Branson v. Superintendent
OPINION AND ORDER re 1 PETITION for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Orlando Branson. The Petition is DENIED pursuant to Habeas Corpus Rule 4. Clerk DIRECTED to close this case. Petitioner DENIED leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal. Signed by Judge Rudy Lozano on 4/20/17. (Copy mailed to pro se party).(cer)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
CAUSE NO. 3:16-cv-794
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the Petition under 28
U.S.C. Paragraph 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus, filed by Orlando
Branson, a pro se prisoner. For the reasons set forth below, the
petition (ECF 1) is DENIED pursuant to Habeas Corpus Rule 4. The
clerk is DIRECTED to close this case. Petitioner is DENIED leave
to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.
In his petition, Branson challenges the prison disciplinary
hearing (ISP 16-01-210) where he was found guilty of Possession or
Use of Controlled Substance in violation of Indiana Department of
Correction (IDOC) policy B-202. ECF 1 at 1. The Conduct Report
[d]uring the Investigation of Case 15-ISP-0175 the
assault of Offender Branson, Orlando # 168888, a search
of his cell produced a personal journal written by him,
that describes his illicit drug business selling, buying
and dealing with STG groups to be able to sell Synthetic
Marijuana. During an interview, Offender Branson stated
that they robbed him of his K-2 and that he is a dealer
that was the motivation behind the assault of himself.
ECF 1-1 at 6.
Branson’s hearing was held on February 9, 2016, by the
Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO). ECF 1-1 at 3. Branson was
sanctioned with the loss of 30 days earned credit time. Id.
Branson argues that the DHO had insufficient evidence on which
to find him guilty. In the disciplinary context, “the relevant
question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could
Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455-56 (1985). “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). A Conduct
Report alone can be sufficient evidence to support a finding of
guilt. McPherson, 188 F.3d at 786.
The IDOC defines Possession or Use of Controlled Substance,
substance controlled pursuant to the laws of the State of Indiana
or the United States Code or possession of drug paraphernalia.”
synthetic drug. IC § 35-48-4-11.5.
The DHO had sufficient evidence to determine that Branson had
been in possession of synthetic marijuana in violation of B-202.
Branson was discovered by security staff in his cell with multiple
incident, “Branson did give confirmation that he was robbed of his
synthetic marijuana.” Id. A journal was found in his cell that
“documented his illicit drug trafficking business and dealing with
STG groups to be able to sell.” Id. The DHO reviewed the journal,
listened to Branson’s interview with Internal Affairs, reviewed
the Conduct Report, and ultimately determined that Branson was
guilty of violating B-202. In light of this evidence, the DHO’s
determination was not arbitrary or unreasonable.
Branson argues that he should have been able to personally
review the Internal Affairs interview and his confiscated journal.
However, “prison disciplinary boards are entitled to receive, and
act on, information that is withheld from the prisoner and the
public . . . .” White v. Ind. Parole Bd., 266 F.3d 759, 767 (7th
Cir. 2001). Branson had a right to have the evidence reviewed by
the DHO — he did not have the right to personally review all of
the evidence himself. Furthermore, Branson was present during the
Internal Affairs interview, and he authored the journal. Branson,
therefore, had personal knowledge of the contents of the interview
Branson claims that he was denied his right to an impartial
decision-maker. However, Branson does not identify why he believes
the DHO was not impartial. In the prison disciplinary context,
integrity,” and “the constitutional standard for improper bias is
high.” Piggie v. Cotton, 342 F.3d 660, 666 (7th Cir. 2003). Here,
there is no evidence or specific allegation that the DHO was
dishonest or biased.
Branson argues that the IDOC failed to comply with its own
policy. However, the IDOC’s failure to follow its own policy does
not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Estelle v.
McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68 (1991) (“state-law violations provide no
basis for federal habeas relief”); Keller v. Donahue, 271 F. App’x
531, 532 (7th Cir. 2008) (finding that inmate’s claim that prison
failed to follow internal policies had “no bearing on his right to
If Branson wants to appeal this order, 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 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) an appeal in
this case could not be taken in good faith.
For the reasons set forth above, the petition (ECF 1) is
DENIED pursuant to Habeas Corpus Rule 4. The clerk is DIRECTED to
close this case. Petitioner is DENIED leave to proceed in forma
pauperis on appeal.
DATED: April 20, 2017
/s/RUDY LOZANO, Judge
United States District Court
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