United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
BRIAN J. WHITE, Petitioner,
OPINION AND ORDER
J. White, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus
petition challenging a disciplinary hearing (MCF 17-02-383)
where a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) found him guilty
of attempting to traffick in violation of Indiana Department
of Correction (IDOC) policies A-111 and A-113 on March 8,
2017. ECF 1 at 1, ECF 10-3 at 1. As a result, he was
sanctioned with the loss of 90 days earned credit time and
demoted in credit class. Id. The Warden has filed
the administrative record and White filed a traverse. Thus
this case is fully briefed.
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, White
argues there are three grounds which entitle him to habeas
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.” Hill, 472 U.S. at 455-56. “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
White was found guilty of attempting to traffic in violation
of IDOC policies A-111 and A-113. Specifically, IDOC offense
A-111 prohibits inmates from “[a]ttempting or
conspiring or aiding and abetting with another to commit any
Class A offense.” Indiana Department of Correction,
Adult Disciplinary Process: Appendix I.
The Disciplinary Code for Adult Offenders defines
“conspiracy” as “[t]wo (2) or more
offenders or other persons planning or agreeing to commit
acts which are prohibited by Department or facility rule,
procedure or directive.” The Disciplinary Code for
AdultOffenders6-1-2015.pdf. IDOC offense A-113
prohibits inmates from ”[e]ngaging in trafficking (as
defined in IC 35-44.1-3-5) with anyone who is not an offender
residing in the same facility. “ Appendix I,
supra. And “[a] person who, without the prior
authorization of the person in charge of a penal facility . .
., knowingly or intentionally delivers . . . an article to an
inmate . . . of the facility . . . commits trafficking with
an inmate, a Class A misdemeanor.” Ind. Code §
Conduct Report charged White as follows:
During the course of a month long investigation information
was gathered on Offender Brian White, 238512. This
information pertained to him, and a female suspect on the
outside. White got access to Offender Jerry Hardman's PIN
number with the assistance of this female via JPay. White was
able to communicate using Hardman's number on the
offender phone system. They spoke of “setting up
parties” and what & who would be at the party;
crystal and cake (code for crystal meth and Suboxone.) Based
on information gathered, outside law enforcement was
contacted and the female suspect was monitored. Also White
communicated with this female over the JPay system but she
did not use her real name.
On February 4th the female suspect was stopped, vehicle was
searched and she was placed in jail (on going investigation.)
Through her own admission she was on her way to meet someone
[who] was going to bring drugs inside this prison. An Aramark
worker was detained and arrested on the 5th for attempting to
traffick [ ]. It is not clear if White was actually a part of
this deal but with all the telephone calls, the JPays and his
association with Hardman and this female it has been
established that he was attempting to conspire with her to
set up drugs coming inside.
All evidence can be viewed or listened to at the DII office.
Case reference listed below [17-MCF-0021 Trafficking and
ECF 10-1 at 1.
first ground, White argues his due process rights were
violated because he was denied a fair hearing before an
impartial decision-maker. ECF 1 at 2. As an initial matter,
however, White has not met the exhaustion requirement
contained in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b), as to this issue. To
have exhausted his administrative remedies, White must have
properly presented the issue at each administrative level.
Moffat v. Broyles, 288 F.3d 978, 981-82 (7th Cir.
2002). However, notwithstanding White'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 the
to the merits of his claim, in the prison disciplinary
context, adjudicators are “entitled to a presumption of
honesty and integrity, ” and “the constitutional
standard for improper bias is high.” Piggie v.
Cotton, 342 F.3d 660, 666 (7th Cir. 2003). Due process
prohibits a prison official who was personally and
substantially involved in the underlying incident from acting
as a decision-maker in the case. Id. However, due
process is not violated simply because the hearing ...