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Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual, 2d Ed., by Dan Manville

Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual, 2d Ed., by Dan Manville

(PLN Publishing, Dec. 2014). 368 pages, $49.95 paperback

Book review by John E. Dannenberg

Renowned attorney Dan Manville, co-author of the Prisoners’ Self-Help Litigation Manual, has produced another must-have book for everyone who’s incarcerated.

Doing time necessarily involves fighting the prison disciplinary system, and because disciplinary charges can extend your time in custody, successfully appealing wrongful write-ups has a direct impact on your eventual freedom. If unsuccessful in appealing a disciplinary conviction, you’ll want to challenge it in court. But obtaining justice in the courts requires extremely careful use of the administrative appeals process. As Manville thoughtfully writes, his latest book, the Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual,“is best used to keep inmates out of court by winning either at the misconduct hearing or during the prison appeal process.”

With around 2.2 million prisoners in the United States, disciplinary convictions result in an enormous number of appeals and court challenges. The truth is that most prisoners fail to win because they fail to follow strict procedural rules designed to catch the unwary. To make matters worse, the process for pursuing administrative appeals, and later court challenges, varies from state to state. While U.S. Supreme Court decisions have outlined the fundamental constitutional protections for prisoners facing disciplinary charges, the bulk of relief arises in state proceedings. Manville has scoured the controlling case law in every state, as well as federal court decisions, and produced a single comprehensive text.

The Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual is no dime store novel. It is a serious study in the law. But with it, and your local jail or prison policies, you need not have access to a law library to protect your interests at each stage of the disciplinary process, from the hearing to administrative appeals to the courts. With almost 1,700 footnotes that contain relevant case law citations for every state, one can prepare an effective challenge to disciplinary charges.

For serious rule violations, Manville examines administrative processes and schools the reader in preparing for self-representation, such as how to deal with the hearing officer and how to question witnesses. A separate chapter is devoted to the topic of due process in disciplinary hearings. Grounded in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Sandin v. Connor, Manville discusses loss of good time, alleging an “atypical and significant hardship,” and what process is due.

Another chapter covers federal case law that shapes your available options should you lose in the state courts. The question of whether to attack your disciplinary conviction via habeas corpus or federal civil rights proceedings is covered, and important statute of limitations rules are addressed.

There are numerous pitfalls that can prevent a successful challenge to a disciplinary conviction. Manville examines such topics as proper exhaustion of administrative remedies, penalties for frivolous litigation, the limitations of the AEDPA, requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, collateral estoppel and more.

The book includes a thorough section on federal due process issues, including notice, the right to be heard, confrontation, evidence, a prompt hearing, the appropriate standard of proof, confidential informants, good time credits, damages, double jeopardy and retaliation by prison officials.

This solid foundation is then followed by a state-by-state summary of case law related to disciplinary convictions; no matter which state you’re in, case citations are provided. Plus there is a chapter specific to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

This formerly incarcerated writer experienced retaliatory disciplinary charges for writing for Prison Legal News and prevailing in legal actions, and thus personally knows the incredibly detailed procedures one must follow to ultimately get to court and obtain injunctive relief and damages for wrongful disciplinary convictions.

The resources that this one book provides are invaluable. If access to a prison law library is hindering your ability to challenge a write-up, then you need only obtain a copy of this book to learn the procedures and case law that will increase your chances of prevailing when challenging disciplinary charges.

The Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual, PLN Publishing’s third book title, is available exclusively from PLN.


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