Senate Bill No. 164
(By Senators Tucker, Yost, Barnes, Plymale and Wills)
[Introduced January 12, 2012; referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend and reenact §25-1A-6 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended; and to amend said code by adding thereto a new section, designated §25-1A-6a, all relating to sanctions imposed against prisoners for filing certain frivolous, malicious or harassing litigation and unmerited administrative complaints; and sanctions imposed against prisoners for filing certain frivolous malicious or harassing litigation against licensed professionals providing services to the state and inmate population.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §25-1A-6 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted; and that said code be amended by adding thereto a new section, designated §25-1A-6a, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 1A. WEST VIRGINIA PRISONER LITIGATION REFORM ACT.
§25-1A-6. Sanctions for frivolous, malicious or harassing litigation.
Upon a finding by the court that a civil action is frivolous, malicious or intended to harass the party against whom the civil action is brought or that the inmate knowingly testified falsely or otherwise knowingly presented false evidence or information to the court, the court may order that the inmate forfeit earned good-time credit. A court may take additional evidence to determine the appropriate amount of good-time credit to be forfeited shall forward the findings in the form of an order to the Commissioner of the Division of Corrections or head of such other agency having custody of the prisoner. The Commissioner of the Division of Corrections or other agency head, upon receipt of such order, shall cause the respective warden or administrator of the prisoner’s institution, jail or facility to bring administrative disciplinary charges against the inmate. An inmate found to have engaged in the above conduct shall be subject to loss of good time or other administrative sanctions as are imposed for prisoners violating the rules governing prisoner conduct.
§25-1A-6a. Sanctions for filing unmerited administrative complaints against licensed professionals providing services to the State of West Virginia or to the inmate population.
The Legislature hereby finds that the retention of quality licensed professionals to provide services to individuals incarcerated within jails and correctional facilities or to the state is unnecessarily impaired by the filing of unmerited administrative complaints by prisoners with the disciplinary authorities of the licensing body governing these professionals. In addition to the negative impact on retention of such professionals, costs to the state are increased through diminished productivity and legal fees through the expenditure of resources responding to such complaints. While a prisoner has a right to seek redress with such professional disciplinary authority of a licensing body, the Legislature finds that it is necessary to provide additional incentive for prisoners to stop and think about the merits of their allegations and their motives for making such allegations prior to advancing a complaint. Accordingly, the Legislature enacts the following:
Any licensed professional providing services to the state or to a prisoner, who has been the subject or target of a complaint filed by a prisoner against his or her license with the respective disciplinary authority may, upon receipt of a final disposition by the disciplinary authority finding no merit to the complaint, forward the findings to the Commissioner of the Division of Corrections or agency head of any other state agency in whose custody such prisoner has been committed. The Commissioner of the Division of Corrections or other agency head, upon receipt of the order, shall cause the respective warden or administrator of the prisoner’s institution to bring administrative disciplinary charges against the inmate. Such prisoner shall be subject to loss of good time or other administrative sanctions as are imposed for prisoners violating prison rules.
For purposes of this section the term “licensed professional” means any individual possessing a license to engage in a profession, or any other form of administrative certification or approval to engage in an occupation which is subject to revocation for misconduct. “Prisoner” means any person committed to a jail or prison to serve a sentence of incarceration for the violation of criminal laws of this state.
NOTE: The present code section is not functioning effectively to deter frivolous, malicious or harassing filings, which serve to increase burdens on courts and drive up the operating costs of courts and the state agencies affected. Additionally, by targeting only good time as a possible sanction, many of the prisoners who violate this section are not subject to any sanction because they have life sentences and cannot earn good time and therefore cannot lose good time. This amendment would allow such filings, once found to be contrary to the prohibited conduct by a court, to then be addressed in the same manner as other prison discipline. This would allow courts to effectively screen cases while allowing prison officials to address discipline, and would close the loophole in existence for offenders with life sentences. The purpose of the new section is to impose upon prisoners an incentive to stop and think about the merits of advancing an administrative complaint. Prisoners currently have no disincentive to file such actions. Unlike professionals in free society who can often refuse to provide further service, a professional in a prison setting cannot refuse to provide services to a prisoner prone to file complaints against his or her license.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.
§25-1A-6a is new; therefore, strike-throughs and underscoring have been omitted.
This bill was recommended for introduction and passage during the 2012 Regular Session of the Legislature by the Legislative Oversight Committee on Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority.