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Decker v. Krueger

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

October 11, 2018

ROBERT DECKER, Petitioner,
J. E. KRUEGER,[1] Respondent.


          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge.

         The petition of Robert Decker for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. 2933670.[2] For the reasons explained in this Entry, Mr. Decker's habeas petition must be denied.

         I. Overview

         Federal inmates seeking to challenge the loss of good time credits in prison disciplinary proceedings on due process grounds may petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. See Smith v. Bezy, 141 Fed.Appx. 479, 481 (7th Cir. 2005). In the prison disciplinary context, due process requires that the prisoner receive (1) written notice of the disciplinary charges at least 24 hours before the hearing; (2) the opportunity to be heard before an impartial decision maker; (3) an opportunity, when consistent with institutional safety and correctional goals, to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in his defense; and (4) a written statement by the factfinder of the evidence relied on and the reasons for the disciplinary action. Superintendent Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784, 785-86 (7th Cir. 1999); see, e.g., Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 564-71 (1974).

         II. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         Mr. Decker is a federal inmate currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary located in Marion, Illinois.[3] On December 28, 2016, while incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center in Miami, Florida, Mr. Decker received an incident report for Use of Telephone for an Illegal Purpose, Code 197, and Introduction or Making of Narcotics, Code 111(a). Mr. Decker received a copy of the incident report on December 29, 2016. The incident report states that Mr. Decker had a telephone conversation with a female caller who discussed bringing the “bread and butter.” The writer of the incident report states that “bread and butter” is often slang for money and heroin. The caller also told Mr. Decker that she “got what you want” and would “put it in a plastic bag, ” to which Mr. Decker replied, “no, just put it in a condom.” In another telephone call on the same day, a female discusses bringing a phone and pills to Mr. Decker the following day.

         Mr. Decker's disciplinary hearing was conducted on January 19, 2017. The parties dispute whether Mr. Decker requested a staff representative or to call witnesses. The hearing officer found that Mr. Decker had used a telephone for an illegal purpose. The hearing officer did not find that Mr. Decker had violated Code 111(a), Introduction of Any Narcotics. Mr. Decker's sanctions included the loss of 40 days of good-time credit.

         The parties dispute whether Mr. Decker exhausted his administrative remedies before bringing this petition for writ of habeas corpus. The respondent filed his return to the order to show cause on May 9, 2018. Mr. Decker filed his reply on June 1, 2018. The action is now ripe for review.

         III. Analysis

         A. Exhaustion

         As a preliminary matter, the respondent argues that Mr. Decker failed to exhaust his available administrative appeals regarding the issues in the petition. In Lambrix v. Singletary, 520 U.S. 518, 524 (1997), “the Supreme Court noted that its cases have ‘suggest[ed] that the procedural-bar issue should ordinarily be considered first.' Nevertheless, added the Court, it did ‘not mean to suggest that the procedural-bar issue must invariably be resolved first; only that it ordinarily should be.'” Brown v. Watters, 599 F.3d 602, 609-10 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting Lambrix, 520 U.S. at 525).

         In this case, considering petitioner's claims on the merits rather than first resolving the exhaustion issue will most likely promote judicial economy. The review permitted of the challenged proceeding is narrow, and is based on an expanded record of the charge, notice, evidence, hearing, and decision. It appears to be an inefficient use of the Court's resources and the parties' time to become invested in untangling the parties' dispute about whether Mr. Decker exhausted his administrative remedies.

         B. Mr. Decker's Grounds for Relief

         Because Mr. Decker sought to challenge three disciplinary actions in one petition, [4] it is difficult to discern what grounds for relief he alleges in each action. His petition raises twenty grounds for relief. Because some of the grounds for relief are repetitive or are not directed at the conduct report at issue in this action, the Court construes the petition to raise the following claims:

1. The revocation of good-time credit violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
2. Mr. Decker was denied a staff representative.
3. Mr. Decker was not allowed to call witnesses or present evidence in his defense.
4. Mr. Decker was deprived of good-time credit while he was a pre-trial detainee.
5. Mr. Decker attempted to exhaust his administrative remedies but those remedies were made unavailable to him through ...

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