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DOWNIE v. KLINCAR

February 11, 1991

DENNIS DOWNIE, ROBIN BERGERON, and DEREK WHITNEY, on their own behalf and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
PAUL KLINCAR, Chairman of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, and HERB BROWN, CORRINE FRANKLIN, JOSEPH LONGO, RAPHAEL NIEVES, SAL PISANO, WILLIAM REDMOND, JOANNE SHEA, ANN TAYLOR, and TOMMY WELLS, Members of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, Defendants


James B. Moran, Chief United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MORAN

JAMES B. MORAN, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 In April 1989, plaintiffs (collectively referred to as "Downie") filed a class action lawsuit challenging the policies and practices of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board ("the Board") in parole revocation hearings. Since the institution of the litigation, the parties have settled most of their disputes, and the cross motions for summary judgment now before the court address a narrow issue: whether the Board, at a final revocation hearing, is entitled to rely on eyewitness police reports as conclusive evidence of a substantive violation of parole without requiring the reporting officer to testify at the revocation hearing and without permitting the parolee to cross examine the officer. *fn1"

 A. Eyewitness Police Reports

 As a release -- albeit conditional -- from actual incarceration, parole represents a significant enlargement of a prisoner's freedom. The liberty associated with parole status, although not absolute, is extremely valuable, see Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 480, 482, 33 L. Ed. 2d 484, 92 S. Ct. 2593 (1972), and any deprivation of that liberty is quite serious. See Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 411 U.S. 778, 781, 36 L. Ed. 2d 656, 93 S. Ct. 1756 (1973). Accordingly, parole cannot be revoked without affording the parolee due process, but because the parolee's liberty interest is conditional, and because the parole revocation process is independent of the criminal prosecution, the parolee is not entitled to the "full panoply" of due process rights afforded a defendant in a criminal prosecution. Morrissey, 408 U.S. at 480. Although parole revocation hearings must be orderly, then, they may be attended by a certain flexibility and informality that would not be permissible in criminal trials. Id. at 483; see also Hanahan v. Luther, 688 F.2d 844, 693 F.2d 629, 633 (7th Cir. 1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1170, 74 L. Ed. 2d 1013, 103 S. Ct. 815 (1983); United States ex rel. Carson v. Taylor, 540 F.2d 1156, 1161 (2d Cir. 1976).

 Having emphasized the flexibility of these proceedings, the Morrissey Court nevertheless set forth six due process guarantees that must be afforded parolees in their final revocation hearings:

 
(a) written notice of the claimed violations of parole; (b) disclosure to the parolee of evidence against him; (c) opportunity to be heard in person and to present witnesses and documentary evidence; (d) the right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses (unless the hearing officer specifically finds good cause for not allowing confrontation); (e) a "neutral and detached" hearing body such as a traditional parole board, members of which need not be judicial officers or lawyers; and (f) a written statement by the factfinders as to the evidence relied on and reasons for revoking parole.

 408 U.S. at 489. See also Fed. R. Crim. P. 32.1(a)(2). The fourth guarantee clearly establishes that some right to confrontation exists, but the qualifying "good cause" language reflects the flexibility that marks these proceedings and suggests that the confrontation requirement will be relaxed in certain circumstances. See Gagnon, 411 U.S. at 783 n. 5 ("we did not in Morrissey intend to prohibit use where appropriate of the conventional substitutes for live testimony"); Hanahan, 693 F.2d at 633.

 In theory, live testimony and the cross-examination of witnesses produces the most reliable version of facts and minimizes the likelihood of inaccuracy. Candor and truth are promoted by this process, for "the witness himself will probably be impressed with the solemnity of the occasion and the possibility of public disgrace. Willingness to falsify may reasonably become more difficult in the presence of the person against whom directed." 4 J. Weinstein & M. Berger, Weinstein's Evidence 800-2 (Advisory Committee's Introductory Note on the Hearsay Problem) (1990). In some cases, an acceptable degree of reliability may only be achieved through live testimony, see Gagnon, 411 U.S. at 783 n. 5; where good cause is shown, however, the parolee's and society's interest in ensuring the accuracy of evidence at the revocation hearing is satisfied. Egerstaffer v. Israel, 726 F.2d 1231, 1234 (7th Cir. 1984).

