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Dixon v. Emerson

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

July 26, 2018

DAVID J. DIXON STP-17-12-0190, Petitioner,
v.
EMERSON, Respondent.

          ORDER GRANTING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, VACATING SANCTIONS, AND DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         The petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by David J. Dixon (“Mr. Dixon”) challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding for unauthorized possession of personal information, identified as No. STP-17-12-0190. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Dixon's habeas petition is granted.

         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 December 22, 2017, Investigator Grider wrote a Conduct Report charging Mr. Dixon with B-247, unauthorized possession of personal information. Dkt. 8-1 at 1. The Conduct Report states:

While reviewing JPay[1] messages on 12-22-17 it was found that on December 16, 2017 at 10:05 AM Offender Dixon, David DOC# 111218 requests through JPay for his contact to text the contact of another offender to communicate a message for him. Offender Dixon messages the other offender's contact's phone number to his own contact. This constitutes a conduct B247 Unauthorized possession of personal information.

Id. JPay message 361345931 was attached to the Conduct Report. Dkt. 8-1 at 2.

         Mr. Dixon was notified of the charge on January 3, 2018, when he received the Screening Report. Dkt. 8-2 at 1. He pleaded not guilty to the charge, requested a lay advocate, but did not request any witnesses or any physical evidence. Id. He also waived his right to 24 hours' advance notice before the disciplinary hearing. Id. Mr. Dixon signed the Screening Report. Id. Inmate Christopher Cooley agreed to be Mr. Dixon's lay advocate. Dkt. 8-2 at 2.

         The prison disciplinary hearing was held on January 8, 2018. According to the notes from the hearing, Mr. Dixon stated, “I was just relaying a message for a friend so he could talk to his family. I didn't know it was against the rules or I wouldn't have done it.” Dkt. 8-3 at 1. Based on the staff reports and the physical evidence of the attached JPay message (Dkt. 8-3 at 2), the hearing officer found Mr. Dixon guilty of B-247, unauthorized possession of personal information. The sanctions imposed included ninety days of earned-credit-time deprivation (suspended) and a credit class demotion. Id.

         Mr. Dixon appealed to the Facility Head and the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) Final Reviewing Authority, both of which were denied. He then brought this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         C. Analysis

         Mr. Dixon's habeas petition challenges his prison disciplinary conviction on two grounds: (1) sufficiency of the evidence and (2) he was denied a lay advocate. See dkt. 2. The respondent argues that Mr. Dixon had a lay person and there is “some evidence” to support his conviction. Dkt. 8. Mr. Dixon has not filed a reply, and time to do so has passed.

         Challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence are governed by the “some evidence” standard. “[A] hearing officer's decision need only rest on ‘some evidence' logically supporting it and demonstrating that the result is not arbitrary.” Ellison v. Zatecky, 820 F.3d 271, 274 (7th Cir. 2016); see Eichwedel v. Chandler, 696 F.3d 660, 675 (7th Cir. 2012) (“The some evidence standard . . . is satisfied if there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.”) (citation and quotation marks omitted). The “some evidence” standard is much more lenient than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. Moffat v. Broyles, 288 F.3d 978, 981 ...


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