Morrissey v. Brewer Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Two parolees had their parole revoked.

Facts of the case

“On January 4, 1967, John J. Morrissey entered a guilty plea to an information charging him with false uttering of a check. After serving part of his seven-year sentence, the Iowa Board of Parole granted Morrissey parole, and he was released from Iowa State Penitentiary on June 20, 1968. On January 24, 1969, however, Morrissey was arrested in Cedar Rapids for violating his parole. The Board of Parole entered an order revoking his parole and returning Morrissey to prison. Morrissey filed several habeas corpus actions in Iowa state courts between June 1969 and August 1969, but soon exhausted his state remedies. On September 12, 1969, Morrissey filed a habeas corpus petition in federal district court, which was denied

  • the court also denied his notice of appeal, considered as an application for certificate of probable cause. The United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, granted Morrissey’s application and appointed counsel to represent Morrissey on appeal.On April 29, 1968, G. Donald Booher entered a guilty plea to an information charging him with forgery. On November 14, 1968, the Board of Parole granted his parole, releasing Booher from his ten-year sentence at Iowa State Penitentiary. On August 28, 1969, Booher allegedly violated his parole, and the Board of Parole revoked his parole on September 13. Booher filed several petitions for a writ of habeas corpus in state district court between November 1969 and March 1970
  • the district court dismissed all of Booher’s petitions. He then filed an application for certificate of probable cause in federal district court on June 16, 1970. The district court denied his application, but the United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, granted it on appeal, appointing counsel and consolidating the claims of Morrissey and Booher.Neither Morrissey nor Booher was granted a hearing or other opportunity to question, challenge, or become aware of the facts which formed the basis of each man’s parole violation. Neither man was granted the opportunity to present evidence on his own behalf, or to confront or cross-examine those providing testimony against him. The Eighth Circuit, however, affirmed the denials of the petitions of Morrissey and Booher in a 4-3 en banc ruling.”


    Whether the requirements of due process apply to parole revocations.


    “Yes. The Supreme Court first identified that the liberty of a parolee, although indeterminate, includes many of the core values of unqualified liberty and its termination inflicts a ‘grievous loss.’ Thus, the Court devised an informal hearing structure, identifying two critical stages. First, the arrest and preliminary hearing require that some minimal inquiry be conducted at or reasonably near the place of the alleged parole violation or arrest. Further, some other unconnected party should determine that reasonable grounds exist for revocation. The parolee should be notified.At the revocation hearing proper, minimum requirements of due process

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    “The United States Supreme Court held that one’s freedom was valuable and, therefore, its termination called for some orderly process. According to the Court, the minimum requirements of due process in revoking paroles include (a) written notice of the claimed parole violations

  • (b) disclosure to the parolee of evidence against him
  • (c) opportunity to be heard in person and to present witnesses and documentary evidence
  • (d) the right to confront and cross- examine adverse witnesses (unless the hearing officer specifically finds good cause for not allowing confrontation)
  • (e) a neutral and detached hearing body such as a traditional parole board, members of which need not be judicial officers or lawyers
  • and (f) a written statement by the fact finders as to the evidence relied on and reasons for revoking parole. As such, the Court reversed the decision of the lower court denying the necessity for such a hearing and remanded both cases for further adjudication.”
    • Case Brief: 1972
    • Petitioner: Morrissey
    • Respondent: Brewer
    • Decided by: Burger Court

    Citation: 408 US 471 (1972)
    Argued: Apr 11, 1972
    Decided: Jun 29, 1972
    Granted Dec 20, 1971