United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. MILLER, JR. JUDGE
Lowder, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus
petition challenging the disciplinary decision (ISP 19-7-118)
at the Indiana State Prison in which a disciplinary hearing
officer found him guilty of physically resisting an officer
in violation of Indiana Department of Correction Offense 235.
He was sanctioned with a demotion in credit class that was
initially suspended but was imposed on July 30, 2019.
Lowder argues that he is entitled to habeas relief because
the administrative record contained insufficient evidence to
support a finding of guilt. He alleges that he did not
purposefully fall but instead stubbed his toe and that there
was no video surveillance recording of the fall.
[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).
administrative record included a conduct report in which a
correctional officer stated that, as the officer escorted Mr.
Lowder to the top of a staircase, Mr. Lowder purposefully
shifted his weight, causing the officer to lose his grip on
Mr. Lowder and caused Mr. Lowder to fall down the stairs. It
also included a video surveillance recording that showed Mr.
Lowder leaving and reentering the medical unit near the time
of the incident described in the conduct report. The
recording didn't show the incident itself. While the lack
of probative video evidence is unfortunate, the conduct
report, by itself, constitutes some evidence that Mr. Lowder
physically resisted a correctional officer. Therefore, the
argument that the hearing officer lacked sufficient evidence
for the disciplinary decision is not a basis for habeas
Lowder also argues that he is entitled to habeas relief
because correctional staff didn't let him review the
surveillance video recording. “[T]he inmate facing
disciplinary proceedings should be allowed to call witnesses
and present documentary evidence.” Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 566 (1974). “Prison
officials must have the necessary discretion to keep the
hearing within reasonable limits and to refuse to call
witnesses that may create a risk of reprisal or undermine
authority.” Id. The Warden has represented
that disclosure of the recording to Mr. Lowder could pose a
risk to safety and security at the correctional facility. ECF
7. Mr. Lowder might have been entitled to present this
recording at the hearing, but he wasn't entitled to
personally review it. See White v. Indiana Parole
Bd., 266 F.3d 759, 767 (7th Cir. 2001) (“prison
disciplinary boards are entitled to receive, and act on,
information that is withheld from the prisoner and the
public.”); Outlaw v. Anderson, 29 Fed.Appx.
372, 374 (7th Cir. 2002). Mr. Lowder's argument that he
was not allowed to review the recording is not a basis for
Lowder argues that a correctional officer didn't follow
policy when escorting him and didn't try to break Mr.
Lowder's fall. These arguments don't suggest that Mr.
Lowder received an unfair disciplinary hearing, and the mere
failure to follow departmental policy doesn't 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.
Mr. Lowder hasn't asserted a valid claim for habeas
relief, the habeas petition is denied. If Mr. Lowder 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 good faith.
these reasons, the court:
DENIES the habeas corpus petition (ECF 1);
DIRECTS the clerk to enter judgment and close this case; and
DENIES Curt Lowder leave to proceed in forma ...