Ohio Adult Parole Authority v. Woodard

PETITIONER: Ohio Adult Parole Authority
LOCATION: Randon Bragdon's Dental Office

DOCKET NO.: 96-1769
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 523 US 272 (1998)
ARGUED: Dec 10, 1997
DECIDED: Mar 25, 1998

S. Adele Shank - Argued the cause for the respondent
William A. Klatt - Argued the cause for the petitioners

Facts of the case

After Eugene Woodard's death sentence was finalized, the Ohio Adult Parole Authority commenced a clemency investigation. The Authority informed Woodard of his voluntary interview and clemency hearing. Ultimately, Woodard filed suit, alleging that Ohio's clemency process violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process right and his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Ultimately, the Court of Appeals held that Woodard had failed to establish a life or liberty interest protected by due process arising out of the clemency proceeding itself. The appellate court, however, also held that Woodard's pretrial life and liberty interests were protected because a minimal amount of due process attached to clemency due to its distance from trial. Subsequently, the Court of Appeals remanded the case for a determination as to what that process should be.


Does an inmate have a protected life or liberty interest in clemency proceedings? Does the option of voluntarily participating in an interview as part of the clemency process violate an inmate's Fifth Amendment rights?

Media for Ohio Adult Parole Authority v. Woodard

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 10, 1997 in Ohio Adult Parole Authority v. Woodard

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument first this morning in Number 96-1769, the Ohio Adult Parole Authority v. Woodard.

Mr. Klatt.

William A. Klatt:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court--

This case presents a challenge to Ohio's death penalty clemency procedures under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the SelfIncrimination Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

If I may, I'd like to address the due process challenge first.

Fundamentally, respondent's due process challenge fails for two reasons.

First, he has no constitutional or inherent right to clemency based upon this Court's decision in Connecticut Board of Pardons v. Dumschat.

Second, Ohio's adoption of the clemency power and the procedures associated with it do not create a constitutional entitlement because the Governor's exercise of that power remains wholly discretionary.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, let me ask you something, Mr. Klatt.

Suppose that the Governor... obviously an unlikely scenario, but suppose the Governor of Ohio, some future Governor, decided that he would grant clemency to... he would at least allow clemency hearings and consider clemency for white defendants but not black.

No limit there on a policy like that, would you say, under the Constitution?

William A. Klatt:

I believe there would be a limit under that--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

So what we have to decide--

William A. Klatt:

--There would be an equal--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

--is, what are the limits, and how do we draw that line.

William A. Klatt:


Sandra Day O'Connor:

So you do concede that there would be some equal protection concerns, certainly, constitutionally imposed?

William A. Klatt:

Yes, Your Honor, we do concede that, not rational basis equal protection, but certainly a suspect category, perhaps even a substantive due process problem in an outrageous circumstance.

William H. Rehnquist:

The court of appeals here, as I understand it, based its ruling on the Due Process Clause, not the Equal Protection Clause, is that correct?

William A. Klatt:

That is correct.

Antonin Scalia:

I don't see... what difference would that make, what clause you're proceeding under?

William A. Klatt:

Your Honor, I don't believe it would make a difference in terms of equal protection, rational basis and due process.

I think the analysis would be essentially the same, although for slightly different reasons.

Fundamentally, the Due Process Clause is not violated in this instance because there is no underlying life, liberty, or property interest that's at stake.

That interest has been adequately safeguarded by the substantial protections that exist at the trial court level and certainly throughout the appeal process leading to the final conviction.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Mr. Klatt, are you then saying that what... there may be some process due, but whatever process due it has been allowed, or are you taking the position that due process, as distinguished from equal protection, your answer to Justice O'Connor, due process doesn't enter into it?

The examples that, was it Judge Nelson gave, were due process examples.

That is, arbitrary decisionmaking.

She gave the example of a coin toss, or picking the straw out.

So are you saying, suppose the parole board said, oh, we have better things to do with our time than read all this stuff, so we're going to toss a coin and every tenth or, say, every tenth applicant will get clemency?