Nevada Supreme Court says inmates have no right to parole
September 24, 2007
The Nevada Supreme Court Monday followed up on last week’s ruling exempting the Parole Board from the open-meeting law with a unanimous order making it clear there is no right to parole and, therefore, no due process right which could force the release of an inmate.
The order disposed of five different actions filed against the Parole Board by John Witherow, serving life as an habitual criminal. He is the same inmate who filed the suit arguing the Parole Board must be bound by the open-meeting law.
“It is well settled under Nevada Law that prisoners do not have a right to parole, and any parole standards set by the Legislature or the board cannot act as the basis for a suit against the board or its members,” wrote Chief Justice Bill Maupin. “Parole is an act of grace of the state. While prisoners may have a protectable due process right to apply for parole, they do not have a protectable due process right in being granted release on parole.”
The court ruled that Carson District Judge Bill Maddox was correct in dismissing all of Witherow’s due process claims and all his challenges of state parole standards and statutes.
The court also ruled Witherow can’t get the board’s regulations adopted four years ago thrown out simply because he never received a copy of the proposed changes beforehand.
And the court ruled Witherow doesn’t have the right to “inspect, copy and correct any documents that the board reviewed or relied upon with it revoked his parole.”
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Those documents, the court said, are confidential by statute and he’s not entitled to them.
Witherow, however, won at least a temporary victory on two points. First, Maddox was instructed to hold a hearing on Witherow’s demand for copies of the Parole Board regulations. If the board has funding to provide copies of those regulations, the court ruled he is entitled to a copy without charge. If the board doesn’t have that funding, Witherow would have to pay.
Second, the court reversed Maddox’s decision declaring Witherow a “vexatious litigant,” a designation reserved for inmates and others who file repeated, frivolous or unfounded lawsuits. Maddox had applied that rule to Witherow, barring him from filing anything in the court system without prior permission. Maddox said he would “no longer allow the Plaintiff to redundantly paper this court with frivolous lawsuits.”
The Supreme Court said first Maddox must allow Witherow a hearing to explain why he should not be declared “vexatious.”
“Consequently, we reverse and remand this matter to the district court to give Witherow an opportunity to be heard and to allow him to explain why his right to litigate his grievances should not be limited due to the duplicitous and harassing nature of his claims.”
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.