United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division, Lafayette
OPINION AND ORDER
LOZANO, Judge United States District Court
matter is before the Court on a Petition under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 Habeas Corpus Petition by State Prisoner
Challenging a Prison Disciplinary Proceeding, filed by Leroy
Burke, a pro se prisoner, on March 9, 2015 (DE #1).
For the reasons set forth below, the court DENIES the
petition (DE #1). The Clerk is DIRECTED to close this case.
Burke challenges a disciplinary determination made by a
hearing officer at the Miami Correctional Facility
(“Miami”) under case number MCF 14-11-0485, where
he was found guilty of possession of a controlled substance.
Burke was sanctioned with a loss of 60 days earned credit
time. The conduct report states:
On October 3rd, 2014, Internal Affairs received
information that Offender Leroy Burke Jr., 103288 housed in
LH-307, was in possession of methamphetamine. I contacted
Capt. Dale Traux and asked that this offender and the
offender's cell be shook down. At approximately 3:23pm
Officer Kingery and Sgt. Shidler entered the Offender's
cell. Offender Burke did not want to cooperate and became
combative. The officer and sergeant had to restrain the
offender while wrestling him to the ground. While they were
trying to restrain Burke in the day-room, you can see Burke
throwing a white object inside his cell. Sgt. Shidler
retrieved the package and brought it to Internal Affairs. I
unwrapped the package and found a white substance. I
conducted a field test on the substance and it tested
positive for methamphetamine [Exhibit C]. A note also found
on this offender states there was 2.5 grams of Ice in the
package. The package was weighed and it was 2.5 grams.
November 10, 2014, Burke was notified of the charge. (DE
#8-4.) The screening report reflects that he pled guilty,
declined a lay advocate, and did not request and witnesses or
November 10, 2014, a hearing officer conducted a disciplinary
hearing. (DE #8-5.) At the hearing, Burke commented that,
“I plea guilty.” (Id.) The hearing
officer accepted his plea and found Burke guilty of the
charge of possession of a controlled substance.
(Id.) Relying on staff reports and Burke's
statement, the hearing officer imposed a penalty of 60 days
lost earned time credits and demoted him from credit class 1
to credit class 2. (Id.) Burke appealed to the
facility head and the final reviewing authority, but his
appeals were denied. (DE ##8-6, 8-7, 8-8.)
prisoners lose earned time credits in a prison disciplinary
hearing, they are entitled to certain protections under the
Due Process Clause: (1) advance written notice of the
charges; (2) an opportunity to be heard before an impartial
decision maker; (3) an opportunity to call witnesses and
present documentary evidence in defense when consistent with
institutional safety and correctional goals; and (4) a
written statement by a fact finder of evidence relied on and
the reasons for the disciplinary action. Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563 (1974). To satisfy due
process, there must also be “some evidence” to
support the hearing officer's decision.
Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S.
445, 455 (1985).
Burke raises four claims in his petition: (1) he was denied
an impartial hearing officer; (2)the charges against him are
false; (3) he was entitled to a written explanation of the
hearing officer's determination; and (4) his Fifth
Amendment privilege against self-incrimination was violated.
Burke complains that he was denied an impartial hearing
officer. In the prison disciplinary context, adjudicators are
“entitled to a presumption of honesty and integrity,
” and “the constitutional standard for improper
bias is high.” Piggie, 342 F.3d at 666. Due
process prohibits a prison official who was personally and
substantially involved in the underlying incident from acting
as a decision-maker in the case. Id. However, due
process is not violated simply because the hearing officer
knew the inmate, presided over a prior disciplinary case, or
had some limited involvement in the event underlying the
Burke does not clearly explain why he believes the hearing
officer was biased, but there is no indication that he was
involved in any way in the events underlying the charge.
Thus, there is no basis for habeas relief.
Burke claims that his rights were violated because the charge
was initiated by staff for retaliatory reasons.
“[P]risoners are entitled to be free from arbitrary
actions of prison officials.” McPherson, 188
F.3d at 787. Here, however, Burke cites to no evidence and
provides no argument from which retaliation may be inferred.
Nevertheless, “even assuming fraudulent conduct on the
part of prison officials, the protection from such arbitrary
action is found in the procedures mandated by due
process.” Id. In other words, the protections
to which Burke was entitled are the protections afforded by
Wolff, and his claim that the charge was false does
not itself entitle him to federal habeas relief. Liberally
construed, his claim may be that the evidence was
insufficient to find him guilty. 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 board's decision to revoke good time credits
has some factual basis.” McPherson, 188 F.3d
at 786. “[T]he relevant question is whether there is
any evidence in the record that could support the
conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.”
Hill, 472 U.S. at 455-56 (emphasis added). The Court
will overturn a guilty finding only if “no reasonable
adjudicator could have found [the prisoner] guilty of the
offense on the basis of the evidence presented.”
Henderson v. United States Parole Comm'n, ...