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Madla v. Guyer

Supreme Court of Montana

December 18, 2018

LYNN GUYER, Respondent.


         William Fernando Madla Jr. asserts that the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole (Board) is failing to afford him due process based upon his interpretation of Admin. R. M. 20.25.305(3) in his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Montana Department of Corrections responds in opposition, stating that Madla's petition should be denied.

         The Department explains that some of Madla's factual background is incomplete. In the Twelfth Judicial District Court, Hill County, Madla pleaded guilty to felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs and received a ten-year prison sentence under a persistent felony offender designation on November 19, 2010 (Hill County sentence). The Department adds that while serving his Hill County sentence at Montana State Prison (MSP), he had two parole opportunities. The Board denied him parole on June 19, 2012, after his initial appearance. His second appearance occurred on September 18, 2013, and the Board granted his parole with the condition of pre-release completion in Great Falls. Madla's parole commenced on October 16, 2013, with various conditions on parole. His discharge date on the Hill County sentence was February 8, 2020.

         On January 9, 2014, Madla was arrested based on his poor compliance with parole conditions. Madla, while being booked into the Cascade County Detention Center, kicked a detention deputy officer in the face and caused him injuries. The State charged Madla with felony assault on an officer in the Eighth Judicial District Court, Cascade County.

         Madla had an initial on-site hearing on February 13, 2014, concerning parole violations of his Hill County sentence and was later returned to MSP for a parole revocation hearing before the Board. The Board held this hearing on April 29, 2014, and the Board revoked Madla's parole. On June 9, 2014, Madla appeared via videoconference from MSP and entered a guilty plea to felony assault on a peace officer in Cascade County District Court. The District Court sentenced Madla to a nine-year prison term to run consecutively with his Hill County sentence and imposed a parole ineligibility restriction (Cascade County sentence).

Admin. R. M. 20.25.305(2) (2012), reads:
If the offender receives a consecutive sentence after reception at prison and after a hearing panel makes an initial ruling on the offender's parole on the original sentence, the offender will not be eligible for parole on the consecutive sentence until the offender discharges the original sentence, unless a hearing panel orders otherwise. However, the offender remains eligible for parole consideration in regard to the original sentence. A hearing panel may allow commencement of the consecutive term for purposes of calculating parole eligibility. If a hearing panel allows commencement of the consecutive term, it only changes the parole eligibility calculation, but does not shorten the consecutive term.

(Emphasis added).

         Madla contends that the Board is interpreting the above rule incorrectly because he has been denied parole for his first sentence due to the parole restriction on his second sentence. He includes a copy of this Administrative Rule and argues that the Board is aggregating his sentences. He provides copies of the Board's case disposition, related correspondence, and his requests for relief through the Department of Corrections' internal communication policy.

         The Department posits that Madla's sentences have been calculated correctly and that Montana's Administrative Rule has not been applied incorrectly here. The Department reiterates that Madla received an initial ruling when the Board denied him parole of his original, or Hill County, sentence in 2012. The Department includes a sentencing calculation from MSP and an affidavit from Michelle McKinnon, MSP's Records Department Manager. The Department highlights that the Board is interpreting the administrative rules correctly because it has to aggregate or add Madla's two sentences. The Department explains that Madla's Cascade County sentence will commence on February 8, 2020, when Madla discharges his Hill County sentence. Because Madla has no parole eligibility date for his Cascade County sentence, Madla will discharge it on February 5, 2029.

         The Department argues that Madla's due process rights have not been violated. In the context of a parole denial,

the United States Supreme Court has held that due process is satisfied when the prisoner seeking parole is, at a minimum, provided with an opportunity to be heard and a written statement explaining why he was denied parole.

McDermott v. McDonald, 2001 MT 89, ¶ 11, 305 Mont. 166, 24 P.3d 200 (internal citation omitted). The Department points out that Madla had an appearance before the Board and was given a copy of the written case disposition as evidenced by the attachment to his petition. The Department further contends that Madla's reliance on the phrase, "unless a hearing panel orders otherwise[, ]" does not change Madla's sentencing calculation. Admin. R. M. 20.25.305(2) (2012). The Department points out that the Board continues to consider him parole-eligible on the first sentence, but has denied parole based on the nature and severity of his offenses, his previous criminal history, his pattern of committing similar offenses, the multiplicity of his offenses, and his poor history under supervision in the community.

         We agree with the Department that Madla is not entitled to habeas corpus relief. The Board's responses to his written requests and case disposition do not misapply the law or its own rule. As the petitioner, Madla has the burden of persuasion to demonstrate that a writ of habeas corpus should issue. Miller v. Eleventh Judicial Dist. Court, 2007 MT 58, ¶ 14, 336 Mont. 207, 15 ...

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