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Buggs v. Warden

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

March 5, 2019

MARSHAUN BUGGS, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PHILIP P. SIMON JUDGE.

         Marshaun Buggs, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus petition challenging a disciplinary hearing (ISP 18-02-71) where a disciplinary hearing officer found him guilty of unauthorized possession of property in violation of Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) policy B-215 on February 12, 2018. ECF 1 at 1. He was sanctioned with the loss of 30 days earned credit time. Id. The Warden has filed the administrative record and Buggs has filed a traverse. Thus 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.” 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 omitted).

         Here, Buggs was found guilty of violating IDOC offense B-215 which prohibits inmates from “[u]nauthorized possession, destruction, alteration, damage to, or theft of property.” Indiana Department of Correction, Adult Disciplinary Process, Appendix I:

         Offenses (January 1, 2018). ECF 5-11 at 1. Officer Brown wrote a conduct report charging Buggs as follows:

On 2-8-18 at approx. 0915 I Ofc. D. Brown was conducting a search at ¶ 46, during this search I found 2 bags of ice mixed with street salt in a foam cooler, [n]ext to cabinet. Also, upon this search I found a jug with floor wax in it. This cube belongs to offender Buggs Doc #147484. Offender Buggs is receiving a 215 unauthorized possession conduct report.

ECF 5-1 at 1.

         On February 9, 2018. Buggs was notified of the charge when he was served with the conduct and screening reports. ECF 5-1 at 1, 5-4 at 1. During screening, he did not request any witnesses. ECF 5-4 at 1. However, he did ask to view the prison's security video footage. Id. The hearing officer reviewed the video footage and provided the following summary:

Video review shows cube F W46 being shaken down as stated in CR. Due to camera positioning, it is unclear the contents of items, however at one point it appears the jug (as seen in still photo) is removed from cube. Anything else removed is not identified.

ECF 5-6 at 1.

         The hearing officer held Buggs's disciplinary hearing on February 12, 2018. ECF 5-7 at 1. At the hearing, the hearing officer recorded Buggs's statement: “The container was empty. Possibly back wash. Was no salt in bags.” Id. However, on the basis of staff reports, the notice of confiscated property form-listing the items found in Buggs's cube-along with a photo ...


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