John Paul Morrow and Christian Davis are federal inmates in Terminal Island who have a right to a parole hearing every two years. Since 2004, the United States Parole Commission started holding all hearings at certain institutions by video. The Parole Commission forced Morrow and Davis to participate in parole hearings conducted by video, leaving them thousands of miles away from the hearing examiner and effectively unable to present documents available. The ACLU of Southern California sought a preliminary injunction ordering the Parole Commission to provide these men in-person hearings pursuant to federal statutory law. Noting that the cold and less formal experience of video hearings are not the same as in-person hearings, Judge Fischer granted the preliminary injunction. On July 10, 2012, the Parole Commission agreed to provide all federal inmates within the Central District of California with in-person hearings for all their future parole hearings.

Case Developments

UPDATE
October 2, 2013
The Parole Commission has agreed that all people in federal prisons within the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals who are eligible for parole will get to participate in those hearings in-person. Read the settlement agreement.

UPDATE
July 10, 2012
The Parole Commission agreed to provide all federal inmates within the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals an in-person hearing until August 31, 2012, while it conducts a feasibility study about the cost of permanently providing these hearings in-person. Regardless of the result of the study, the Parole Commission has agreed to provide all federal inmates within the Central District of California with in-person hearings for all their future parole hearings. Read the agreement.

RULING
March 20, 2012
U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer ruled that failure to have an in-person hearing would likely result in irreparable harm, and granted the motion for preliminary injunction to require the Parole Commission to grant in-person hearings to federal inmates. Read the ruling.

UPDATE
March 5, 2012
In Plaintiffs’ reply, the ACLU and Greenberg Glusker argued that the statute is unambiguous, and that history proves, that Congress intended the Parole Commission to conduct parole hearings in-person, that Plaintiffs had no other way to seek relief, and that research shows that the use of video undermines the reliability of parole decisions. Read the reply.

UPDATE
February 23, 2012
The Parole Commission opposed the preliminary injunction, arguing primarily that plaintiffs’ alleged injury was speculative, that the lawsuit was untimely, and that Congress contemplated that parole hearings could be conducted by video when it passed the statute in 1976. Read the government's response.

FILING
February 6, 2012
The ACLU of Southern California and Greenberg Glusker filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, seeking an emergency court order that plaintiffs have the opportunity to appear in-person at their upcoming parole hearings pursuant to the unambiguous terms of the applicable federal statute, 18 U.S.C. 4208(e). Read the motion.

FILING
January 26, 2012
The ACLU of Southern California filed a complaint against the U.S. Parole Commission for denying inmates the right to have in-person parole hearings, requiring them instead to have their hearings via video conference. Read the complaint.

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

N/A

Date filed

July 19, 2016

Court

United States District Court for the Central District of California

Judge

Hon. Dale S. Fischer

Case number

CV120700

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