Morrissey v. Brewer

PETITIONER: Morrissey
RESPONDENT: Brewer
LOCATION: Iowa State Penitentiary

DOCKET NO.: 71-5103
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 408 US 471 (1972)
ARGUED: Apr 11, 1972
DECIDED: Jun 29, 1972
GRANTED: Dec 20, 1971

ADVOCATES:
Lawrence S. Seuferer - for respondent
W. Don Brittin, Jr. - for petitioners

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.

Question

Did the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment require the Iowa Board of Parole to give an evidentiary hearing prior to revoking the paroles of Morrissey and Booker?

Media for Morrissey v. Brewer

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 11, 1972 in Morrissey v. Brewer

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments first this morning in Number 71-5103, Morrissey and Booher against Brewer.

Mr. Brittin.

W. Don Brittin, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

I'm counsel --

Warren E. Burger:

Before you proceed, counsel, let me mention one other factor that Mr. Justice Marshall is unavoidably absent this morning but he will participate in the cases to be heard today on the basis of the files, records, briefs and the recording of the oral argument.

W. Don Brittin, Jr.:

Thank you, Your Honor.

I was appointed by this Court to represent petitioners in this case which is a -- which are habeas corpus cases.

I was likewise appointed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to represent petitioners in the -- in the cases below.

The opinion of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit which is under review in this case affirmed the orders of Judge Stephenson, at that time, United States District Judge for -- for the Southern District of Iowa, denying both the petitions involved in these cases.

Petitioners had both been prisoners in the Iowa State Penitentiary and had both been and -- had both received paroles from the Iowa Board of Parole.

Subsequently, each of their respective paroles were revoked by the Iowa Board of Parole such revocations having been accomplished without either of the petitioners having been afforded any type of evidentiary hearing to establish the fact of parole violation.

Both petitioners alleged in their petitions for habeas corpus filed in the District Court that their constitutional rights to due process of law had been violated by the action of the Iowa Board of Parole in revoking their paroles without a hearing, and that such state action constitute -- constituted a deprivation of liberty without due process of law.

Judge Stephenson in separate orders denied their respective petitions holding that the applicable -- Iowa statutory law did not require such a hearing and that the procedures followed by the Iowa Board of Parole had been held sufficient for federal constitutional purposes.

After granting the certificates of probable cause, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit heard the cases en banc and by a vote of 4-to-3 affirmed the order -- orders of Judge Stephenson.

This Court granted a certiorari on December of last year.

The question then presented for review in this case is whether or not the action of the Iowa Board of Parole in revoking petitioners' respective paroles without providing either of said petitioners a prior evidentiary hearing to establish the fact of parole violation, denied petitioners' liberty without due process of law in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

At this point, I believe, a brief factual review of the circumstances is appropriate.With respect to petitioner Morrissey first, he entered a plea of guilty to a county -- county attorney's information charging him with false uttering of a check and was sentenced by an Iowa State District Court to the Iowa State Penitentiary for a term of seven years.

After serving approximately one and a half years of his sentence, Morrissey was granted a parole by the Iowa Board of Parole.

After being on parole approximately seven months, he was arrested for a parole violation, confined in the county jail and shortly thereafter, his parole agent filed a written report of violation with the Iowa Board of Parole recommending that his parole be revoked.

Three days later, an order was entered by the Iowa Board of Parole revoking his parole and ordering that he be returned to the penitentiary.

This order was entered by the Iowa Board of Parole solely on the basis of the parole officer's written report without granting the petitioner a hearing of any kind to determine the fact of parole violation.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Brittin, I -- as I understand the record, the parole officer had talked to Morrissey, he -- had he not?

W. Don Brittin, Jr.:

I believe you are correct, Your Honor, that he had talked to Morrissey in jail at the time he had been arrested after the -- the parole agent got the warrant for his arrest for parole violation.

William H. Rehnquist:

And as I understand respondent's contention, Morrissey pretty well admitted the charges against him.

W. Don Brittin, Jr.:

You are correct in saying that it is respondent's contention, if I understand his contention -- actually I don't wish to speak for him but I do believe that he contends that Morrissey admitted at that time that he violated the conditions of this parole.

However, it is our position that he did not unequivocably admit the alleged violations.

He admitted certain acts which may have constituted violations if there were -- were no explanations for them.

He did offer explanation for certain of his acts which, I believe, were in mitigation and may tend to establish that he did not in fact violate his parole.

Byron R. White:

How about the automobile?

W. Don Brittin, Jr.:

Excuse me, Your Honor?