United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON, JUDGE
Romine, a prisoner without a lawyer, seeks habeas corpus
relief from a finding of guilt by a disciplinary hearing
officer that he aided in the vicious assault of another
inmate in violation of Indiana Department of Correction
Policy B-212/240. DE 1 at 1. Romine was docked 45 days of
good time credit due to the finding of guilt and received
other penalties as well. Romine's principal argument is
that an investigative report said the assault occurred on
April 14, 2017, but proof at the hearing was that it actually
occurred on April 19, 2017. Because the Notice of Hearing
gave the correct date of the incident, the obvious
scrivener's error in the report of investigation does not
entitle Romine to relief, and neither do any of the other
arguments that he makes.
begin with the many challenges that Romine raises that relate
to alleged violations of internal Indiana Department of
Corrections policy. The problem with these arguments is that
violations of IDOC policy, which are derivative of Indiana
state law, cannot support a federal habeas corpus petition.
This is because habeas corpus relief is limited to violations
of the federal Constitution; violations of state law
will not do. Swarthout v. Cooke, 562 U.S. 216, 219
(2011); Wilson v. Corcoran, 562 U.S. 1, 5 (2010).
addressing Romine's arguments that are properly before
me, let's start with a primer on the law that governs
this type of habeas corpus petition. The 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, 563-66 (1974).
satisfy due process, there must be “some
evidence” in the record to support the guilty finding.
Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S.
445, 455 (1985). This means that “the relevant question
is whether there is any evidence in the record that could
support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary
board.” Id. at 455-56. So the quantum of proof
needed to find a prisoner guilty is exceedingly low. Indeed,
the Seventh Circuit has said that “[e]ven meager proof
will suffice.” Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649,
652 (7th Cir. 2000). As for the review of a finding of guilt,
the Seventh Circuit has noted that reviewing 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).
was found guilty of violating Indiana Department of
Correction Policy B-212/240. Offense B-212 assault/battery is
defined as: “Committing a battery/assault upon another
person without a weapon or inflicting bodily injury.”
See ECF 11 at 10. Offense B-240 is aiding and
abetting any Class B offense. Without question there is
“some evidence” to support the finding of guilt.
The evidence shows that the victim was viciously beaten by
another offender, a guy named Jacob Himes. The assault
occurred in the early morning hours of April 19, 2017. Romine
assisted in the assault by helping to clean up the blood,
standing watch at the door, and walking ahead of the battered
victim in an attempt to hide the victim's injuries from
security cameras. See ECF 11-2, 13 and 14. There is
plainly “some evidence” in the record to support
the finding of guilt by the hearing officer.
other issue that Romine raises is the one I referenced at the
outset: there was an error in one of the investigative
reports - it said that the assault occurred on April 14,
2017, when in fact it occurred on April 19th. ECF 11-2.
Seizing on this, Romine argues that he was not properly
advised of the charges against him in violation of his
Wolff rights. Romine is correct that in the first
paragraph of the Report of Investigation the investigator
states that the incident occurred on “April 14,
2017.” But in the very next paragraph the investigator
says that the assault occurred on April 19, 2017.
Id. It seems obvious to me that the first reference
is a typo and the second reference is the correct one. Any
confusion was dispelled when the Notice of Disciplinary
Hearing - what IDOC calls the “screening report”-
provided the correct date of the assault as April 19, 2017.
Romine obviously received the screening report because in it
he asked for two witnesses. And lo and behold, the two
witnesses that he asked for were the other two people
involved in the assault on April 19, 2017 - the
victim and the principal perpetrator. So Romine wasn't
surprised by anything here, and his claim of confusion about
the operative dates is quite simply a little hard to swallow.
In sum, he had notice of the charge and Wolff was
therefore complied with.
Romine wants to appeal this order, he does not need a
certificate of appealability because he is challenging a
prison disciplinary proceeding. See Evans v. Circuit
Court of Cook Cnty., Ill., 569 F.3d 665, 666 (7th Cir.
2009). However, he may not proceed in forma pauperis on
appeal because pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) an
appeal in this case could not be taken in good faith.
these reasons, Nathan Romine's petition for writ of
habeas corpus is DENIED. The clerk is DIRECTED to close this