United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, LaFayette Division
OPINION AND ORDER
S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Elijah, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus
petition challenging his disciplinary hearing (WCC 17-03-262)
where a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) found him guilty
of assault and battery in violation of Indiana Department of
Correction (IDOC) policy B-212 on April 7, 2017. ECF 1 at 1.
As a result, he was demoted from Credit Class 1 to Credit
Class 2. Id. The Warden has filed the administrative
record and Elijah filed a traverse. Thus this case is fully
Fourteenth Amendment guarantees prisoners certain procedural
due process rights in prison disciplinary hearings: (1)
advance written notice of the charges; (2) an opportunity to
be heard before an impartial decision-maker; (3) an
opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary
evidence in defense, when consistent with institutional
safety and correctional goals; and (4) a written statement by
the fact-finder of evidence relied on and the reasons for the
disciplinary action. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S.
539 (1974). To satisfy due process, there must also be
“some evidence” in the record to support the
guilty finding. Superintendent, Mass Corr Inst.
v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455 (1985). In his petition,
Elijah argues there are three grounds which entitle him to
habeas corpus relief.
Elijah argues the DHO had insufficient evidence to find him
guilty of assault and battery. ECF 1 at 3. Specifically, he
contends that the only evidence of his guilt was Officer
Hart's statement. Id. In the context of a prison
disciplinary hearing, “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
was charged with and found guilty of offense B-212, which
prohibits an inmate from “[c]ommitting a
battery/assault upon another person without a weapon or
inflicting bodily injury.” Adult Disciplinary Process,
Appendix I. http://www.in.gov/
Conduct Report charged Elijah as follows:
At approximately 9:30 a.m. while shaking down [illegible]
Elijah, Jamie DOC # 117307, NI-EI-2L I, Ofc. M. Hart, removed
what appeared to be a suboxone stripe from his right pocket
of his shorts and he tried to wrestle it from me by grabbing
my hand and trying to shake it loose.
ECF 6-1 at 1.
assessing the evidence, the DHO determined there was
sufficient evidence in the record to find Elijah guilty of
assault and battery. A conduct report alone can be enough to
support a finding of guilt. McPherson, 188 F.3d at
786. Such is the case here. In this case, Elijah assaulted
Officer Hart and then Officer Hart wrote the conduct report.
In the conduct report, Officer Hart memorialized her personal
first-hand account of Elijah's assault by detailing the
fact that, after she removed a suboxone stripe from inside
the right pocket of Elijah's shorts, Elijah grabbed
Officer Hart's hand and attempted to reclaim the stripe
by shaking it loose from her hand. ECF 6-1 at 1. While the
conduct report itself constitutes sufficient evidence of
Elijah's guilt, the DHO also relied on an incident report
as well as Elijah's statement in assessing his guilt. ECF
6-4 at 1, ECF 8 at 1. Because there was more than “some
evidence” for the DHO to find Elijah guilty of assault
and battery, the DHO's finding was neither arbitrary nor
unreasonable in light of the facts in the conduct report and
evidence contained in the record. Therefore, this ground does
not identify a basis for habeas corpus relief.
next argues that his due process rights were violated because
he was not provided with video evidence of the incident. ECF
1 at 2. Elijah explains he requested the video evidence
because prison officers told him he was seen on camera
assaulting or touching Officer Hart, however, he later
learned there was no footage for him to view. Id.
Thus, Elijah asserts prison officials violated prison rules
or IDOC policy by not keeping or storing the video footage of
the incident. Id.
threshold matter regarding this claim, Elijah has not met the
exhaustion requirement contained in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b).
ECF 1 at 2. To have exhausted his administrative remedies,
Elijah must have properly presented the issue at each
administrative level. Moffat v. Broyles, 288 F.3d
978, 981-82 (7th Cir. 2002). However, notwithstanding
Elijah's failure to exhaust, the court may deny the claim
on the merits. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(2)
(“[a]n application for a writ of habeas corpus may be
denied on the merits, notwithstanding the failure of the
applicant to exhaust the remedies available in the courts of
pertains to the merits of Elijah's claim, habeas corpus
relief can only be granted for “violation[s] of the
Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.”
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Failure to follow policy is not a
constitutional violation. Estelle v. McGuire, 502
U.S. 62, 68 (1991) (“state-law violations provide no
basis for federal habeas relief”) and Keller v.
Donahue, 271 Fed.Appx. 531, 532 (7th Cir. 2008)
(inmate's claim that prison did not follow internal
policies had “no bearing on his right to due
process”). Thus, Elijah's claim ...