A mail-box rule for inmates?

A state prison inmate will finally be able to mount a circuit-court challenge of an administrative determination that he intentionally kicked a prison guard while trying to escape.

The Michigan Supreme Court, on a 5-2 vote, has ordered the Ionia County Circuit Court to hear the case based on “unique procedural facts.”

Unique, indeed.

Patrick Kinney pleaded guilty to three of the four misconduct charges lodged against him after he attempted to escape from prison. But he was adamant that he did not intentionally kick a guard during the attempt. A Department of Corrections hearing officer found otherwise and later denied a rehearing.

From Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly’s concurring statement in Kinney v. Dep’t of Corrections:

Under MCL 791.255, plaintiff had 60 days from the delivery or mailing of that denial of rehearing, until May 3, 2004, to file an application for direct review by the circuit court. He delivered his application to prison officials on April 14, 2004. The prison records show that plaintiff’s petition was placed in the outgoing mail the next day, April 15. But the Ingham Circuit Court did not date-stamp the application as received until May 10, 2004, ten days after the filing deadline.

The circuit court issued an order allowing plaintiff to resubmit his application within 21 days. Plaintiff’s new deadline was August 4, 2004. He delivered his application to prison officials well in advance of the deadline, on July 20. The prison records indicate that this application was placed in the outgoing mail on July 21. Again, however, the circuit court did not record the application as received until well after the deadline, on August 13, 2004, 25 days after plaintiff delivered it to prison officials.

This time, the circuit court entered an order dismissing plaintiff’s petition as untimely. Plaintiff sought delayed leave to appeal the order, but the Court of Appeals denied it. This Court denied leave to appeal on October 31, 2006.

Almost three full years after filing his application for review of his assault conviction, plaintiff sought superintending control in the Ionia Circuit Court. That court dismissed the complaint, adopting the defendant’s reasoning that plaintiff’s only remedy had been a direct appeal of right to the circuit court. The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal.

Nearly five years after plaintiff filed the initial appeal challenging his assault conviction by the DOC hearing officer, this Court is finally granting plaintiff his day in court. The outrageousness of such a lengthy delay is obvious.

Kelly went on to say that that the case is a perfect example of why the MSC needs to adopt a prison-mailbox rule, under which a petition for review would be considered “filed” on the day it is handed to prison authorities for mailing.

No so fast, say Justices Maura Corrigan and Robert Young.

Corrigan, joined by Young, dissented from the court’s action of giving Kinney his day in court.

Corrigan said the appropriate remedy would be to

remand this case to the trial court and order the Department of Corrections (MDOC) to show cause for the consistent delays in transmitting the plaintiff inmate’s legal mail to the courts. First, the delays may have originated from the MDOC’s Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility, where plaintiff is housed. The MDOC is a party both to this suit and to the underlying suit in which plaintiff petitioned for judicial review of an MDOC hearing officer’s decision. The MDOC is also the beneficiary of the delays, which resulted in the dismissal of plaintiff’s petition in the underlying suit. Accordingly, it is appropriate to order the MDOC to explain the delays at a show cause hearing. Second, until the court has additional facts concerning the cause of the delays, providing relief to plaintiff is premature. Finally, the courts will benefit from explicit fact-finding by the trial court in this case. Even if the delays originated with the MDOC, their causes remain a mystery.

The MSC has opened an administrative file on adopting a prison-mailbox rule and will soon be considering the merits of such a rule.

Update 04/13/09: MSC Public Information Officer Marcia McBrien has informed The Michigan Lawyer Blog that the court will take up the prison-mailbox rule at the court’s May public administrative conference.

2 thoughts on “A mail-box rule for inmates?

  1. I have a friend who is going thru this same garbage. If you are going to make people follow the rules outside of jail then the people running the jails and prisons damn sure better follow them too!!!

  2. Pingback: Tips On Finding Mailbox Rule For Outlook | Mailbox Rule

Leave a Reply to Claire Peters Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s