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Alaska high court: Verbatim record may satisfy written record requirements in disciplinary decisions

by R. Bailey

The Alaska Supreme Court held that a prisoner’s federal due process right to receipt of a written statement explaining what evidence and reasoning were relied on in imposing disciplinary action may be satisfied by attaching a “verbatim record” of the proceedings as long as that record can be reduced to writing.

Matthew Pease-Madore, a prisoner in the Alaska Department of Corrections (“DOC”), appealed his disciplinary convictions rendered on 11 infractions, including two November 2014 threats of future harm and one disorderly conduct.

Pease-Madore argued that the DOC violated his federal due process rights when it failed to attach a written explanation of its decision per Wolff v. McDonnell 418 U.S. 539, 564 (1974) requirements. He did not seek to show prejudice or even controvert the evidence. He argued that the DOC only attained a “verbal record” of the proceedings to comply with state due process rights provided in McGinnis v. Stalens, 543 P.2d 1221 (Alaska, 1975).

He asserted that McGinnis predated an additional requirement, or the “verbatim record” could not satisfy the “written record” requirement. 

The Supreme Court found his reasoning to be incorrect. It held that the reasons for the written requirements were to ensure there was no misunderstanding of the charges.

The court concluded that the verbatim record, including a recording of the hearing and a copy of the incident report, did satisfy the intent of the written statement, so no violation occurred. The court further held that even if an error had existed, no relief would be granted unless the complaint shows a violation of due process and resulting prejudice. 

The court did warn that its future decisions must include a summary of the prisoner’s statements and witness testimony. See Pease-Madore v. Department of Corrections, 414 P.3d 671 (Alaska 2018).

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Related legal case

Pease-Madore v. Department of Corrections