Ex parte Montgomery – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In Ex parte Montgomery, 894 S.W.2d 324 (Tex. Crim. App. 1995), the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that the State's change in policy, which no longer permitted restoration of previously forfeited good conduct time for inmates, the change taking place as of a specific cut-off date, did not deny due process or equal protection to an inmate who, under the old policy, would have had his good conduct time credit restored but was denied such restoration simply because his paperwork had not been processed by the cut- off date.

In its equal protection analysis, the court stated that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment required that states treat similarly situated persons alike, citing Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982):

If a fundamental right is abridged or the differential treatment is based on a suspect classification, such as race, it will be subject to strict scrutiny; otherwise, it need only bear "some fair relationship to a legitimate public purpose." Montgomery, 894 S.W.2d at 329.

The court held that inmates hoping to receive good conduct credits against their sentences are not a suspect classification and that the hope of having good conduct credits restored is not a fundamental right, and therefore the differential treatment need only bear some fair relationship to a legitimate public purpose in order to pass equal protection standards.

The court found that the former policy had been implemented to relieve overcrowding in the prisons, and that the State had a legitimate interest in requiring inmates to serve as much of their sentences as possible and a legitimate public interest in ceasing such restoration when no longer necessary.

Drawing a line at a specific date was permissible to "balance the equities." Id.