Alston v. Read

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Sentencing
  • Date Filed: 12-14-2011
  • Case #: 10-15332
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge O'Scannlain for the Court; Circuit Judges Tallman and M. Smith, Jr.
  • Full Text Opinion

State prison officials are entitled to qualified immunity, as there was no clearly established duty for these officials "to seek out original court records in response to a prisoner's unsupported assertion that he was being over-detained."

Cornelius Alston was sentenced to Hawaii state prison twice in two separate sentencing orders. In 1991 he was convicted of second-degree robbery and while on parole in 1997 "he was convicted of two counts of promoting a dangerous drug and was sentenced to ten years in prison on the first count and five on the second." The judgment stated that the sentences were to run concurrently and the Offender Management Office of Hawaii's Department of Public Safety ("DPS") calculated Alston's release date to be August 4, 2007. In 2005, Thomas Read, the Administrator for DPS's Offender Management Office, mandated that "sentences issued at different times for different crimes" should be consecutive unless the judgment says otherwise. In 2007, Alston's sentence was recalculated and his new release date was November 17, 2011. The PSD later determined that an error occurred when Alston's sentence was recalculated and Alston sought a new judgment and was released. Alston brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1982 against Read and another PSD employee, "alleging that [he was] overdetained in violation of federal and state law." The district court denied summary judgment for the defendants and concluded "it could not grant either officer qualified immunity . . . because there were questions of material fact as to whether Read and Simmons had conducted a proper investigation of Alston's claim that his sentence was incorrectly calculated." Read and Simmons appealed alleging that they did not violate Alston's rights. The Ninth Circuit held that state prison officials have no "clearly established duty to seek out original court records in response to a prisoner's unsupported assertion that he was being over-detained." The Ninth Circuit reasoned that a "reasonable officer" would not have known that he had a "duty to investigate an overdetention claim in these circumstances by obtaining the prisoner's original courthouse file." REVERSED and REMANDED.

Advanced Search