Battling the Administration: An Inmate’s Guide to a Successful Lawsuit, by David J. Meister
(Wynword Press, April 2014). 566 pages, $34.95 paperback
Book review by Gary Hunter
When asked what the first step would be in challenging a disciplinary charge, prisoners will give a variety of answers. Some say it is to find legal precedents. Others say obtaining witness statements is most important. But one person, David J. Meister, not only knows the correct answer, he wrote a book on the subject.
Prisoners suffer violations of their constitutional rights in numerous ways, and many times the injustice also includes receiving a disciplinary charge. In his book, Battling the Administration: An Inmate’s Guide to a Successful Lawsuit, Meister covers an extensive variety of ways in which prisoners are harmed and explains, in easy-to-understand terms, exactly how an injured party can obtain relief.
While it may seem like an oversimplification, the book begins by explaining that any successful legal battle begins with preparation. Divided into five parts, Part One, appropriately titled “Getting Ready,” explains why something as simple as acquiring a notebook, a calendar and charts are essential to mounting a successful legal challenge. For clarity, Mr. Meister provides sample forms for organizing the key elements (who, what, where, when, why and how) of an effective legal claim. He explains how to exhaust administrative remedies, accumulate evidence, conduct discovery and find the appropriate sources to support your claim.
Part Two of Battling the Administration explains the nuances of clear and effective writing. Grammar and punctuation are of paramount importance; an entire legal argument can be undone with a single incorrect word. Something as simple as shortening a sentence can make it more powerful. Mr. Meister breaks down the writing process into four separate sections with over fifty pages on the effective use of English grammar, legal citations, legal composition and how to actually write a legal brief.
Part Three, entitled “Filing and Litigating,” is without question the best part of this book because it covers every aspect of the court process. Beginning with choosing the right vehicle to plead your case, this section of Battling the Administration walks the reader through each step of the litigation process. It is chock full of examples, sample sheets and suggestions on how to format and file a claim; it explains motions, subpoenas, discovery strategies and more. From the original brief to the final appeal, the 140 pages in this section show you how to successfully present a claim.
Parts Four and Five are the muscle of this book. Behind every successful pleading is a Supreme Court precedent. Even convicted prisoners have basic constitutional rights that cannot be forfeited simply due to their incarceration. In Part Four, Mr. Meister lists the Supreme Court standards for most major causes of action, and explains the legal theory supported by each Supreme Court precedent to help you lay a firm foundation for your claim. In short, Part Four clearly outlines your rights and how to secure them.
Part Five provides the incarcerated litigant with a tremendous advantage. Because prisoners do not always have the option of spending their days researching case law, this section of Battling the Administration provides an extensive compilation of legal precedents. It contains hundreds of case cites covering subjects such as constitutional rights, administrative rules and regulations, and dozens more.
It is rare to find a single book that will walk you through the entire litigation process, and even rarer to find such a book written specifically for prisoners. But Battling the Administration does just that. Whether you’re a first-time litigator or an experienced jailhouse lawyer, whether you are suing for millions of dollars or just trying to beat a bogus disciplinary charge, Battling the Administration can help you defend your legal rights.
Battling the Administration is available from Amazon.com or directly from Wynword Press, P.O. Box 557, Bonners Ferry, ID 83805; 208-267-0817, www.wynwordpress.com.
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