United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
ANDRE L. GORMAN, Petitioner,
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE
L. Gorman, a pro se prisoner, filed a Habeas Corpus Petition
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 [ECF No. 1] challenging a prison
disciplinary hearing conducted at the Westville Correctional
Facility (Westville), in which a hearing officer found Gorman
guilty of Threatening Another with Bodily Harm (per case
number WCC-15-01-0054). The charges were initiated when
Officer Jarrell wrote a Conduct Report on January 2, 2015,
At approximately 6:59, I, Officer Jarrell, was letting and
counting chow back onto dorm. All of chow had returned,
except for Offender Andre Gorman #904846. I then called yard
sergeant and informed him that this offender was missing at
approximately 7:08 a.m. This offender (Gorman) was pounding
on the door very hard. I walked over to door and opened it,
asking him where he had been. He then started yelling at me
saying “Why are you fucking with me?, ” balling
up his fists raising them slightly. I then shut door. Behind
me, not turning away from him, Offender Gorman then stepped
up to me very closely, screaming into my face, “I'm
sick of your shit!” Raising his fists. I then gave this
offender direct order to step back and cuff up. Offender
Gorman then stepped back but refused to turn around and cuff
up, still yelling loudly and with raised fists. I then called
the yard sgt. to signal eight the 5WB stairwell. Yard sgt.
responded and escorted Offender Gorman to the post two
Report 3-4, ECF No. 1-1.]
Screening Report [ECF No. 5-2] reflects that Gorman was
notified of the offense on January 6, 2015, pled not guilty,
requested a lay advocate, and did not request witness
statements or physical evidence. A disciplinary hearing was
conducted on January 7, 2015, where Gorman provided the
following statement: “All this was, was a disagreement
between the two of us. I do get my meds every morning. I take
psych meds. He can't hold me responsible if I'm
getting my meds.” [Report Disciplinary Hr'g 1, ECF
No. 5-3.] In addition, Sgt. McCorkle provided a written
On 1.1.15 at approximately 700 am Officer Jarrell called me
to 5wb for assists with Offender Gorman Andre 9044846 due to
Gorman yelling and screaming at Jarrell. By the time I got to
the dorm Offender Gorman was walking toward Jarrell in anger
with fist balled up. I then took Gorman to Post 2 hold.
(id. at 2.)
considering the Conduct Report, Gorman's Statement, and
the staff witness Statement, the hearing officer found Gorman
guilty and imposed the following sanctions: 28 days lost
phone privileges, 30 days disciplinary segregation, 60 day
deprivation of earned time credit, and a suspended demotion
in credit class. Gorman's appeals to the facility head
and the final reviewing authority were denied.
Gorman raises four claims in his Petition: (1) the hearing
officer failed to follow the Indiana Department of Correction
(IDOC) policy regarding offenders with mental illness; (2)
Gorman was denied an impartial hearing officer; (3) the
sanctions are unconstitutional; and (4) the charges are
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).
Gorman contends that the hearing officer failed to follow
IDOC policy regarding offenders with mental illnesses.
Specifically, he complains that the hearing officer did not
contact a mental health professional prior to the hearing.
However, even if internal rules or policies were violated,
this would not entitle Gorman to federal habeas relief.
Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991)
(habeas relief is only available for a violation of the U.S.
Constitution or other federal laws); Hester v.
McBride, 966 F.Supp. 765, 775 (N.D. Ind. 1997)
(violation of prison policy in disciplinary proceeding could
not support grant of habeas relief, since a federal habeas
court “does not sit to correct any errors of state
law”). Moreover, Gorman's complaint that the
hearing officer did not check his mental health falls outside
of the realm of Wolff, which does not require
consideration of mental health status as part of prison
disciplinary hearings. Wolff “represents a
balance of interests that should not be further adjusted in
favor of prisoners.” White v. Ind. Parole Bd.,
266 F.3d 759, 768 (7th Cir. 2001). And, as a final matter,
this Court finds that there is nothing in the record to
establish that Gorman's mental health issues played any
role in this incident, nor did the lack of a mental health
assessment violate Gorman's due process associated with
Gorman 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 v. Cotton, 342 F.3d 660,
666 (7th Cir. 2003). 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. at 667. 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 charge. Id.
Here, not only does Gorman fail to clearly explain why he
believes the hearing officer was biased, but there is no
indication that the hearing officer was involved, in any way,
with the events underlying the charge. It appears that Gorman
believes the hearing officer was impartial because the
officer ruled against him. However, adverse rulings alone do
not establish impermissible bias. Liteky v. United
States, 510 U.S. 540, 555-56 (1994).
Gorman contends that the sanctions imposed were excessive. He
complains that he was placed in segregation for 30 days,
which is a significant hardship due to his mental condition.
This ground lacks merit because federal habeas relief is
available only as to sanctions that subject an inmate to
“custody.” Walker v. O'Brien, 216
F.3d 626, 633 (7th Cir. 2000). The only sanction that
affected Gorman's custody was the deprivation of earned
credit time. Upon review, a 60 day loss of good time credit
is permitted for a Class B offense. There is nothing
unconstitutional about this sanction.
Gorman 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 v.
McBride, 188 F.3d 784, 787 (7th Cir. 1999). However,