson, 694 F. Supp. 259 (E.D. Mich. 1988) rev'd on other grounds Knop v. Johnson, 977 F.2d 996 (6th Cir. 1992).

2D. Manville & J. Boston, Prisoner's Self-Help Litigation Manual (3rd Ed.), Oceana Publications (1995).

3The need for self-help manuals written in this fashion cannot be disputed. Hailey L. Scoville and Richard A. Bales, Pro Se Litigants and Summary Judgment, 214 F.R.D. 231 (2003) (arguing that each federal circuit should develop a prisoner pro se litigation manual for the most commonly litigated issues).

4It has been the experience of this author that prosecutors are frequently attempting to introduce the results of prison misconduct tickets in criminal prosecutions, both arising out of the same allegations and in cases involving retrials of the underlying criminal conviction. See, e.g. People v. Wyngaard, 462 Mich. 659, 614 N.W.2d 143 (2000) (prosecutor attempted to admit statements made by the accused at a prison misconduct hearing in a subsequent criminal prosecution); Welch v. State, 990 S.W.2d 876 (Tex.App.-Beaumont, Apr 14, 1999) (state prosecutor properly admitted the defendant's prison misconduct record, but, the defendant should also have been permitted to admit the complainant's prison misconduct record). See also Roche v. State, 699 N.E.2d 752 (Ind. App.,1998) (recognizing the admissibility of such tickets, but finding particular tickets irrelevant).

5Hopefully this line will become less blurry after the United States Supreme Court decides Muhammad v. Close, U.S. Supreme Court No. 02-9065 (argued December 2, 2003).

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