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Davis v. Superintendent

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

August 7, 2017

SAMUEL DAVIS, Jr., Petitioner,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Robert L. Miller, Jr. Judge United States District Court.

         Samuel Davis, Jr., a pro se prisoner, filed an amended habeas corpus petition challenging the prison disciplinary hearing where a Disciplinary Hearing Officer found him guilty of attempting to traffic in violation of Indiana Department of Correction policy A-111 and A-113. As a result, Mr. Davis was sanctioned with the loss of 180 days earned credit time and was demoted from Credit Class 2 to Credit Class 3. ECF 18-8.

         As a preliminary matter, the respondent argues that Mr. Davis's claims can't be considered because they are time-barred. The respondent contends that habeas corpus actions have a one-year limitations period pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and that Mr. Davis didn't pursue his claim within this period. The respondent also concedes that the Seventh Circuit has already determined that the one-year limitations period applies to conviction, not disciplinary, habeas cases. See Cox v. McBride, 279 F.3d 492 (7th Cir. 2002). The respondent insists that our court of appeals' interpretation conflicts with that of other circuits, and should be changed. As the respondent acknowledges, this court is bound by the precedent of this circuit, and no other. The respondent may present this argument on appeal, but it won't be considered further here.

         Much of Mr. Davis's petition is premised on his argument that the Department of Correction violated its own internal policies in imposing his discipline. The Department of Correction's failure to follow its own policy doesn't rise 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”). Still, the court will analyze Mr. Davis' claims to determine whether he has identified any violations of his federal rights. See Id. at 67-68 (“In conducting habeas review, a federal court is limited to deciding whether a conviction violated the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States”).

         In Ground One, Mr. Davis challenges the sufficiency of the evidence that the hearing officer used 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, 455-456 (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 omitted).

         An inmate violates IDOC A-111 by “[a]ttempting or conspiring or aiding and abetting with another to commit any Class A offense.” An inmate violates IDOC A-113 by “[e]ngaging in trafficking (as defined in IC 35-44-3-9) with anyone who is not an offender residing in the same facility.” At the time of incident, IC 35-44-3-9 had already been repealed and replaced by Ind. Code 35-44.1-3-5. See Pub. L. 126-2012, Sec. 53, eff. July 1, 2012. The operative statute states,

(b) Except as provided in subsection (d), a person who, without the prior authorization of the person in charge of a penal facility or juvenile facility knowingly or intentionally:
(1) delivers, or carries into the penal facility or juvenile facility with intent to deliver, an article to an inmate or child of the facility;
(2) carries, or receives with intent to carry out of the penal facility or juvenile facility, an article from an inmate or child of the facility; or
(3) delivers, or carries to a worksite with the intent to deliver, alcoholic beverages to an inmate or child of a jail work crew or community work crew; commits trafficking with an inmate, a Class A misdemeanor. However, the offense is a Class C felony under subdivision (1) or (2) if the article is a controlled substance, a deadly weapon, or a cellular telephone or other wireless or cellular communications device.

Ind. Code § 35-44.1-3-5 (eff. Mar. 27, 2013 to June 30, 2014). The Department of Correction defined “attempt” as:

Planning to do something that would be a violation of these administrative procedures or any Department or facility rule, procedure or directive if the act had actually been committed or when an offender commits acts which showed a plan to violate these administrative procedures or a ...

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