United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
William C. Lee, Judge United States District Court
Barnes, a pro se prisoner, filed a habeas corpus
petition challenging the prison disciplinary hearing (ISP
16-06-92) where the Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) found
him guilty of Conspiracy/Attempting/Aiding or Abetting in
violation of Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) policy
A-111, and Use and/or Possession of Cellular Telephone or
Other Wireless or Cellular Communications Device in violation
of IDOC A-121. ECF 1 at 1. As a result, Barnes was sanctioned
with the loss of 90 days earned credit time and was demoted
from Credit Class One to Credit Class Two. Id.
to his charge and guilty finding in the present case (ISP
16-06-92), Barnes had been charged and found guilty of a
lesser offense based on the same evidence in a different
Conduct Report (ISP 16-01-102). Barnes v.
Superintendent, 3:16-cv-133, ECF 1-10. In this prior
case, Barnes was found guilty of committing Security Threat
Group/Unauthorized Organizational Activity in violation of
IDOC B-208. Id. at ECF 1. This charge was brought
after prison officials discovered a cell phone video in which
Barnes was believed to be showing a gang sign. Id.
Barnes filed a federal habeas corpus action alleging that the
DHO had insufficient evidence on which to find him guilty.
Id. Barnes was issued a second Conduct Report - the
report he presently challenges - based on the same facts
identified in the ISP 16-01-102 report. ECF 1-1 at 11. The
new Conduct Report charged Barnes with violations of IDOC
A-111 and A-121. Id. The Superintendent subsequently
vacated the ISP 16-01-102 guilty finding and expunged
Barnes' record with respect to that charge.
Barnes, 3:16-cv-133, ECF 5-1.
present petition, Barnes lists four grounds challenging the
finding of guilt. In each ground, Barnes alleges violations
of IDOC policy. However, the IDOC's failure to follow its
own policy does not arise to the level of a constitutional
violation. Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68
(1991) (“state-law violations provide no basis for
federal habeas relief”); Keller v. Donahue,
271 F. App'x 531, 532 (7th Cir. 2008) (finding that
inmate's claim that prison failed to follow internal
policies had “no bearing on his right to due
process”). Nevertheless, the court will analyze the
claims to determine whether any of them might present a basis
for federal habeas corpus relief.
Ground One, Barnes argues that he did not receive adequate
notice of his hearing. ECF 1 at 2. Barnes states that he
received notice of the charges on the afternoon of June 10,
2016, a Friday, and received his hearing the morning of June
13, 2016, a Monday. Id. According to Barnes, he was
entitled to 24-hours's notice - “weekends and legal
holidays excluded” - of the hearing. Id.
Barnes argues that he was unable to gather witness statements
or evidence over the weekend, and was therefore denied due
process. ECF 11 at 4. Respondent argues that the notice
Barnes received did not violate IDOC policy. ECF 7 at 6.
However, as stated above, IDOC's compliance with its own
policies is not material in a federal habeas corpus action.
Ground One fails. While prisoners have a due process right to
24-hour's notice of the factual basis of the charges
against them prior to the hearing, Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 564 (1974), there is no
exception for weekends and legal holidays. Barnes was
notified of the factual basis of the charges at least
24-hours prior to his hearing, satisfying his due process
right. Moreover, despite Barnes' claims that he did not
receive notice adequate to gather evidence and witness
statements, Barnes did not request to present such evidence.
On the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing (Screening Report)
Barnes received Friday afternoon, Barnes did not request to
call any witnesses. ECF 11 at 13. The only physical evidence
Barnes requested was a review of the “camera.”
Id. Therefore, relief based on Ground One is denied.
Ground Two, Barnes argues that the charges and sanctions were
improperly increased after his initial disciplinary action
was expunged. ECF 1 at 2. Essentially, Barnes claims that his
due process rights were violated when the prison charged him
with a different offense based on the same facts in his
expunged disciplinary charge. That is not the case. Double
jeopardy principles do not apply in the prison disciplinary
context. Meeks v. McBride, 81 F.3d 717, 722 (7th
Cir. 1996). Barnes also contends that he was denied a
re-hearing on the initial charges in ISP 16-01-102. However,
those charges were expunged, and a re-hearing was rendered
unnecessary. Barnes admits that he was provided with a
hearing for the new charges; thus, his due process right
under Wolff was satisfied. Ground Two is, therefore,
Ground Three, Barnes argues that the new charges and higher
sanctions imposed in this case were imposed in retaliation
for filing the federal habeas corpus claim in
Barnes, 3:16-cv-133. ECF 1 at 2. Barnes claims the
charges in the present case amount to an arbitrary
disciplinary finding. Id. Respondent argues that
Barnes does not have a right to recovery based on a theory of
retaliation. ECF 7 at 9. Respondent contends that Barnes was
afforded all of the procedural protections afforded to him in
Wolff, and is not entitled to habeas relief where
the Wolff procedural protections have been
satisfied. ECF 7 at 9.
court agrees that Barnes is not entitled to relief based on
Ground Three. 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). While prisoners have a
right to be free from arbitrary punishment, they are
sufficiently protected from such action where the procedural
safeguards in Wolff have been satisfied.
McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784, 787 (7th Cir.
1999); Guillen v. Finnan, 219 F.App'x 579, 582
(7th Cir. 2007).
Barnes' discipline was not arbitrary. “[T]he
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, 455-56 (1985). “[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….” Webb v. Anderson,
224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000) (quotation marks,
citations, parenthesis, and ellipsis omitted). IDOC A-121
prohibits “[u]nauthorized use or possession of any
cellular telephone or other wireless or cellular
communications device, ” and IDOC A-111 prohibits
“[a]ttempting or conspiring or aiding and abetting with
another to commit any Class A offense.” Adult
Disciplinary Process, Appendix I.
Barnes was captured in a video recording that was discovered
on a contraband cell phone. CITE. This was sufficient
evidence to support the DHO's finding of guilt.
Ground Four, Barnes argues that the DHO's denial of his
request to personally review “video evidence”
denied him of due process. ECF 1 at 3. It is unclear to which
video evidence Barnes refers. In his petition Barnes claims
that he was not permitted to see the cell phone video relied
on in his earlier conduct report. ECF 1 at 3. However, in his
traverse, Barnes argues that he was denied due process
because he was not permitted to review the video recording of
his June 7, 2016 interview with internal affairs. During this
interview, Barnes was permitted to watch the cell phone
is not entitled to relief based on Ground Four. Prisoners are
not necessarily entitled to review all information relied
upon by the factfinder. “[P]rison disciplinary boards
are entitled to receive, and act on, information that is
withheld from the prisoner and the public . . . .”
White v. Ind. Parole Bd., 266 F.3d 759, 767 (7th
Cir. 2001). Barnes does not argue that the video recording is
exculpatory and does not argue that the evidence was not
considered by the DHO. Barnes merely argues that he should
have been able to see the view. Barnes did review the cell
phone video. Furthermore, Barnes was present during the
internal affairs interview, and was already aware of what
occurred during that interview. Barnes' due process
rights to present evidence were satisfied. See
Wolff, 418 U.S. at 566. Therefore, Ground Four is denied.
these reasons, the habeas corpus petition is DENIED. The