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Bean v. Warden

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

August 19, 2019

JOSHUA BEAN, Petitioner,
WARDEN, Respondent.



         Joshua Bean, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus petition challenging a disciplinary hearing (ISP 18-05-0020) where a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) found him guilty of counterfeiting or forging a document in violation of Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) policy B-230 on May 15, 2018. ECF 1 at 1. As a result, he was sanctioned with the loss of 60 days earned credit time. Id. The Warden has filed the administrative record and Bean has filed a traverse. The Warden has also filed a reply to Bean's traverse and Bean has filed a surreply to the Warden's reply. Thus, the 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).

         In this case, Bean was found guilty of violating IDOC offense B-230, which prohibits inmates from “[c]ounterfeiting, forging, or unauthorized reproduction or possession of any document, article, identification, money, passes, security or official paper.” Indiana Department of Correction, Adult Disciplinary Process: Appendix I.

         Joseph Schneider, a caseworker manager, wrote a conduct report charging Bean as follows:

On Wed May 2nd 2018 shortly before 8am Law Library Supervisor Leonard called me, CM3 Joseph Schneider, and told me that Offender Bean 190546 from PC B1 4 had sent her legal work to be copied but that the notary page had been torn off of another piece of legal work and taped onto this one. I told her I would like to see it before she made copies and sent it to him. What she sent me was a hand written legal document but page 2 contained an area for a notary signature and seal previously signed by myself from a[] typed legal document. This previously notarized section was cut off of old legal work and taped on, also in the section that states when I notarized it the month and year have been covered in white out and changed to a more recent date. I did not make this change to the month and date of notarization nor did I notarize this piece of legal work for offender Bean especially since we are to notarize after they sign the form which he did not even do.

ECF 10-1 at 1.

         On May 10, 2018, Bean was notified of the charge when he was served with the conduct and screening reports. ECF 10-1 at 1; 10-3 at 1. During his screening, he pled not guilty and asked for the assistance of a lay advocate. ECF 10-3 at 1; 10-4 at 1. Bean requested two witnesses-offender Mark Henry, who was his lay advocate, and Ms. Bessie Leonard, the law library supervisor. ECF 10-3 at 1. He also requested the prison's security video footage of offender Justice, who worked as a law library clerk, handling his legal paperwork and the video of him altering or forging the document at issue in this case. Id.

         At the request of the hearing officer, offender Henry and Ms. Leonard provided written statements. On May 11, 2018, offender Henry wrote the following statement:

I have been housed with offender Bean in B-block for approximately [two] years. Over that time span I've witnessed many snide/unprofessional responses to Mr. Bean's requests for legal work coming from Clerk Justice. Clerk Justice handles all the legal work requested from the PCU and has motive to retaliate against Mr. Bean due to his complaining to Ms. Leonard about Justice's poor quality work.

ECF 10-7 at 1. Ms. Leonard provided a statement in response to the hearing officer's question: “[w]hat law clerk handles PCU Requests?” ECF 10-8 at 1. Ms. Leonard stated: “I was the one to notice the altered documents for ...

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