United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
EMMANUEL A. WINTERS, Petitioner,
OPINION AND ORDER
A. Winters, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas
corpus petition challenging the disciplinary decision (MCF
19-3-327) at the Miami Correctional Facility in which a
disciplinary hearing officer (DHO) found him guilty of
battery in violation of Indiana Department of Correction
Offense 102. Following a disciplinary hearing, he was
sanctioned with three hundred sixty days of segregation.
Pursuant to Section 2254 Habeas Corpus Rule 4, the court must
dismiss the petition “[i]f it plainly appears from the
petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not
entitled to relief in the district court.”
start, the petition does not indicate that the length of his
sentence was increased as a result of these disciplinary
proceedings. “[A] habeas corpus petition must attack
the fact or duration of one's sentence; if it does not,
it does not state a proper basis for relief under §
2254.” Washington v. Smith, 564 F.3d 1350,
1351 (7th Cir. 2009). “State prisoners who want to
raise a constitutional challenge to . . . administrative
segregation . . . must instead employ § 1983 or another
statute authorizing damages or injunctions-when the decision
may be challenged at all.” Moran v. Sondalle,
218 F.3d 647, 651 (7th Cir. 2000). As a result, the court
cannot grant relief on this habeas petition. Nevertheless,
Winters may have inadvertently omitted the full extent of the
disciplinary sanctions, and the court will consider his
arguments for habeas relief.
argues that he is entitled to habeas relief because the
hearing officer was not an impartial decisionmaker. He states
that the hearing officer was not impartial because the
hearing officer had already decided the case before the
hearing and did not give him a fair hearing. In the prison
disciplinary context, adjudicators are “entitled to a
presumption of honesty and integrity, ” and “the
constitutional standard for improper bias is high.”
Piggie v. Cotton, 342 F.3d 660, 666 (7th Cir. 2003).
Due process prohibits a prison official who was personally
and substantially involved in the underlying incident from
acting as a decision-maker in the case. Id. However,
due process is not violated simply because the hearing
officer knew the inmate, presided over a prior disciplinary
case, or had some limited involvement in the event underlying
the charge. Id. Here, there is no indication that
the hearing officer was involved with the underlying charge,
had a personal interest in the result of the hearing, or
based his decision on anything other than the administrative
record. Further, though the ultimate outcome of the hearing
was unfavorable to Winters, he provides no details that would
suggest that the hearing officer had decided the case before
the hearing or that the hearing was unfair. As a result, the
claim that the hearing officer was not an impartial
decisionmaker is not a basis for habeas relief.
also argues that he is entitled to habeas relief because a
correctional officer did not submit the underlying conduct
report in a timely manner and because his mental illness
caused him to commit battery. These arguments do not relate
to the procedural safeguards for prison disciplinary
proceedings enumerated in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418
U.S. 539 (1974), and the Supreme Court of the United States
has indicated that this list of requirements is exhaustive.
White v. Indiana Parole Bd., 266 F.3d 759, 768 (7th
Cir. 2001) (citing Baxter v. Palmigiano, 425 U.S.
308, 324 (1976)). Further, to the extent that these
allegations suggest a violation of departmental policy, the
failure to follow departmental policy does not rise to the
level of a constitutional violation. See Estelle v.
McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68 (1991) (“state-law
violations provide no basis for federal habeas
relief”); Keller v. Donahue, 271 Fed.Appx.
531, 532 (7th Cir. 2008) (inmate's claim that prison
failed to follow internal policies had “no bearing on
his right to due process”). Therefore, these arguments
are not a basis for habeas relief.
Winters has not asserted a valid claim for habeas relief, the
habeas petition is denied. If Winters wants to appeal this
decision, he does not need a certificate of appealability
because he is challenging a prison disciplinary proceeding.
See Evans v. Circuit Court, 569 F.3d 665, 666 (7th
Cir. 2009). However, he may not proceed in forma pauperis on
appeal because the court finds pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a)(3) that an appeal in this case could not be taken in
these reasons, the court:
DENIES the habeas corpus petition (ECF 1);
WAIVES the filing fee;
DIRECTS the clerk to enter judgment and close this case; and
(4) DENIES Emmanuel A. Winters leave to ...