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McNeal v. Knight

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

September 17, 2018

WILLIAM MCNEAL, Petitioner,
v.
WENDY KNIGHT, Respondent.

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

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner William McNeal's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Mr. McNeal challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. ISR 17-05-0048. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. McNeal'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 March 16, 2017, Mr. McNeal filed a Verified Petition for Additional Credit Time with the Marion Superior Court. Dkt. 9-1 at 2. Mr. McNeal was requesting that he receive “credit time for completing the following programs: a. Celebrate Recovery; b. Inside Out; c. Christian Twelve Steps; d. Conflict Resolution; and e. Two life skill programs that are faith based.” Id. at 2-3. On May 1, 2017, the Marion Superior Court granted the State of Indiana's motion for summary disposition because these programs were “not approved by IDOC as programs eligible for additional credit time.” Id. at 3.

         On October 31, 2017, Paul Dickson wrote a Conduct Report charging Mr. McNeal with B243, “filing frivolous claims.” Dkt. 9-1 at 1. The offense was later amended to state “filing for ineligible time cuts.” Id. The Conduct Report states:

On 5/11/17 at 12:18pm, I (Paula Dickson) was notified by email from Jack Hendrix, Director of Adult Classification that offender William McNeal 995125 OS 1-28 had written a lawsuit seeking credit time for programs that were clearly not eligible for time cuts and the courts ruled in our favor. After review by legal services and Deputy Attorney General it has been determined that this falls under ADP 243 filing a frivolous lawsuit.

Dkt. 9-1 at 1. The Conduct Report purports to have an “attached email and copy of lawsuit, ” but only a copy of the order from the lawsuit was attached. See Dkt. 9-1 at 2-6. No. email was produced to this Court.

         Mr. McNeal was notified of the charge on May 12, 2017, when he received the Screening Report. Dkt. 9-2 at 1. He plead not guilty to the charge, requested a lay advocate, and did not request any witnesses. As physical evidence, he requested a copy of the lawsuit, which was provided to him. Id.

         The prison disciplinary hearing was held on May 18, 2017. According to the notes from the hearing, Mr. McNeal stated, “I was never informed that this was a write-up. I was just trying to get my time cuts. Some of the guys who turned their certificates in got time cuts.” Dkt. 9-3 at 1. Based on the staff reports and “paper [] work, ” the hearing officer found Mr. McNeal guilty of B-243, filing a frivolous lawsuit. The sanctions imposed included thirty days of earned credit time deprivation and a credit class demotion from B to C. Dkt. 9-3 Mr. McNeal appealed to the Facility Head and the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) Final Reviewing Authority, both of which were denied. Dkt. 9-4; Dkt. 9-5. He then brought this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         C. ANALYSIS

         Mr. McNeal challenges his prison disciplinary conviction on two grounds: (1) sufficiency of the evidence; and (2) Putnamville Correctional Facility, the facility where he was housed when he filed the state petition, should have investigated the situation and not Pendleton Correctional Facility. Dkt. 1 at 3-4. The respondent argues there is some evidence to support his disciplinary conviction, and Mr. McNeal failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to his second ground. Dkt. 9 at 5-12. In reply, Mr. McNeal reiterates the arguments he raised in his habeas petition and argues that he did include the second ground in his appeal, attaching a JPay[1] letter from August 7, 2017, in which he complained of the issue. See Dkt. 10; Dkt. 10-1 at 18 (August 7, 2017 JPay letter). Mr. McNeal filed an amended reply shortly thereafter to correct some misprints. Dkt. 12.

         1. Failu ...


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