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Administrative Law Court
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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Darrell Williams #219730 vs. SCDOR

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Darrell Williams #219730

South Carolina Department of Corrections




This matter is before the Administrative Law Court (ALC or Court) pursuant to Appellant’s Notice of Appeal filed on December 3, 2004, in which Appellant is seeking wages due to him pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 24-3-430 (Supp. 2003) (Prevailing Wage Statute). On January 28, 2005, the Department of Corrections (Department) filed a Motion to Dismiss this matter because Appellant was released from the custody of the Department on October 1, 2004, thereby rendering this matter moot.

On August 23, 2004, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued its decision in Wicker v. S.C. Department of Corrections, 360 S.C. 421, 602 S.E.2d 56 (2004), which held that inmates may file an inmate grievance to protest the Department’s failure to pay wages in accordance with the mandatory statutory provisions. Wicker further held that the ALC shall hear those appeals. Id. at 58. The holding in Wicker granting inmates the right to file a grievance for back wages is founded upon the premise that the right to prevailing wages under S.C. Code Ann. § 24-3-430 (Supp. 2003) is a protected property interest for which an inmate in entitled to due process.

In its Motion to Dismiss, the Department did not establish that an inmate’s right to receive the back wages is extinguished by his release from the Department. Rather, the Department argues that paragraph 19.1 of the Department's Inmate Grievance System Policy provides that all grievances are ended upon an inmate's release from the Department. In most instances, dismissing a case pursuant paragraph 19.1 is simply a logical extension of the fact that upon an inmate's departure from the Department, the liberty or property interest the inmate was challenging no longer exists and the case is therefore rendered moot. Here, however, the Department has not demonstrated why a property interest in back wages would not remain viable after an inmate’s departure from the Department. If Appellant properly filed a grievance concerning alleged back wages, his claim to those wages would remain until the claim is satisfied or the case is adversely dismissed.

The Department contends that this case should nevertheless be dismissed because the Appellant is now procedurally barred by paragraph 19.1. The case of Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co., 455 U.S. 422, 102 S.Ct. 1148 (1982), is instructive regarding the effect of paragraph 19.1 upon this controversy. In Logan, Appellant timely filed a complaint alleging unlawful termination of his employment. However, the Commission inadvertently scheduled its “factfinding conference” after expiration of the statutory 120-day period in which the case must be heard. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of the case, because it reasoned that since the entitlement to the claim arose from an Illinois statute, it was the legislature's prerogative to establish procedures to dismiss the claim. The U.S. Supreme Court recognized that “the State remains free to create substantive defenses or immunities for use in adjudication--or to eliminate its statutorily created causes of action altogether.” Logan at 1156. Nevertheless, the Court held that: “While the legislature may elect not to confer a property interest . . . it may not constitutionally authorize the deprivation of such an interest, once conferred, without appropriate procedural safeguards. . . .” Id., quoting Vitek v. Jones, 445 U.S. 480, 100 S.Ct. 1254 (1980). The Court further found that the complainant had a protected due process interest in the continuation of his claim that could not be eliminated by the State of Illinois’ statutory procedures.

Here, the State of South Carolina, as expounded in Wicker, conferred a property interest upon Appellant for which he has due process rights. The Department argues that its procedure extinguishes Appellant’s claim to that interest upon his departure from prison. However, once the property interest is conferred, neither the Department nor the State of South Carolina can lawfully deprive Appellant of that interest before allowing him his due process right to be heard concerning his claim. Accordingly, I find that the interpretation of paragraph 19.1 propounded by the Department would result in a violation of Appellant’s due process rights. See Ward v. State, 343 S.C. 14, 18, 538 S.E.2d 245, 247 (2000) (Administrative Law Judges can not “rule on the validity of a statute. However, an agency or ALJ can still rule on whether a party's constitutional rights have been violated.”); See also Evans v. State, 344 S.C. 60, 543 S.E.2d 547 (2001).

Therefore, finding good cause,

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that this appeal be REMANDED to the Department for the Department to process Appellant's grievance within forty-five (45) from the date of this Order.




Ralph King Anderson, III

Administrative Law Judge


August 10, 2005

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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