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ID Prisoner's State Habeas Action Properly Dismissed Without Appointing Counsel

Kenneth Quinlan, an Idaho state prisoner, was sentenced to life on a 1973 murder conviction. He was paroled in 1985 and his parole was revoked in 1994. At the time of his conviction the parole board had to consider prisoners for parole every 30 months. In 1987 the law was changed, allowing the board to refuse to ever consider a prisoner for parole. Quinlan filed a state habeas action complaining that the new parole law violated the Ex Post Facto clause as applied to him. The trial court refused to appoint counsel and dismissed the case as frivolous. Quinlan appealed.

The Idaho Court of Appeals recognized that I.C. § 19-852 required the trial court to appoint Quinlan counsel if his habeas action wasn't frivolous. The Court found that the Ex Post Facto argument had merit, and that the trial court should have appointed Quinlan a lawyer to argue that issue.

Quinlan’s victory was short-lived, though. On review by the Supreme Court of Idaho, the appellate ruling was reversed. The Supreme Court found “that prison inmates do not have a statutory right of mandatory counsel in habeas corpus proceedings. We further hold that the Parole Commission's rule changes do not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause.” The trial court’s dismissal of the case was upheld. See: Quinlan v. Idaho Commission for Pardons and Parole, 138 Idaho 726, 69 P.3d 146 (Idaho, 2003).

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Related legal case

Quinlan v. Idaho Commission for Pardons and Parole