Washington DOC May Rehear Bungled Disciplinary Infractions While First Outcome Is Under Judicial Review
On July 9, 2002, David Higgins, a prisoner at the Airway Heights Correctional Center (AHCC) near Spokane, Washington, was infracted for trying to smuggle marijuana into the prison. Based on confidential information, he was found guilty and received a sanction of 270 days loss of good time, 20 days disciplinary segregation, and 10 days isolation.
In March of 2003, Higgins filed a Personal Restraint Petition (PRP) asking Division 2 of the State Court of Appeals to overturn the disposition of the infraction. The DOC asked for permission to expunge the infraction and rehear it. On June 24, 2003, Division 2 granted that request and dismissed Higgins’ PRP.
Higgins sought discretionary review in the Supreme Court, claiming that the DOC was without authority to rehear the infraction because it had become the subject of a PRP, so only the court could decide its outcome. The DOC reheard the infraction, found Higgins guilty, and imposed a slightly less severe sanction, which became part of the record on discretionary review.
Division 3 of the State Court of Appeals had ruled that the DOC was without authority to rehear an infraction once it became the subject of a PRP. This was so, according to Division 3, because RAP16.3(c) and RAP16.11(b) combine to confer authority to decide PRPs and fashion remedies thereof on the appellate court, not the DOC. See, In re: Pers. Restraint of Leland, 115 Wn. App. 517, 61 p.3d, rev. den. 149 Wn. 2d 1025 (2003).
Division 1, on the other hand, had ruled that the DOC could rehear an infraction even if it had become the subject of a PRP. Division 1 reached this conclusion based on RAP16.4(d), which allows appellate courts to grant relief via PRP only if no other adequate remedy exists. Since the DOC’s rehearing an infraction could provide an adequate remedy, Division 1 held that the DOC could rehear it even if it was the subject of a PRP. See, In re: Pers. Restraint of Goulsby, 120 Wn. App. 223, 84 p. 3d 922 (2004).
On discretionary review, the Supreme Court agreed with the reasoning in Goulsby. It therefore ruled that DOC had properly reheard Higgins’ infraction, and dismissed his PRP. See, In re: Pers. Restraint of Higgins, 152 Wn. 2d 155, 95 p. 3d 330 (2004).
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