United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
BRIAN E. CONNELL, Petitioner,
DUSHAN ZATECKY, Respondent.
ENTRY DISMISSING ACTION AND DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL
William T. Lawrence, Judge United States District Court
question presented by this action for habeas corpus relief
brought by Brian Connell, a state prisoner, is whether the
prison disciplinary proceeding he challenges is tainted by
constitutional error. Having considered the pleadings and the
expanded record, and being duly advised, the Court finds that
the challenged disciplinary proceeding is free from
constitutional error and that the petition for writ of habeas
corpus must therefore be denied. This conclusion rests on the
following facts and circumstances:
While confined at the Pendleton Correctional Facility on
August 25, 2015, Connell was charged with misconduct in No.
ISR 15-08-0089 by assaulting another offender, Robert White,
on August 23, 2015 at 10:00 p.m.. Connell was notified of the
charge and of his procedural rights prior to the hearing on
September 1, 2015. He attended the hearing and made a
statement concerning the charge. The hearing officer
considered Connell's statement, together with the other
evidence, and found Connell guilty and imposed sanctions. The
severity of the misconduct was later reduced, but even the
modified sanctions still involved the loss of earned good
Connell seeks relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).
“[I]n all habeas corpus proceedings under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254, the successful petitioner must demonstrate that
he ‘is in custody in violation of the Constitution or
laws or treaties of the United States.'” Brown
v. Watters, 599 F.3d 602, 611 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a)). Prisoners in Indiana custody may
not be deprived of good-time credits, Cochran v.
Buss, 381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 2004), or of
credit-earning class, Montgomery v. Anderson, 262
F.3d 641, 644-45 (7th Cir. 2001), without due process. The
due process requirement is satisfied with 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. Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill,
472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); Wolff v. McDonnell, 418
U.S. 539, 570-71 (1974).
Applying the requirements of Wolff and Hill
as an analytical template, Connell 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) Connell 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
Connell's claims that he was denied the protections
afforded by Wolff and Hill are without
a. His challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence lacks
merit for the reasons just explained. In this setting,
evidence is constitutionally sufficient if it “point[s]
to the accused's guilt, " Lenea v. Lane,
882 F.2d 1171, 1175 (7th Cir. 1989), and that the
decision “not be arbitrary or without support in the
record." McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784,
786 (7th Cir. 1999); see also Hill, 472 U.S. at 457
("The Federal Constitution does not require evidence
that logically precludes any conclusion but the one reached
by the disciplinary board."). Although Connell denied
responsibility for the assault, it was up to the hearing
officer to decide any issue of credibility, Scruggs v.
Jordan, 485 F.3d 934, 939 (7th Cir. 2007), and this
Court cannot now reweigh the evidence. McPherson,
188 F.3d at 786 (in reviewing a disciplinary determination
for sufficiency of the evidence, “courts are not
required to conduct an examination of the entire record,
independently assess witness credibility, or weigh the
evidence, but only determine whether the prison disciplinary
boards decision to revoke good time credits has some factual
basis”). The evidence in No. ISR 15-08-0089 was
constitutionally sufficient as to all components of the
offense Connell was found to have committed.
b. Connell's claim that he was deprived of the
opportunity to call witnesses when prison authorities
rejected his demand for Robert White's written statement
lacks merit. This is because due process in this context did
not entitle him to confront and cross-examine adverse
witnesses. Piggie v. Cotton, 342 F.3d 660, 666 (7th
Cir. 2003); Brown-Bey v. United States, 720 F.2d
467, 469 (7th Cir. 1983) (“Confrontation and
cross-examination of witnesses in the context of a prison
disciplinary proceeding are matters left to the sound
discretion of prison officials.”).
c. Connell's remaining claim is that he was denied the
lay advocate of his choice. Even if there is a factual basis
for this claim, however, this did not violate any right
required by due process. Wilson-El v. Finnan, 263
F.App'x 503, 506 (7th Cir. 2008)(“due process does
not require that prisons appoint a lay advocate for a
disciplinary hearing unless ‘an illiterate inmate is
involved . . . or where the complexity of the issue makes it
unlikely that the inmate will be able to collect and present
the evidence necessary for an adequate comprehension of the
case.'”) (quoting Wolff, 418 U.S. at 570).
"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 Connell to the relief he seeks.
Accordingly, his petition for a writ of habeas corpus must be
consistent with this ...