 "Good cause" is determined by a balancing test, which weighs the reliability of the hearsay evidence and the difficulty or cost of procuring and producing the witness or witnesses. See United States v. Bell, 785 F.2d 640, 642-43 (8th Cir. 1986); United States v. Penn, 721 F.2d 762, 764-65 (11th Cir. 1983). Upon finding good cause, the hearing officer should make an explicit finding and state his reasons in the record. Penn, 721 F.2d at 764 (quoting Baker v. Wainwright, 527 F.2d 372, 378 (5th Cir. 1976)). Under Seventh Circuit law, however, the requirement to show good cause is excused "if the proffered evidence itself bears substantial guarantees of trustworthiness." *fn2" Egerstaffer, 726 F.2d at 1234; see also Prellwitz v. Berg, 578 F.2d 190, 192 (7th Cir. 1978); Faheem-El v. Klincar, 620 F. Supp. 1308, 1323 (N.D. Ill. 1985), rev'd on other grounds, 841 F.2d 712 (7th Cir. 1988) (en banc). *fn3" Where the evidence submitted takes the form of a "conventional substitute for live testimony," reliability will more readily be found, see Prellwitz, 578 F.2d at 192; conventional substitutes include official reports, see id., letters, depositions, and documentary evidence. See Penn, 721 F.2d at 765.

 It is unclear from the Prellwitz opinion whether the court intended to create a presumption of reliability -- either conclusive or rebuttable -- with respect to conventional substitutes. At issue in that case were reports of the Department of Health and Social Services documenting unsuccessful attempts of the petitioner's original probation officer to locate him when he failed to report to the Department. *fn4" Finding the reports admissible, the court noted that they were "kept in the ordinary course of business by the Department" and accordingly "bore 'recognized indicia of reliability.'" 578 F.2d at 192 (quoting United States v. Smith, 571 F.2d 370, 374 n. 4 (7th Cir. 1978)). The quoted footnote in Smith, however, suggests that some conventional substitutes may not be sufficiently reliable, *fn5" and most courts addressing the admissibility issue with respect to conventional substitutes have allowed the evidence without confrontation only after ascertaining that other indicia of reliability are present. See Hanahan, 693 F.2d at 633 (prior testimony under oath admissible where parolee and his lawyer were present at prior proceeding and had a full opportunity to participate); Penn, 721 F.2d at 766 (results of drug test admissible where they were "the regular reports of a company whose business it is to conduct such tests" and there was general corroboration that the parolee had taken drugs); Bell, 785 F.2d at 643 (urinalysis results admissible because they were "regular reports" and there was no evidence contradicting drug use); United States v. McCallum, 677 F.2d 1024, 1026 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1010, 74 L. Ed. 2d 400, 103 S. Ct. 365 (1982) (letter from parolee's job coordinator to probation officer regarding parolee's tardiness and absenteeism admissible because it was an official report and reliability was established by probationer's corroboration); United States v. Burkhalter, 588 F.2d 604, 607 (8th Cir. 1978) (letter from probation officer documenting absenteeism admissible where there was no possibility of mistaken identity and probationer's admission provided corroboration); Stokes v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, No. 88 C 10696 (N.D. Ill. March 22, 1989) (probation officer's report of parole violation not admissible where parolee disavowed earlier admission and a later letter by the probation officer indicated that he might have qualified some statements). To the extent that Prellwitz created a presumption of reliability, then, it appears to be rebuttable.

 However Prellwitz is interpreted, eyewitness police reports cannot be considered conventional substitutes for live testimony, and their reliability is therefore neither automatic nor presumed. Police reports of any kind are "inherently more subjective than laboratory reports of chemical tests," see Bell, 785 F.2d at 643, and, although the parole officer-parolee relationship is also marked by a certain subjectivity, see Carson, 540 F.2d at 1164, a police officer's description of events as he witnessed them lacks the objective certainty of a parole officer's report of absenteeism and tardiness. Cf. Burkhalter, 588 F.2d at 607. These reports, in a literal sense, may be reports kept in the ordinary course of business, and they "may be demonstrably reliable evidence of the fact that an arrest was made, [but] they are significantly less reliable evidence of whether the allegations of criminal conduct they contain are true." Bell, 785 F.2d at 644 (citing United States v. Pattman, 535 F.2d 1062 (8th Cir. 1976)); see also United States v. King, 613 F.2d 670, 673 (7th Cir. 1980) (acknowledging the unreliability of eyewitness police reports).

 Indeed, police reports are explicitly excluded from the Rule 803(8) of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which establishes an exception from the hearsay rule for public records and reports. Although we recognize that the police record exception applies only "in criminal cases" and that in any case, parole revocation proceedings are not bound by the Federal Rules of Evidence, see F.R.E. 1101(d)(3), the rationale behind this exception bespeaks a concern about the reliability of police reports; Congress was apparently motivated by a perception that "'observations by police officers at the scene of the crime of the apprehension of the defendant are not as reliable as observations by public officials in other cases because of the adversarial nature of the confrontation between the police and the defendant in criminal cases'" and that the reports are "'frequently prepared for use of prosecutors, who use such reports in deciding whether to prosecute.'" 4 J. Weinstein & M. Berger, supra p. 3, para. 803(8)[01], at 238-39 (quoting Senate Judiciary Committee Report). It is the initial encounter ...


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