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Name: Menefield v. Board of Parole Hearings
Case #: C083356
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 06/21/2017

Regulation allowing Board of Parole Hearings to consider “serious misconduct in prison or jail” in determining parole suitability is sufficiently clear. Menefield, a life inmate, filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the validity of California Code of Regulations, title 15, section 2402, subdivision (c)(6), which provides that an inmate’s “serious misconduct in prison or jail” can tend to show his unsuitability for parole. Menefield argued the regulation lacks clarity because it does not define “serious misconduct” and fails to inform prisoners that they may be denied parole for committing minor or administrative infractions. The trial court sustained the Board’s demurrer to the clarity claim without leave to amend. Menefield appealed. Held: Petition denied. A regulation is drafted with “clarity” if the meaning of the regulation will be easily understood by those directly affected by it. Section 2402, subdivision (c) sets forth the circumstances tending to show unsuitability for parole. Although it does not define “serious misconduct,” life prisoners are generally familiar with the term because it is defined in a related regulation, section 3315, which is also applicable to life prisoners. Thus, the term is clear to those directly affected by it. Furthermore, life prisoners are on notice that minor and administrative misconduct can be considered when determining parole suitability. Section 2402, subdivision (c) is not an exhaustive list of factors showing unsuitability for parole and the Board is allowed to consider all relevant and reliable available information. Moreover, subdivision (d) contains a separate list of factors tending to show suitability for parole, including an inmate’s “institutional behavior indicating an enhanced ability to function within the law.” Thus, section 2402 as a whole adequately informs life prisoners and the Board that minor and administrative misconduct can be considered when determining a life prisoner’s unsuitability for parole. [Editor’s Note: The court denied Menefield’s request for leave to amend his petition to include a claim that section 2402, subdivision (c)(6) is unconstitutionally vague.]

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: