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Washington Disciplinary Hearing Violates Due Process; Written Submissions Must be Considered

By Mark Wilson

The Washington State Court of Appeals held that a prisoner was deprived of a constitutionally adequate disciplinary hearing when a hearings officer refused to read the documentary evidence he offered.

Washington prisoner Allan Parmelee was confined in an Intensive Management Unit. While guards were conducting a “card count,” “Parmelee answered repeated requests for his name and DOC number only with snide comments and threats to sue the officers.” He was then charged with interfering with staff performing their duties (558) and interfering with a cell count or causing an inaccurate count (653).

Parmelee defended himself in the disciplinary proceedings by submitted a 22-page written defense. The “hearing officer said…that the officer was not required to read any materials longer than two pages and would not read all of Parmelee’s submission. When Parmelee questioned him as to the basis of this policy, the officer responded: ‘That’s what I’m telling you. Okay? You’re not here to ask me questions, okay?’” He then found Parmelee guilty of the 653 infraction and sanctioned him to a loss of good time and other sanctions.

Parmelee challenged the disciplinary order in state court. DOC conceded that the hearings officer refused to review Parmelee’s submission and no legal authority or policy supported his refusal. It argued, however, “that the officer was not obligated to consider Parmelee’s written defense and that in any event the record shows the officer did consider it in its entirety.”

The court rejected DOC’s argument, finding “neither contention persuasive.” It concluded “on the unique facts presented…, Parmelee has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that he did not receive a constitutionally adequate opportunity to present a defense.” It then remanded to DOC “for a hearing at which the minimum due process requirements are met.”

See: In re PRP of Parmelee, 146 Wash.App. 1061 (WA CA Div 1, 2008).

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Related legal case

In re PRP of Parmelee