United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
JAMES D. BRISCOE, Petitioner,
STANLEY KNIGHT, Respondent.
ENTRY DISCUSSING HABEAS PETITION AND DIRECTING
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
the Court is petitioner James Briscoe's petition for a
writ of habeas corpus challenging a prison disciplinary
proceeding identified as No. IYC-16-11-0009. In that
proceeding, Mr. Briscoe was found guilty of Possession of a
Cell Phone. One of his claims is that he was denied the
ability to defend himself against the charges, which violated
his due process rights.
other things, due process requires that an inmate be given
advanced “written notice of the charges . . . in order
to inform him of the charges and to enable him to marshal the
facts and prepare a defense.” Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 564 (1974). “The notice
should inform the inmate of the rule allegedly violated and
summarize the facts underlying the charge.”
Northern v. Hanks, 326 F.3d 909, 910 (7th Cir. 2003)
(citations and quotation marks omitted); see Whitford v.
Boglino, 63 F.3d 527, 534 (7th Cir. 1995) (“The
notice should include the number of the rule violated . . .
and a summary of the facts underlying the charge.”
(citations and quotation marks omitted)).
Briscoe was made aware of the charges against him on November
1, 2017, when he was given a copy of the Conduct Report and
the Screening Report. The Conduct Report stated the
following: “On October 31, 2016 at approximately 9:00
am, I Investigator P. Prulhiere, completed an investigation
regarding Offender James Brisco 967407. During the process of
the investigation, I found sufficient evidence to file a
formal conduct violation for possession or use of a cell
phone. As a result of this evidence, I have filed this
report.” Filing No. 13-1. The Report of Investigation
of Incident stated:
On October 31, 2016, I, Investigator P. Prulhiere, completed
an investigation involving Offender James Brisco [sic] 967407
under case number 16-IYC-0161. During the process of that
investigation, I found no less than 13 incidents showing that
Offender Brisco [sic] had used a cell phone multiple times
over a period spanning from August 2015 through October 2016.
A complete review of these incidents is shown in case file
16-IYC-0161 which contains a confidential case report summary
along with multiple pieces of supporting evidence that
clearly shows that Offender Brisco [sic] maintained
continuous access to an illegal cellular phone device.
Screening Report provided no further information about the
charges, but it reflects that Mr. Briscoe requested the
investigation case file as evidence. See Filing No.
Briscoe was denied the case file as evidence, and thus was
left solely with the description of the charges from the
Conduct Report and the Report of Investigation as notice of
the charges. This notice appears insufficient. Although the
Conduct Report recites “the rule allegedly violated,
” it does not appear to sufficiently “summarize
the facts underlying the charge.” Northern,
326 F.3d at 910. The purpose of the required notice is to
“enable [the inmate] to marshal the facts and prepare a
defense, ” Wolff, 418 U.S. at 564, but Mr.
Briscoe was not notified of the facts underlying the cell
phone possession charge and thus could not have gathered
facts to prepare a defense. As he points out in his reply,
the notice does not provide information regarding
specifically when he was supposed to have had a cell phone or
what the “13 incidents” were that were referred
to in the Investigation Report. This purported notice was
hardly notice of anything beyond a notice that he had been
charged with the named violation, and thus it was
insufficient to comport with due process.
Mr. Briscoe argues that the decision to deny his request for
the case file violated his due process rights. Without it,
according to Mr. Briscoe, he could not defend himself against
the charges. The respondent argues that he was not entitled
to the case file because the file is confidential under
Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) regulations. But a
bald statement that the file is kept confidential pursuant to
DOC regulations is not sufficient to support a conclusion
that due process was satisfied even though it was withheld.
“[P]rison authorities who assert a security
justification for nondisclosure [of evidence] still have the
burden of proving that their denial of requested evidence was
not ‘arbitrary or capricious.'” Johnson
v. Brown, 681 Fed.Appx. 494, 496 (7th Cir. 2017)
(quoting Piggie v. McBride, 277 F.3d 922, 925 (7th
Cir. 2002)). In order for the withholding of the file to be
justified, a more thorough explanation is required.
it appears that Mr. Briscoe's due process right to notice
of the charges against him was violated, because neither
party adequately addressed this issue, this action shall
proceed as follows. The respondent has through
November 27, 2017, in which to either: (1) file a
supplemental brief addressing the issue of notice and
withholding the confidential investigation report that
specifically confronts the above authorities and assessment
of the record; or (2) vacate the disciplinary sanctions
against Mr. Briscoe and set the disciplinary matter for
re-hearing after adequate notice of the charge is given. If
the respondent chooses to file a supplemental brief, the
petitioner will have twenty-one days (21
days) from the date the brief is filed in which to
file a supplemental reply brief. If the respondent vacates
the sanctions, the respondent shall notify the Court by way
of a motion to dismiss this action as moot.