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Smith v. Knight

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

May 12, 2015

CHARLES SMITH, Petitioner,
v.
WENDY KNIGHT, Superintendent, Respondent.

ENTRY DISCUSSING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, District Judge.

A federal court may issue a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254(a) only if it finds the applicant "is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." Id. Because habeas petitioner Charles Smith has failed to show that this is the case with respect to the disciplinary proceeding challenged in this case, his petition for a writ of habeas corpus must be denied and this action dismissed.

Discussion

In a disciplinary proceeding identified as No. CIF XX-XX-XXX Smith was found guilty of violating prison rules at an Indiana prison through his use or possession of a controlled substance. The evidence favorable to the decision of the hearing officer is that on September 3, 2015 Smith submitted a urine sample for testing, this sample was sent to an outside laboratory for testing, and the test results were positive for the presence of Buprenorphine, a controlled substance under Indiana law. This evidence is accepted here because in circumstances such as Smith presents here a federal habeas court "will overturn the [hearing officer's] decision only if no reasonable adjudicator could have found [the petitioner] guilty of the offense on the basis of the evidence presented." Henderson v. United States Parole Comm'n, 13 F.3d 1073, 1077 (7th Cir. 1993).

Indiana state prisoners have a liberty interest in their good-time credits and therefore are entitled to due process before the state may revoke them. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 557 (1974); Cochran v. Buss, 381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 2004). The right to due process in this setting is important and is well-defined. Due process requires the issuance of advance written notice of the charges, a limited opportunity to present evidence to an impartial decision-maker, a written statement articulating the reasons for the disciplinary action and the evidence justifying it, and "some evidence in the record" to support the finding of guilt. See Superintend., Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 564, 566, 570-71 (1974); Piggie v. Cotton, 344 F.3d 674, 677 (7th Cir. 2003); Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000).

Under Wolff and Hill, Smith received all the process to which he was entitled. That is, the charge was clear, adequate notice was given, and the evidence was sufficient. In addition, (1) Smith was given the opportunity to appear before the hearing officer and make a statement concerning the charge, (2) the hearing officer issued a sufficient statement of his findings, and (3) the hearing officer issued a written reason for the decision and for the sanctions which were imposed.

Smith's claims that he was denied the protections afforded by Wolff are either refuted by the expanded record or based on assertions which do not entitle him to relief. Smith offers no sound basis on which to challenge the toxicology results. His suggestion that prison polices were not followed would not, even if true, support the grant of federal habeas corpus relief. Evans v. McBride, 94 F.3d 1062 (7th Cir. 1996); see also Del Vecchio v. Illinois Dept. of Corrections, 31 F.3d 1363, 1370 (7th Cir. 1994) (habeas corpus jurisdiction is limited to evaluating alleged violations of federal statutory or constitutional law), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 983 (1995).

"The touchstone of due process is protection of the individual against arbitrary action of the government." Wolff, 418 U.S. at 558. There was no arbitrary action in any aspect of the charge, disciplinary proceeding, or sanctions involved in the events identified in this action, and there was no constitutional infirmity in the proceeding which entitles Smith to the relief he seeks. Accordingly, his petition for a writ of habeas corpus must be denied and the action dismissed.

Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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