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California Third-Level Administrative Appeals May Be Filed with Prison Appeals Coordinator

by John E. Dannenberg

The Solano County Superior Court ordered that when a California Department of Corrections (CDC) prisoner files a third (Director) level administrative appeal, he need not mail it via U.S. Mail to the Director of Corrections as noted on the bottom of the Form 602 appeal form, but may submit it to the prison Appeals Coordinator via institutional mail who then has the duty to forward it to the Directors appeals representative.

Michael Brodheim alleged in a habeas corpus petition that the California Medical Facility State Prison (CMF) violated prison regulations by forcing him to use U.S. Mail to deliver a third level appeal to the Inmate Appeals Branch in Sacramento, and thus personally incur the costs of postage. CDC replied that Brodheim had not demonstrated any violation of due process or right of access to the courts. The superior court answered that prisoners have a right to seek enforcement of statutes and regulations and may initiate a habeas proceeding to compel a state or local official to comply with duties imposed on him by regulation, statute or constitutional provision.

At issue was the interpretation of prison regulation § 3084.2, which states At the formal levels, the appeal shall be forwarded to the appeals coordinator within the time limits prescribed in section 3084.6. Although respondent pointed to another section (3084.5(e)(2)), which states that third level appeals will be reviewed by a designated person at the Directors level, it does not specify any delivery process and was therefore irrelevant. Since third level appeals often contain weighty exhibits, the prisoners cost burden becomes a significant financial disincentive to seeking third-level redress. CDC, on the other hand, has its own inter-prison mail system and would incur no added cost.

The superior court ordered CMF to comply with the unambiguous language of section 3084.2(c), requiring the appeals coordinator to accept and process all formal level appeals, including the third level. Since CDC must treat all prisoners equally, the practical effect of the order is to apply statewide. See: In re Michael Brodheim, Solano Superior Court No. FCR219566, Aug. 8, 2005.

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Related legal case

In re Michael Brodheim