ROBERT E. BANKS, Petitioner,
JULIE L. JONES, etc., Respondent.
FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
for Review of the Decision of the District Court of Appeal -
Certified Direct Conflict of Decisions First District - Case
No. 1D15-330 (Bradford County)
Michael Ufferman of Michael Ufferman Law Firm, P.A.,
Tallahassee, Florida, for Petitioner.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Denise M. Harle, Deputy Solicitor
General, and Daniel A. Johnson, Assistant Attorney General,
Tallahassee, Florida, for Respondent.
case is before the Court for review of the decision of the
First District Court of Appeal in Banks v. Jones,
197 So.3d 1152 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016). The district court
certified that its decision is in direct conflict with the
decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Holland
v. State, 791 So.2d 1256 (Fla. 5th DCA 2001), on the
issue of whether a petition for a writ of habeas corpus is
the proper vehicle by which to seek release from close
management. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, §
3(b)(4), Fla. Const.
E. Banks was serving a thirty-year sentence for a robbery
conviction. Banks, 197 So.3d at 1156. After
receiving a disciplinary report for a spitting incident, the
Department of Corrections adjudicated Banks guilty for
violating department rules, placed him in disciplinary
confinement, and revoked 364 days of gain time in addition to
issuing a referral reassigning him to the "Close
Management I" housing classification. Id.
first challenged the referral with the Department, which
upheld the decision. Banks then filed a petition for a writ
of habeas corpus with the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court.
Id. The Eighth Circuit denied relief, stating that
Banks failed to demonstrate that he was entitled to relief.
Id. at 1157. Banks filed a petition for a writ of
certiorari in the First District, which ordered the
Department to show cause why the writ should not be granted.
Subsequently, the First District determined to hear the case
en banc to determine whether it should recede from its prior
Banks' claim, the First District stated: "Most
pertinent to our decision here is the initial question of
whether prisoners in Florida have a protected liberty
interest in remaining in the general population, thus
necessitating a determination of whether a decision removing
a prisoner from the general population for reassignment to
Close Management implicates due process requirements."
Id. at 1159 (citing Sandin v. Conner, 515
U.S. 472 (1995)). The First District reasoned that "[i]f
a liberty interest is not at stake, judicial review . . .
would be more appropriately considered as an appeal of an
administrative decision rather than a claim that a person is
being illegally detained." Id. Although the
First District recognized that the Sandin Court
"left open the possibility that states could create
liberty interests which triggered due process protections,
" the court nevertheless reasoned that
"Sandin clearly announced that any prison
regulation which did not impose an atypical hardship on state
prisoners would not implicate due process protections."
Id. at 1160 (citing Sandin, 515 U.S. at
481). So reasoning, the First District announced its decision
to "recede from prior decisions . . . allow[ing] Close
Management decisions to be challenged by writ of habeas
corpus." Id. at 1162. Relying on our decision
in Bush v. State, 945 So.2d 1207, 1210 (Fla. 2006),
the First District reasoned that because prisoners
challenging their assignment to close management were not
seeking immediate release, the appropriate vehicle for their
claims is a petition for a writ of mandamus. Banks,
197 So.3d at 1163. Therefore, the First District determined:
"[B]ecause habeas corpus review of such claims does not
accord the proper deference due the Executive Branch . . . we
recede from prior decisions of this court which hold that
challenges to Close Management housing assignments may be
asserted by petition for writ of habeas corpus."
Banks, 197 So.3d at 1155 (citing Magwood v.
Tucker, 98 So.3d 725 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012); Kendrick
v. McNeil, 6 So.3d 657 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009); Thompson
v. Dugger, 509 So.2d 391, 392 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987)).
First District certified conflict with
Holland. Banks sought review in this Court, which
Department argues that because Banks has been released from
close management and transferred to a facility that does not
house prisoners in close management quarters, the case is
moot and this Court should exercise its discretion and
discharge jurisdiction. While the Department is correct that
Banks, himself, does not have a current controversy, the
First District's decision is broader than Banks'
dispute. Because the First District receded from over three
decades of precedent and circuit courts who would ordinarily
review the habeas petitions are bound by its decision, our
determination of the certified conflict is necessary for
guidance to our trial and appellate courts. Therefore, we
decline the State's offer to discharge jurisdiction.
See, e.g., Pino v. Bank of New York, 76
So.3d 927, 927-28 (Fla. 2011) (discussing a certified
question of great public importance and stating that the
question "transcends the individual parties to this
action because it has the potential to impact [the courts]
throughout this state and is one on which Florida's trial
courts and litigants need guidance."); Williams v.
State, 957 So.2d 600, 601 (Fla. 2007) (retaining
jurisdiction in a certified conflict case despite mootness);
State v. Matthews, 891 So.2d 479, 483 (Fla. 2004)
(retaining discretionary certified conflict jurisdiction
despite Matthews' release from prison because "the
question before this Court is of great public importance and
is likely to recur") (citing Holly v. Auld, 450
So.2d 217, 218 n.1 (Fla. 1984)); Enterprise Leasing Co.
v. Jones, 789 So.2d 964, 965 (Fla. 2001) ("Although
the issue presented in this appeal may be moot as it relates
to these parties, the mootness doctrine does not destroy our
jurisdiction when the question before us is of great public
importance or is likely to recur.") (citing Gregory
v. Rice, 727 So.2d 251, 252 n.1 (Fla. 1999)); N.W.
v. State, 767 So.2d 446, 447 n.2 (Fla. 2000) (retaining
discretionary certified conflict jurisdiction after the
appellant's community control expired because "this
case presents a controversy capable of repetition, yet
evading review [and] should be considered on its
merits." (citing Kight v. Dugger, 574 So.2d
1066 (Fla. 1990)).
issue before this Court is whether an inmate may petition for
a writ of habeas corpus to challenge his or her placement in
Close Management I (CMI) or whether said inmate must file a
petition for a writ of mandamus. Because we find that an
inmate may have a limited liberty interest in being housed
with the general population as compared to CMI depending on
the duration of reassignment, we hold that a petition for a
writ of habeas corpus remains the correct mechanism by which
to challenge a reassignment. We therefore quash the decision
of the First District to the extent it holds otherwise and
adopt the reasoning of Judge Wolf's concurring in part
and dissenting in part opinion.
United States Supreme Court's 1983 decision in Hewitt
v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460 (1983), upon which the First
District previously relied, concerned a prisoner's
complaint that the Pennsylvania State Correctional
Institution at Huntingdon violated his Fourteenth Amendment
due process rights by confining him to administrative
segregation within the prison after he assaulted two guards.
Id. at 462-63. The Hewitt Court indicated:
While no State may "deprive any person of life, liberty,
or property, without due process of law, " it is well
settled that only a limited range of interests fall within
this provision. Liberty interests protected by the Fourteenth
Amendment may arise from two sources-the Due Process Clause
itself and the laws of the States.
Hewitt, 459 U.S. at 466 (citing Meachum v.
Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 223-227 (1976)). The Court then
opined, "While there is little question on the record
before us that [Hewitt's] confinement added to the
restraints on this freedom, we think his argument seeks to
draw from the Due Process Clause more than it can