Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 93-1911. Argued February 28, 1995—Decided June 19, 1995

In this suit, respondent Conner alleged that petitioner and other Hawaii prison officials deprived him of procedural due process when an adjustment committee refused to allow him to present witnesses during a disciplinary hearing and then sentenced him to segregation for misconduct. The District Court granted the officials summary judgment, but the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that Conner had a liberty interest in remaining free of disciplinary segregation and that there was a disputed question of fact whether he had received all of the process due under Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U. S. 539. The court based its conclusion on a prison regulation instructing the committee to find guilt when a misconduct charge is supported by substantial evidence, reasoning that the committee's duty to find guilt was nondiscretionary. From that regulation, it drew a negative inference that the committee may not impose segregation if it does not find substantial evidence of misconduct, that this is a state-created liberty interest, and that therefore Wolff entitled Conner to call witnesses.

Held: Neither the Hawaii prison regulation nor the Due Process Clause itself affords Conner a protected liberty interest that would entitle him to the procedural protections set forth in Wolff. Pp. 477-488. (a) Under Wolff, States may in certain circumstances create liberty interests that are protected by the Due Process Clause. But these interests will generally be limited to freedom from restraint which, while not exceeding the sentence in such an unexpected manner as to give rise to protection by the Due Process Clause of its own force, nonetheless imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life. See also Meachum v. Fano, 427 U. S. 215. The methodology used in Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U. S. 460, and later cases has impermissibly shifted the focus of the liberty interest inquiry from one based on the nature of the deprivation to one based on language of a particular regulation. Under Hewitt's methodology, prison regulations, such the one in this case, have been examined to see whether mandatory language and substantive predicates create an enforceable expectation that the State would produce a particular

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