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Wells v. Zatecky

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

April 12, 2019

EUGENE WELLS, Petitioner,
v.
D. ZATECKY, Respondent.

          ENTRY DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE MOTION TO DISMISS AND DIRECTING FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

          JAMES R. SWEENEY II, JUDGE.

         Eugene Wells' petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenges his conviction in prison disciplinary case number ISR 18-04-437. The respondent moves to dismiss Mr. Wells' petition on grounds that his challenges to the petition are procedurally defaulted. For the reasons set forth below, the respondent's motion is denied without prejudice.

         I. Legal Standards: Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies and Procedural Default

         A district court may not grant a state prisoner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus “unless it appears that” the petitioner “has exhausted the remedies available in” the state's courts. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1). When the petitioner “has not exhausted a claim and complete exhaustion is no longer available, the claim is procedurally defaulted, ” and the district court may not grant habeas relief based on it. Martin v. Zatecky, 749 Fed.Appx. 463, 464 (7th Cir. 2019).[1]

         “To avoid procedural default, an Indiana prisoner challenging a disciplinary proceeding must fully and fairly present his federal claims to the facility head and to the Final Reviewing Authority.” Jackson v. Wrigley, 256 Fed.Appx. 812, 814 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Moffat v. Broyles, 288 F.3d 978, 981-982 (7th Cir. 2002) (holding that, because Indiana law does not provide for judicial review of prison disciplinary proceedings, § 2254(b)(1)'s exhaustion requirement demands that the prisoner present his claims at both levels of the administrative appeals process)).

         II. Applicable Administrative Remedies

         The Indiana Department of Correction's (IDOC's) Disciplinary Code for Adult Offenders permits an inmate to appeal a disciplinary conviction. The inmate must file an appeal with the warden or other designated official at his or her facility (sometimes called “the facility head”) within 15 days after receiving the report of the disciplinary hearing. Dkt. 8-3 at §§ X(A)-X(C). If that appeal is not resolved favorably, the inmate has 15 days to file a second appeal to the IDOC's appeal review officer (sometimes called the “final reviewing authority”). Id. at § X(D). In his first-level appeal to the facility head, an inmate must state the specific reasons he believes relief is warranted. Id. at § X(A)(1). The appeal review officer will consider only those reasons when assessing the second-level review. Id. at § X(D)(2).

         The Disciplinary Code includes few details concerning the manner in which an inmate must submit his second-level appeal. The inmate must present the appeal on State Form 39587. Id. at § X(D)(1). He must attach “[a]ll available documentation relating to the appeal.” Id. at § X(D)(3). And if the inmate wishes to keep a copy of the appeal for his own records, he “must make a copy before sending it.” Id.

         The remainder of the Disciplinary Code's provisions for second-level appeals-at least those placed into the record by the respondent-concern the IDOC's handling of and response to inmates' appeals. As presented, the Disciplinary Code does not include information about where second-level appeals are received and how records of them are created and maintained.

         III. Mr. Wells' Efforts to Exhaust

         The respondent concedes that Mr. Wells filed a first-level appeal. The respondent's motion centers on whether Mr. Wells submitted a second-level appeal to the Final Reviewing Authority.

         In his petition, Mr. Wells asserts that he submitted an appeal to the Final Reviewing Authority but never received a response-either to his appeal or to the inquiries he made after he received no response. Specifically, Mr. Wells states as follows:

Never recvd. reply. This appeal was inquired about when case 18-06-0148 (trafficking) was sent in. No reply was ever given on inquiry or the appeal itself after sent in to central ofc. Indpls.

Dkt. 2 at ยง 9(e). Mr. Wells affirmed under penalty of perjury that this statement, along with all the other statements in his petition, was ...


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