United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Bertram, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus
petition challenging the prison disciplinary hearing (MCF
17-01-590) at the Miami Correctional Facility where a
Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) found him guilty of use of
a controlled substance in violation of Indiana Department of
Correction (IDOC) policy B-202 on February 7, 2017. ECF 1 at
1. As a result of the hearing he was sanctioned with the loss
of 90 days earned credit time and was demoted from Credit
Class 1 to Credit Class 2. Id.
his petition, Bertram argues that he is entitled to habeas
corpus relief because IDOC failed to follow its own policies.
However, violating a prison rule is not a basis for habeas
corpus relief, because “[i]n 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,
67-68 (1991). Nevertheless, the court will analyze
Bertram's claims to determine whether he identifies any
violation of his federal rights.
Ground One and Ground Three, Bertram argues that IDOC did not
have “cause” to test him for Buprenorphine and
Suboxone and thus his due process rights were violated.
However, “prison officials are not required to have
probable cause to conduct a drug test on an
inmate….” Guillen v. Finnan, 246 F.
App'x 394, 395 (7th Cir. 2007). Thus, Bertram is not
entitled to habeas relief based on his argument that he was
subjected to the test without cause.
Ground Two, Bertram argues that he was coerced into signing a
form admitting his guilt. ECF 1 at 2. Bertram claims that the
reporting officer told him that if he did not plead guilty he
would be required to pay for an additional drug test.
Id. Bertram argues that this choice pressured him to
confess. Id. Ground Two does not identify any due
process violation. Pursuant to IDOC policy, if the initial
test results from a drug screening are positive, the prisoner
is notified of the results, and notified that he has the
opportunity to have those test results sent to a laboratory
for additional testing. IDOC Manual of Policies and
Procedures, No. 01-02-107, Sec. XII.
He is also informed that if the test results from the
laboratory are also positive, he will not only be charged
with a disciplinary offense, but will also be required to pay
restitution in the amount of the cost of the confirmation
drug test. Id. If the confirmation test is negative,
the prisoner will not be charged for the cost of the test.
Id. On the other hand, the prisoner may elect to
plead guilty and avoid incurring the cost of the additional
testing. Id. Thus, under the IDOC system, a prisoner
who suspects he would not pass the confirmation test may
elect to avoid incurring the restitution charge and plead
guilty, whereas a prisoner who believes that his test will be
negative may insist on additional testing without fear of
restitution. Bertram was notified of these options and
elected to plead guilty. This choice did not amount to
coercion and did not violate his federal rights.
Bertram argues that there was not sufficient evidence to find
him guilty. In the disciplinary context, “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,
455-56 (1985). “In reviewing a decision for some
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 v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784, 786 (7th Cir.
1999) (quotation marks omitted).
[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
inmate violates IDOC B-202 by “[p]ossession or use of
any unauthorized substance controlled pursuant to the laws of
the State of Indiana or the Unites States Code or possession
of drug paraphernalia.” Adult Disciplinary Process,
Appendix I: Offenses.
The Conduct Report charged Bertram as follows:
[o]n 1/30/17 at approximately 10:43 P.M. I, Sgt. J. Thompson,
was working in phase 2 visitation conducting urinalysis test.
At this time Offender Bertram, Michael DOC# 165502 submitted
his sample and his sample tested a preliminary positive for
Buprenorphine. I then explained to Offender Bertram the
options he had. After hearing the options Offender Bertram
decided to sign an admission of guilt to using/possessing
ECF 1-1 at 1. Buprenorphine is a controlled substance under
Indiana law. Ind. Code § 35-48-2-8 (West).
case, the DHO had sufficient evidence to find Bertram guilty.
A Conduct Report alone can be sufficient evidence to support
a finding of guilt. McPherson, 188 F.3d at 786. Such
is the case here. The Conduct Report provides evidence that
Bertram was provided with a drug test and tested positive for
a controlled substance in violation of IDOC policy. This is
sufficient evidence to satisfy Bertram's due process
right to “some evidence.” Thus, the DHO's
determination that Bertram was guilty was not arbitrary or
unreasonable, and Bertram is not entitled to habeas corpus
relief based on the sufficiency of the evidence.
Bertram 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 the court
finds pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that 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. Michael Bertram is DENIED ...