Olim v. Wakinekona
461 U.S. 238 (1983)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238 (1983)

Olim v. Wakinekona

No. 81-1581

Argued January 19, 1983

Decided April 26, 1983

461 U.S. 238

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioner members of a prison "Program Committee," after investigating a breakdown in discipline and the failure of certain programs within the maximum control unit of the Hawaii State Prison outside Honolulu, singled out respondent and another inmate as troublemakers. After a hearing -- respondent having been notified thereof and having retained counsel to represent him -- the same Committee recommended that respondent's classification as a maximum security risk be continued and that he be transferred to a prison on the mainland. Petitioner administrator of the Hawaii prison accepted the Committee's recommendation, and respondent was transferred to a California state prison. Respondent then filed suit against petitioners in Federal District Court, alleging that he had been denied procedural due process because the Committee that recommended his transfer consisted of the same persons who had initiated the hearing, contrary to a Hawaii prison regulation, and because the Committee was biased against him. The District Court dismissed the complaint, holding that the Hawaii regulations governing prison transfers did not create a substantive liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court of Appeals reversed.

Held:

1. An interstate prison transfer does not deprive an inmate of any liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause in and of itself. Just as an inmate has no justifiable expectation that he will be incarcerated in any particular prison within a State so as to implicate the Due Process Clause directly when an intrastate prison transfer is made, Meachum v. Fano,427 U. S. 215; Montanye v. Haymes,427 U. S. 236, he has no justifiable expectation that he will be incarcerated in any particular State. Statutes and interstate agreements recognize that, from time to time, it is necessary to transfer inmates to prisons in other States. Confinement in another State is within the normal limits or range of custody which the conviction has authorized the transferring State to impose. Even when, as here, the transfer involves long distances and an ocean crossing, the confinement remains within constitutional limits. Pp. 461 U. S. 214-18.

2. Nor do Hawaii's prison regulations create a constitutionally protected liberty interest. Although a State creates a protected liberty interest

Page 461 U. S. 239

by placing substantive limitations on official discretion, Hawaii's prison regulations place no substantive limitations on the prison administrator's discretion to transfer an inmate. For that matter, the regulations prescribe no substantive standards to guide the Program Committee whose task is to advise the administrator. Thus, no significance attaches to the fact that the prison regulations require a particular kind of hearing before the administrator can exercise his unfettered discretion. Pp. 461 U. S. 248-251.

664 F.2d 708, reversed.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, and in Part I of which STEVENS, J., joined, post, p. 461 U. S. 251.

Page 461 U. S. 240

JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The issue in this case is whether the transfer of a prisoner from a state prison in Hawaii to one in California implicates a liberty interest within the meaning of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

I

A

Respondent Delbert Kaahanui Wakinekona is serving a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as a result of his murder conviction in a Hawaii state court. He also is serving sentences for various other crimes, including rape, robbery, and escape. At the Hawaii State Prison outside Honolulu, respondent was classified as a maximum security risk and placed in the maximum control unit.

Petitioner Antone Olim is the Administrator of the Hawaii State Prison. The other petitioners constituted a prison "Program Committee." On August 2, 1976, the Committee held hearings to determine the reasons for a breakdown in discipline and the failure of certain programs within the prison's maximum control unit. Inmates of the unit appeared at these hearings. The Committee singled out respondent and another inmate as troublemakers. On August 5, respondent received notice that the Committee, at a hearing to be held on August 10, would review his correctional program to determine whether his classification within the system should be changed and whether he should be transferred to another Hawaii facility or to a mainland institution.

Page 461 U. S. 241

The August 10 hearing was conducted by the same persons who had presided over the hearings on August 2. Respondent retained counsel to represent him. The Committee recommended that respondent's classification as a maximum security risk be continued and that he be transferred to a prison on the mainland. He received the following explanation from the Committee:

"The Program Committee, having reviewed your entire file, your testimony and arguments by your counsel, concluded that your control classification remains at Maximum. You are still considered a security risk in view of your escapes and subsequent convictions for serious felonies. The Committee noted the progress you made in vocational training and your expressed desire to continue in this endeavor. However, your relationship with staff, who reported that you threaten and intimidate them, raises grave concerns regarding your potential for further disruptive and violent behavior. Since there is no other Maximum security prison in Hawaii which can offer you the correctional programs you require, and you cannot remain at [the maximum control unit] because of impending construction of a new facility, the Program Committee recommends your transfer to an institution on the mainland."

App. 7-8. Petitioner Olim, as Administrator, accepted the Committee's recommendation, and a few days later respondent was transferred to Folsom State Prison in California.

B

Rule IV of the Supplementary Rules and Regulations of the Corrections Division, Department of Social Services and Housing, State of Hawaii, approved in June, 1976, recites that the inmate classification process is not concerned with punishment. Rather, it is intended to promote the best interests

Page 461 U. S. 242

of the inmate, the State, and the prison community. [Footnote 1] Paragraph 3 of Rule IV requires a hearing prior to a prison transfer involving "a grievous loss to the inmate," which the Rule defines "generally" as "a serious loss to a reasonable man." App. 21. [Footnote 2] The Administrator, under

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