Ponte v. Real,
471 U.S. 491 (1985)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ponte v. Real, 471 U.S. 491 (1985)

Ponte v. Real

No. 83-1329

Argued January 9, 1985

Decided May 20, 1985

471 U.S. 491


Respondent, a Massachusetts prison inmate, as a result of a fight that occurred in a prison office, was charged with violation of prison regulations. At the hearing on these charges, the disciplinary board refused to allow respondent to call witnesses whom he had requested, but the record of the hearing does not indicate the board's reason for such refusal. The board found respondent guilty, and 150 days of his "good time" credits were forfeited. Respondent then sought a writ of habeas corpus in a Massachusetts trial court, which sustained his claim that petitioner prison Superintendent had deprived him of the due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, because petitioner advanced no reasons in court as to why respondent was not allowed to call the requested witnesses. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that there must be some support in the administrative record to justify a decision not to call witnesses, and that, since the administrative record in this case contained no such support, the state regulations governing presentation of proof in disciplinary hearings were unconstitutional to the extent that they did not require the administrative record to contain reasons supporting the board's denial of an inmate's witness request.

Held: The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not require that prison officials' reasons for denying an inmate's witness request appear in the administrative record of the disciplinary hearing. While the Due Process Clause does require that the officials at some point state their reasons for refusing to call witnesses, they may do so either by making the explanation part of the administrative record or by later presenting testimony in court if the deprivation of a "liberty" interest, such as that afforded by "good time" credits, is challenged because of the refusal to call the requested witnesses. Pp. 471 U. S. 495-500.

390 Mass. 399, 456 N.E.2d 1111, vacated and remanded.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, and in all but the second paragraph of footnote 2 of which BLACKMUN and STEVENS, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, in Part II of which

Page 471 U. S. 492

BLACKMUN, J., joined, post p. 471 U. S. 501. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post p. 471 U. S. 504. POWELL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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