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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Irvin McKenzie vs. DOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Irvin McKenzie, #181657

South Carolina Department of Corrections




This matter comes before the Administrative Law Judge Division ("ALJD") pursuant to the appeal of Irvin McKenzie, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections ("Department"). In his appeal, McKenzie alleges that the Department failed to properly calculate his sentence.

The ALJD's jurisdiction to hear this matter is derived entirely from the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. 354, 527 S.E.2d 742 (2000). On September 5, 2001, the ALJD issued an En Banc Order in McNeil v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 00-ALJ-04-00336-AP (September 5, 2001), interpreting the Supreme Court's ruling in Al-Shabazz. The McNeil decision holds that the ALJD's appellate jurisdiction in inmate appeals is limited to two types of cases: (1) cases in which an inmate contends that prison officials have erroneously calculated his sentence, sentence-related credits, or custody status; and (2) cases in which the Department has taken an inmate's created liberty interest as punishment in a major disciplinary hearing. Id.

In this case, McKenzie challenges the calculation of his sentence. As such, I find that this tribunal has jurisdiction to hear McKenzie's appeal.

This tribunal sits in an appellate capacity to review decisions from the Department; thus, it is restricted to reviewing the record presented. S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A)(5) (Supp. 2000); Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. at 377, 527 S.E.2d at 754. This tribunal may not substitute its judgment for that of the Department unless the Department's determination is affected by error of law or is clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence in the whole record. S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A)(6) (Supp. 2000); Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 380, 527 S.E.2d at 755-56; Lark v. Bi-Lo, Inc., 276 S.C. 130, 276 S.E.2d 304 (1981). Although generally "[t]he appealing party has the burden of furnishing a sufficient record from which [a] court can make an intelligent review," Hamilton v. Greyhound Lines East, 281 S.C. 442, 444, 316 S.E.2d 368, 369 (1984), the Department has the duty of providing the record on appeal in inmate grievance matters. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 377, 527 S.E.2d at 754; see also ALJD Rule 59 ("Within forty-five (45) days of the date the case is assigned to an Administrative Law Judge (date of assignment), [the Department] shall file the record with the [ALJD] . . . .").

Upon review of the record on appeal, I find that the Department's final decision in this matter fails to set forth findings which are sufficiently detailed to enable this tribunal to conduct a meaningful appellate review. (1) See Porter v. S.C. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 333 S.C. 12, 21, 507 S.E.2d 328, 332 (1998) (The findings of an administrative body must be "sufficiently detailed to enable [the reviewing body] to determine whether the findings are supported by the evidence and whether the law has been applied properly to those findings."). The Department's final decision in this matter states merely that "[d]ocumentation reveals that Allendale C.I. is in compliance with SCDC policy OP-21.09, Inmate Records Plan. Therefore, your grievance is denied." The Department's final decision fails to contain any findings as to McKenzie's sentence start date, jail time credits, and current max out date. Further, the Department's decision regarding McKenzie's Step 1 Grievance, issued prior to the Department's final decision in this matter, reveals that in considering McKenzie's claim the Department reviewed a disposition by Mr. Blanding, Classification Casemanager, addressing McKenzie's sentence calculation questions. However, the referenced disposition by Mr. Blanding is not included in the record on appeal filed by the Department in this matter. Nor does the record on appeal contain McKenzie's sentencing order, referenced in the Respondent's Brief. (2) Thus, this tribunal cannot determine from the record presented whether or not the Department correctly calculated McKenzie's sentence. See D&D Leasing Co. v. Gentry, 298 S.C. 342, 380 S.E.2d 823 (1989) (stating that an appellate court cannot address an issue where the supporting record is incomplete).

Because the Department failed to furnish this tribunal with a sufficient record from which a meaningful review of McKenzie's claims could be conducted, this case must be remanded to the Department to make further findings in order to establish a reviewable record.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that this matter is remanded to the Department of Corrections for the issuance of a final order containing detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law in conformance with the principles set forth herein;





January 15, 2003

Columbia, South Carolina

1. This is not to suggest that the Department must give Lovejoy and others challenging their sentence calculations a hearing. In a miscalculated sentence case, the grievance procedure established by the Department, in which an inmate has the opportunity to raise the matter to prison officials and in which a reviewable record is created, satisfies the requirements of due process. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 375, 527 S.E.2d at 753.

2. The Respondent's Brief is not a part of the record; therefore, statements made in the Respondent's Brief do not constitute findings by the Department in support of its final decision

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