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Vaughn v. Knight

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

October 11, 2017

BOBBY VAUGHN, Petitioner,


          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         The petition of Bobby Vaughn for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. IYC 16-10-0199. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Vaughn's habeas petition must be denied.

         A. Overview

         Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of good-time credits, Cochran v. Buss, 381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 2004) (per curiam), or of credit-earning class, Montgomery v. Anderson, 262 F.3d 641, 644-45 (7th Cir. 2001), without due process. The due process requirement is satisfied with the issuance of advance written notice of the charges, a limited opportunity to present evidence to an impartial decision-maker, a written statement articulating the reasons for the disciplinary action and the evidence justifying it, and “some evidence in the record” to support the finding of guilt. Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 570-71 (1974); Piggie v. Cotton, 344 F.3d 674, 677 (7th Cir. 2003); Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000).

         B. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         On October 18, 2016, Officer Brown wrote a Report of Conduct in case IYC 16-10-0199 charging Vaughn with possession of a cellular device. The Report of Conduct states:

On 10/18/2016 at approximately 2:15 pm, I, Officer J. Brown (260) was assisting Officer Q. Fritz (251) in a search of Offender Vaughn, Bobby #160479 / N1-3U. Upon entering Cell N1-03, I Officer J. Brown gave Offender Vaughn a direct order to come with us to the Central lobby. Offender Vaughn walked out of the cell in front of me as if to comply with my order. As Officer Fritz approaches the sally port doors to let us through, Offender Vaughn turns around and starts walking towards the dayroom latrine. I follow Offender Vaughn and gave several orders for him [to] change his direction. Vaughn continues to ignore my orders and continued walking in the opposite direction. Once Offender Vaughn passed the steps of the dayroom, I clearly observed him pass a flat, black, touch screen phone to Offender Grant, Anthony #259549 / N1-3L. Offender Grant then tried to walk past me. I then stuck out my left arm to block his path. Grant then tried to walk away from me. I placed my left hand on the Offenders chest and placed my right hand on the Offenders right wrist while ordering him to submit to mechanical restraints. As I gave Offender Grant the order to submit to mechanical restraints, the Offender pulled away from me and ran into the dayroom latrine. As Offender Grant reached the latrine, he threw the phone into the toilet and attempted to flush it. When Offender Grant lunged to the toilet, both he and I fell to the ground. While this was happening I placed my right hand on his left hand to try and stop him from flushing the toilet. I then placed my left forearm on his chest and pushed him back to create distance. Officer Fritz called first responders via radio then placed both of his hands on the left shoulder of Offender Grant and assisted him to his feet. I then retrieved the cell phone from the toilet and exited the unit.

         On November 29, 2016, Vaughn was notified of the charge of possession of a cellular device and served with the Report of Conduct and the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing “Screening Report”. Vaughn was notified of his rights, pled not guilty and requested the appointment of a lay advocate. He requested a witness, Offender Anthony Grant, but did not request any physical evidence.

         The hearing officer conducted a disciplinary hearing on December 13, 2016, and found Vaughn guilty of the charge of possession of a cellular device. In making this determination, the hearing officer considered the offender's statements, staff reports, and photographic evidence. The hearing officer recommended and approved the following sanctions: a 180-day deprivation of earned credit time, and imposition of a previously-suspended sanction demoting him from credit class I to credit class II, and a suspended demotion from credit class II to credit class III.

         Vaughn's appeals were denied and he filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

         C. Analysis

         Vaughn challenges the disciplinary action taken against him arguing that his due process rights were violated when: 1) his hearing was not held within a reasonable time, 2) he was screened under another inmate's conduct report, 3) the hearing officer failed to consider a witness statement, and 4) the administrative appeal of the other inmate involved in the incident at issue was granted.

         1. Date of Hearing

         Vaughn first asserts that his hearing was not held within a reasonable time after the conduct at issue took place. Due process requires only 24-hours' notice of a hearing the claimed violation. Wolff, 418 U.S. at 563 (1974). Therefore, any delay in holding the hearing did not violate his due process rights. In addition, any violation of IDOC policy is not enough to raise a due process violation. Prison policies, regulations, or guidelines do not constitute federal law; instead, they are “primarily designed to guide correctional officials in the administration of a prison . . . not . . . to confer rights on inmates.” Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 481-82 (1995). Therefore, claims based on prison policy, such as the one at issue here, do not form a basis for habeas relief. See Keller v. Donahue, 271 Fed.Appx. 531, 532 (7th Cir. 2008) (rejecting challenges to a prison disciplinary proceeding because, “[i]nstead of addressing any potential constitutional defect, all of [the petitioner's] arguments relate to alleged departures from procedures outlined in the prison handbook that have no bearing on his right to due process”); Rivera v. Davis, 50 Fed.Appx. 779, ...

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