United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. MILLER, JR. JUDGE
Phelps, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus
petition challenging a disciplinary hearing (ISP 17-03-383)
in which a disciplinary hearing officer found him guilty of
unauthorized possession of personal information in violation
of Indiana Department of Correction Policy B-247. He was
sanctioned with the loss of 90 days earned credit time and a
one-step demotion in credit class. The Warden has filed the
administrative record. Mr. Phelps hasn't filed a traverse
and the time to do so has passed, so 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). Mr. Phelps asserts there
are three grounds which entitle him to habeas corpus relief.
ground of his petition, Mr. Phelps argues the hearing officer
didn't have sufficient evidence to find him guilty of
violating offense B-247. Mr. Phelps claims the hearing
officer found him guilty on an “assumption”
because the conduct report states the confiscated pages of
personal information contain “possible” credit
card information. 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.” Supt. v.
Hill, 472 U.S. at 455-456. “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
Phelps was found guilty of violating IDOC offense B-247,
which prohibits inmates from “[p]ossessing or
soliciting unauthorized personal information regarding
another offender, ex-offender, victim/witness, potential
victim, or current or former staff person, including but not
limited to personnel files, offenders packets, medical or
mental health records, photographs, Social Security Numbers,
home addresses, financial information, or telephone numbers,
except as authorized by a court order or as approved in
writing by the Facility Head. This includes soliciting for
correspondence (pen-pals) through forums on any website or
periodical.” Indiana Department of Correction, Adult
Disciplinary Process: Appendix I.
Conduct Report charged Mr. Phelps as follows:
Offender found with several pages of personal information to
include possible credit card information. Offender requested
for interview on same date but declined unless he could bring
a witness with him.
Information obtained is in violation of code 247B of adult
Documents are available for review in case file 17ISP0067.
ECF 9-1 at 1.
assessing the evidence, the hearing officer determined there
was sufficient evidence in the record to find Mr. Phelps
guilty of unauthorized possession of personal information in
violation of offense B-247. A conduct report alone can be
enough to support a finding of guilt. McPherson v.
McBride, 188 F.3d at 786. Such is the case here. In the
conduct report, Officer Whelan, the reporting officer,
detailed his discovery of documents containing credit card
and personal information in Mr. Phelps's cell. ECF 9-1 at
1, 11 at 1-8. The confidential packet of documents filed in
this case (ECF 11 at 1-8), which are the documents
confiscated from Mr. Phelps's cell and contained in
confidential case file 17-ISP-0067, corroborate the conduct
report. Given the conduct report coupled with the
confidential packet of documents, there was more than
“some evidence”| for the hearing officer to find
Mr. Phelps's guilty of offense B-247. The DHO's
finding that Mr. Phelps was guilty was neither arbitrary nor
unreasonable in light of these facts.
Phelps argues his due process rights were violated because he
was denied evidence in this case and couldn't prepare his
defense. He claims that, because he wasn't present during
the “shakedown” of his cell, he didn't know
what happened or what evidence was allegedly confiscated. Mr.
Phelps is incorrect on this point. On March 30, 2017, he was
notified of the charge against him and, at that time, he
asked for the “investigation packet-proof of credit
card numbers.” ECF 9-2 at 1. Review of the record shows
Mr. Phelps knew that the charge against him ...