United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Pletcher, a pro se prisoner, filed a habeas corpus petition
challenging the prison disciplinary hearing (WCC 15-09-43)
where a disciplinary hearing officer (DHO) at the Westville
Correctional Facility found him guilty of Trafficking in
violation of A-113/111 on September 9, 2015. As a result, he
was sanctioned with the loss of 90 days earned credit time
and demoted to Credit Class 2. Pletcher raises three grounds
in his petition.
Ground One, Pletcher argues that he was found guilty of the
wrong charge. He argues that he should have been found guilty
of Attempted Trafficking, rather than Trafficking. This is a
technical argument which is based solely on the omission of
the word “Attempted” from the Disciplinary
Hearing Report. The Conduct Report charged him with
“Attempting to engage in trafficking” in
violation of 111/113. DE 1-1 at 1. The Conduct Report stated
that Pletcher sent an email to a person outside of the prison
stating that she should have received the money by now to
purchase illegal drugs. It stated that he twice called the
same person asking for additional drugs. The code number for
attempting a Class A violation is 111. The code number
for trafficking is 113. Both the Conduct Report and the
Disciplinary Hearing Report contain those numbers. By number,
he was charged with attempted trafficking. By number he was
found guilty of attempted trafficking. There is no indication
that the omission of the word “Attempted” from
the text of the Disciplinary Hearing Report changed the
factual basis of the charge against him. “Prison
disciplinary proceedings are not part of a criminal
prosecution, and the full panoply of rights due a defendant
in such proceedings does not apply.” Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974). “In
conducting habeas review, a federal court is limited to
deciding whether a conviction violated the Constitution,
laws, or treaties of the United States.” Estelle v.
McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68 (1991). Here, there is no
indication that the omission of the word
“Attempted” from the Disciplinary Hearing Report
violated those rights. Therefore Ground One is not a basis
for habeas corpus relief.
Ground Two, Pletcher argues that his hearing officer was not
impartial because she had written an unrelated conduct report
on him five months before. In Ground Three he argues that the
sanctions were too harsh. He acknowledges that he did not
present either of these two grounds during his administrative
Indiana does not provide judicial review of decisions by
prison administrative bodies, so the exhaustion requirement
in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b) is satisfied by pursuing all
administrative remedies. These are, we held in Markham v.
Clark, 978 F.2d 993 (7th Cir. 1992), the sort of
“available State corrective process” (§
2254(b)(1)(B)(i)) that a prisoner must use. Indiana offers
two levels of administrative review: a prisoner aggrieved by
the decision of a disciplinary panel may appeal first to the
warden and then to a statewide body called the Final
Reviewing Authority. Moffat sought review by both bodies, but
his argument was limited to the contention that the evidence
did not support the board's decision. He did not complain
to either the warden or the Final Reviewing Authority about
the board's sketchy explanation for its decision.
O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 119 S.Ct.
1728, 144 L.Ed.2d 1 (1999), holds that to exhaust a claim,
and thus preserve it for collateral review under § 2254,
a prisoner must present that legal theory to the state's
supreme court. The Final Reviewing Authority is the
administrative equivalent to the state's highest court,
so the holding of Boerckel implies that when
administrative remedies must be exhausted, a legal contention
must be presented to each administrative level.
Moffat v. Broyles, 288 F.3d 978, 981-82 (7th Cir.
2002). Because Pletcher did not present these two grounds to
the Final Reviewing Authority, they are unexhausted.
even if Grounds Two and Three had been exhausted, they would
not be a basis for habeas corpus relief. “A hearing
officer is not automatically deemed biased . . . simply
because he adjudicated or was involved in a previous
disciplinary charge against the prisoner. See
Piggie, 342 F.3d at 666-67; Pannell, 306 F.3d
at 502.” Perotti v. Marberry, 355 Fed.Appx.
39, 43 (7th Cir. 2009). And the harshness of sanctions is not
a valid basis for challenging a punishment that is within the
range of the offense for which the inmate was found guilty.
Cf. United States ex rel. Long v. Pate, 418 F.2d
1028, 1031 (7th Cir. 1970) (Where a sentence is “within
the range established by the legislature . . . this court
will not [on habeas corpus review] question the trial
judge's discretion in imposing sentence, nor will it
question the refusal of the Illinois Supreme Court to
reconsider appellant's petition for reduction of
sentence.”). Pletcher's sentence was within the
limits permitted by Indiana's Disciplinary Code for Adult
Offenders for a Class A offense.
these reasons, the Court DENIES the habeas corpus petition
pursuant to Section 2254 Habeas Corpus Rule 4 and DIRECTS the
Clerk to close this case.