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Romine v. Warden

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

January 25, 2019

NATHAN WILLIAM ROMINE, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT L. MILLER, JR. JUDGE

         Nathan William Romine, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus petition challenging a disciplinary hearing (WCC 17-06-160) in which a disciplinary hearing officer found him guilty of possession or use of a controlled substance in violation of Indiana Department of Correction policy B-202 on July 28, 2017. He lost 60 days of earned credit time. The Warden has filed the administrative record and Mr. Romine filed a traverse, so this case is fully briefed.

         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 (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 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 omitted).

         Mr. Romine was found guilty of possessing a controlled substance in violation of IDOC policy B-202, which prohibits inmates from “[p]ossession or use of any unauthorized substance controlled pursuant to the laws of the State of Indiana or the United States Code or possession of drug paraphernalia.” Indiana Department of Correction, Adult Disciplinary Process: Appendix I. http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/02-04-101APPENDIXI-OFFENSES 6-1-2015(1).pdf.

         The Conduct Report charged Mr. Romine as follows:

On June 4, 2017 at approximately 9:50 a.m. I, Lieutenant Eakins was conducting a random shakedown of N2-W1-Room 13. During the search I located an orange substance on the window sill wrapped in plastic. The substance is consistent with Suboxone. It was located under a small rock. The room was occupied at the time of the shakedown by Offender Romine and Offender Flory, Andrew #263129.

ECF 5-1 at 1.

         Offender Andrew Flory said this about the incident:

All I really know is we were both there for only 2 days and they found [S]ubox[one] in the window. I know it wasn't mine. So [I'm] assuming it was not [Romine's] either.

ECF 5-3 at 1. Sergeant Sulich also provided a statement: “Conduct Report stands as written.” ECF 5-4 at 1.

         The hearing officer reviewed the security video of the incident and ...


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