On June 20, 2019, a two-justice majority on a Nevada court of appeals panel reversed and remanded a district court’s dismissal of a state prisoner’s civil rights complaint over the removal of good time credits. The ruling is unpublished.
Darryl E. Gholson sued the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) and certain of its employees, alleging they took 48 days of his statutory good-time extra credits without notice or a hearing. He earned those credits as a work-crew member from January to June of 2015. Those credits were taken from him in October 2015, 30 days before his scheduled release, causing the release to be rescheduled.
NDOC filed a dismissal motion asserting Gholson had not made any personal allegations against NDOC officials while arguing he was not employed during his entire sentence and his release date was readjusted for that reason and also because he did not earn the amount of good time credits he potentially could have.
Thus, since he had no right to good time or employment, no liberty interest was involved.
Gholson did not file an opposition motion.
In the absence of such a motion the district court dismissed the suit holding “there was no Due Process violation regarding [Gholson] not being credited with good time credits, when [he] failed to obtain employment.” The court concluded Gholson had failed to state a claim relief may be granted on and had no constitutional right to prison employment or classification status.
Gholson appealed. His position was that NDOC’s pleadings referred to his subsequent 2017-2018 imprisonment and not the 2015 period he was suing over.
NDOC replied the lower court was correct in its dismissal of Gholson’s suit, even if the court’s reasoning was wrong. The failure of Gholson to file an opposition motion to NDOC’s dismissal motion was alleged to be an admission that NDOC’s position was correct and nothing was available for appellate review.
Exercising its power of de novo review, the appeal court found the lower court committed plain, unmistakable error with its rulings. The justices reasoned the civil rights platform Gholson used was built on inferred personal involvement by the NDOC’s named employees and his plainly worded complaint set forth facts that entitled him to relief. Also, under federal and Nevada case cites prisoners do have a liberty interest in good time credits if they had already earned them under state law, as Gholson had. Since he was suing for good time he had already earned that was taken from him without prior notice or a hearing to adjudicate it, his liberty interest was present and had been violated.
The court concluded its opinion stating that NDC’s arguments provided no basis for the lower court to dismiss Gholson’s suit, therefore the court’s dismissal was “clearly erroneous.” See: Gholson v. Nevada Department of Corrections, 2019 Nev. App. Unpub. LEXIS 589.
Additional source: nevadaappeal.com
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Related legal case
Gholson v. Nevada Department of Corrections,
|Cite||2019 Nev. App. Unpub. LEXIS 589.|
|Level||State Court of Appeals|