Vitek v. Jones

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In Vitek v. Jones, 445 U.S. 480 (1980), a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court held that an inmate was entitled to due process prior to being transferred to a mental hospital, by virtue of a liberty interest established by a state statute.

As established by the district court and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, these due process rights include:

  • A. Written notice to the prisoner that a transfer to a mental hospital is being considered;
  • B. A hearing, sufficiently after the notice to permit the prisoner to prepare, at which disclosure to the prisoner is made of the evidence being relied upon for the transfer and at which an opportunity to be heard in person and to present documentary evidence is given;
  • C. An opportunity at the hearing to present testimony of witnesses by the defense and to confront and cross-examine witnesses called by the state, except upon a finding, not arbitrarily made, of good cause for not permitting such presentation, confrontation, or cross-examination;
  • D. An independent decision maker;
  • E. A written statement by the fact finder as to the evidence relied on and the reasons for transferring the inmate;
  • [NOTE: a majority of Justices rejected this right to state-furnished counsel:] F. Availability of legal counsel, furnished by the state, if the inmate is financially unable to furnish his own; and
  • G. Effective and timely notice of all the foregoing rights.