Young et al. v. Harper
Decided on Mar. 18, 1997; 520 US 143


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Due process, prisoners' rights

B. Legal Question Presented:

Was a program employed by the State of Oklahoma to reduce the overcrowding of its prisons sufficiently like parole that a person in the program was entitled to the procedural protections set forth in Morrissey v. Brewer before he could be removed from it?
II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"Oklahoma's Preparole Conditional Supervision Program (preparole or Program) took effect whenever the state prisons became overcrowded and authorized the conditional release of prisoners before their sentences expired. The Pardon and Parole Board determined who could participate in it, and an inmate could be placed on preparole after serving 15% of his sentence. An inmate was eligible for parole only after one third of his sentence had elapsed, and the Governor, based on the Board's recommendation, decided to grant parole. Program participants and parolees were released subject to similar constraints.

Upon reviewing respondent's criminal record and prison conduct, the Board simultaneously recommended him for parole and released him under the Program. At that time, he had served 15 years of a life sentence. After he spent five apparently uneventful months outside the penitentiary, the Governor denied him parole, whereupon he was ordered to, and did, report back to prison. Despite his claim that his summary reincarceration deprived him of liberty without due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, he was denied habeas relief by, successively, the state trial court, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Federal District Court. The Tenth Circuit reversed, holding that preparole was sufficiently like parole that a Program participant was entitled to the procedural protections set forth in Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471."

On appeal the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
ACLU attorney Margaret Winter, by appointment of the Court, 518 U. S. 1015, argued the cause for respondent. With her on the brief were ACLU attorneys Marjorie Rifkin, Elizabeth Alexander, Micheal Salem, and Steven R. Shapiro. Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)

Unavailable

Sandra D. Howard, Assistant Attorney General of Oklahoma, argued the cause for petitioners. With her on the briefs were W. A. Drew Edmondson, Attorney General, and Jennifer B. Miller, Assistant Attorney General.

A brief of amici curiae urging reversal was filed for the State of Nevada et al. by Frankie Sue Del Papa, Attorney General of Nevada, and Anne Cathcart, Senior Deputy Attorney General, joined by the Attorneys General for their respective States as follows: Daniel E. Lungren of California, Gale A. Norton of Colorado, Margery S. Bronster of Hawaii, Alan G. Lance of Idaho, Joseph P. Mazurek of Montana, and Dennis C. Vacco of New York.

IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"The Program, as it existed when respondent was released, was equivalent to parole as understood in Morrissey. Morrissey's description of the 'nature of the interest of the parolee in his continued liberty' could just as easily have applied to respondent while he was on preparole. In compliance with state procedures, he was released from prison before the expiration of his sentence. He kept his own residence; he sought, obtained, and maintained a job; and he lived a life generally free of the incidents of imprisonment. Although he was not permitted to use alcohol, to incur other than educational debt, or to travel outside the county without permission, and he was required to report regularly to a parole officer, similar limits on a parolee's liberty did not in Morrissey render such liberty beyond procedural protection.

Some of the factors asserted by petitioners to differentiate the Program from parole... do not, in fact, appear to distinguish the two programs at all. Other differences identified by petitioners... serve only to set preparole apart from the specific terms of parole as it existed in Oklahoma, but not from the more general class of parole identified in Morrissey. The Program appears to have differed from parole in name alone."

The U.S Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

Justice Vote: 9 Pro vs. 0 Con

  • Thomas, C. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Ginsburg, R. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Rehnquist, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • O'Connor, S. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Breyer, S. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Souter, D. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Kennedy, A. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Scalia, A. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Stevens, J. Pro (Joined majority opinion)

V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as counsel of record, urged affirmance of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit's judgment; the Supreme Court affirmed in a 9-0 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.