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Indiana Supreme Court: Court Adopts Prison Mailbox Rule, Defines "Full Parole Board"
Posted in Litigation

In Dowell v. State, the Indiana Supreme Court expressly adopted the prison mailbox rule, still “obliging the litigant provide reasonable, legitimate, and verifiable documentation” to support a claim that a “document was timely submitted to prison officials for mailing.”  However, the Court observed that Dowell failed to submit any verifiable documentation to support application of the mailbox rule.

In Varner v. Indiana Parole Board, an inmate challenged a vote denying him parole when only four of the five board members voted and the votes were split with two voting for parole and two voting against.  The inmate tried to force a vote of the full board since the applicable statute required the “full parole board” to make the decision.  The Indiana Supreme Court looked to the Legislature’s rules of statutory construction (where “joint authority” was conferred on a majority – three – of the five Board members), the Board’s administrative rule requiring a quorum of three to render decisions and vote in favor of parole, and practical considerations regarding the delay that would be caused if all members have to vote on each parole decision.  The Court held that the “‘full parole board’ delineates a majority of the Board, which may consist of less than five members.”  Otherwise, the Board, “which hears approximately 50 parole release hearings per month, would come to a standstill during the absence of one member.”

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