United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
William C. Lee, Judge.
Skinner, a pro se prisoner, filed a habeas corpus petition
challenging the prison disciplinary hearing (MCF 15-09-413)
held at the Miami Correctional Facility on October 21, 2015.
The Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) found him guilty of
Possession of a Controlled Substance in violation of B-202
and sanctioned him with the loss of 90 days earned credit
time and a demotion from Credit Class 1 to Credit Class 2.In
the petition, Skinner raises two grounds.
Ground One, Skinner argues that the DHO was not impartial. He
argues that she acted as a prosecutor when she was the
screening officer (who notified him of the charges and asked
what witnesses or exhibits he wanted to present) as well as a
judge when she was the hearing officer (who heard the
evidence and decided if he was guilty).
An inmate facing disciplinary charges has the right to an
impartial decisionmaker. Wolff, 418 U.S. at 571. But
“the constitutional standard for impermissible bias is
high, ” Piggie v. Cotton, 342 F.3d 660, 666
(7th Cir. 2003), and an adjudicator is entitled to a
presumption of “honesty and integrity” absent
clear evidence to the contrary, see Withrow v.
Larkin, 421 U.S. 35, 47, 95 S.Ct. 1456, 43 L.Ed.2d 712
(1975). Due process requires disqualification of a
decisionmaker who was directly or substantially involved in
the underlying incident, Gaither, 236 F.3d at 820,
and we have assumed that a decisionmaker might likewise be
impermissibly biased if his spouse is a crucial witness in
the proceeding, see Eads v. Hanks, 280 F.3d 728, 729
(7th Cir. 2002). A hearing officer is not automatically
deemed biased, however, 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). Here, the DHO did not write the Conduct Report or
witness the incident. Neither has Skinner provided clear
evidence that the DHO was otherwise biased. Therefore Ground
One is not a basis for habeas corpus relief.
Ground Two, Skinner argues that there was insufficient
evidence to have found him guilty. In evaluating whether
there was adequate evidence to support a finding of guilt in
a prison disciplinary proceeding, “the relevant
question is whether there is any evidence in the record that
could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary
board.” Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445,
[T]he findings of a prison disciplinary board [need only]
have the support of some evidence in the record. This is a
lenient standard, requiring no more than a modicum of
evidence. Even meager proof will suffice, so long as the
record is not so devoid of evidence that the findings of the
disciplinary board were without support or otherwise
arbitrary. Although some evidence is not much, it still must
point to the accused's guilt. It is not our province to
assess the comparative weight of the evidence underlying the
disciplinary board's decision.
Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000)
(quotation marks, citations, parenthesis, and ellipsis
the Conduct Report states:
On 9/23/2015 at approx. 1610 I Officer Chevalier was doing
range walk on the 3/4 side of C-unit when I came up to
Skinner, Antoine # 946727 C413 Cell. I Officer Chevalier
smelled an odd odor coming from the cell. I Officer Chevalier
had Officer Mosley open the cell door. I Officer Chevalier
ask offender Skinner and offender Richardson, Thomas # 164706
to have a seat in the day room. I Officer Chevalier seen a
small rolled up coffee paper with burnt end and a piece of
toilet paper with bum ends in the toilet. I Officer
Chevalier found more coffee paper on the white desk. I
Officer Chevalier seen pencil led in the light socket which I
tookout. On the desk I Officer Chevalier also found some
green leafy substance on the desk. I Officer Chevalier found
a cotton swab bag with a green leafy substance in the bag.
Also found an altered fan.
at 3-4. A memorandum from Investigations stated that
“The items confiscated from the above offender on
9/23/15 were tested using NARKII Narcotics Reagent Field
Test. The result was: Positive - Synthetic Marijuana.”
DE 1-1 at 10. This is some evidence that Skinner possessed a
controlled substance. Skinner argues that the oder was not
specifically described in the report. Nevertheless, since he
was written up for possessing a controlled substance, it was
reasonable for the DHO to have concluded that the reporting
officer believed that it smelled like a controlled substance.
Skinner argues that the NARKII test can produce false
positives and that not all green leafy substances are
controlled substances. Though true, it was not arbitrary for
the DHO to have based its decision on that evidence.
Moreover, “[t]he Federal Constitution does not require
evidence that logically precludes any conclusion but the one
reached by the disciplinary board.” Superintendent
v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 457 (1985). Therefore Ground Two
is not a basis for habeas corpus relief either.
Jackson wants to appeal this decision, he does not need a
certificate of appealability because he is challenging a
prison disciplinary proceeding. See Evans v. Circuit
Court, 569 F.3d 665, 666 (7th Cir. 2009). However, he
may not proceed in forma pauperis on appeal because pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) an appeal in this case could
not be taken in good faith.
these reasons, the habeas corpus petition is
DENIED. The clerk is
DIRECTED to enter judgment and close this
case. Antoine Skinner is DENIED ...