MILLER v. SMITH
Entry Discussing Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus - The petition of James Miller for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as No. XAF 15-12-05. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Miller's habeas petition must be denied and the action dismissed. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue. Copy petitioner via US Mail. Signed by Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on 7/27/2016.(RSF)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
TERRE HAUTE DIVISION
JAMES E. MILLER,
BRIAN SMITH superintendent,
Entry Discussing Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
The petition of James Miller for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary
proceeding identified as No. XAF 15-12-05. For the reasons explained in this Entry, Miller’s
habeas petition must be denied.
Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of good-time credits, Cochran v. Buss,
381 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 2004) (per curiam), or of credit-earning class, Montgomery v.
Anderson, 262 F.3d 641, 644-45 (7th Cir. 2001), without due process. The due process requirement
is satisfied with the issuance of advance written notice of the charges, a limited opportunity to
present evidence to an impartial decision maker, a written statement articulating the reasons for
the disciplinary action and the evidence justifying it, and “some evidence in the record” to support
the finding of guilt. Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 570-71 (1974); Piggie v. Cotton, 344 F.3d 674, 677 (7th Cir. 2003);
Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000).
B. The Disciplinary Proceeding
On December 7, 2015, Program Specialist Christina Miles issued a Report of Conduct
charging Miller with violating a state law (theft) in violation of Code A-100. The Report of
James Miller, 3961112
On December 07, 2015 Program Specialist Mrs. Miles received a phone call from
resident Miller[‘]s employer John Herrington of Herrington’s Mobile Wash Inc.
John Herrington stated that resident Miller stole $650.00 from his office on
Saturday December 5, 2015 and that Miller was no longer employed at Herrington
Mobile. Mr. Herrington stated that on Sunday December 6, 2015 he confronted
Resident Miller about the $650.00 and told Miller that he had him on camera and
Miller admitted to stealing the money and that he would pay him back on Tuesday
out of his maintenance check. Mr. Herrington then said that resident Miller then
asked him not to call me Mrs. Miles because then he would not be able to attend
his father[‘]s funeral this Tuesday December 8, 2015. Mr. Herrington told Miller
he did this to himself and that he had to notify Liberty Hall.
Resident Miller is charged with a 100 Violation of Law for Stealing.
Miller was notified of the charge on December 7, 2015, when he was served with the Report of
Conduct and the Notice of Disciplinary Hearing (Screening Report). The Screening Officer noted
that Miller did not request any witnesses or evidence.
The Hearing Officer conducted a disciplinary hearing on December 8, 2015. The Hearing
Officer noted Miller’s statement, “I got to work late and he (supervisor) was upset and stated I was
terminated.” Relying on the staff reports, the Hearing Officer determined that Miller had violated
Code A-100. The sanctions imposed included an inter-facility transfer, the deprivation of 100 days
of earned credit time, and the demotion from credit class I to III.
Miller’s appeals were denied and he filed the present petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
Miller challenges the disciplinary conviction arguing that (1) the witness statement used
to support the conviction was hearsay and not credible; (2) the place of the incident was incorrectly
identified on the Conduct Report; (3) because the report does not state the time of the incident, it
is unclear whether the report complies with policy requiring that the report be created within 24
hours of the incident; and (4) the three step demotion in his credit class was unwarranted.
1. Witness Statement
Miller first argues that consideration of the witness statement at the disciplinary hearing
was improper because the statement was a hearsay statement of an unidentified witness. But there
is no prohibition against the use of hearsay evidence in the course of prison disciplinary
proceedings. See Wolff, 418 U.S. at 567-68. Further, to the extent this argument amounts to a
challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, Miller has failed to show that the evidence against
him was insufficient. In reviewing the sufficiency of the 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); see
also Meeks v. McBride, 81 F.3d 717, 720 (7th Cir. 1996) (“because the ‘some evidence’ standard
. . . does not permit courts to consider the relative weight of the evidence presented to the
disciplinary board, it is ‘[g]enerally immaterial that an accused prisoner presented exculpatory
evidence unless that evidence directly undercuts the reliability of the evidence on which the
disciplinary authority relied’ in support of its conclusion”)(quoting Viens v. Daniels, 871 F.2d
1328, 1335 (7th Cir. 1989)). Instead, the “some evidence” standard of Hill is lenient, “requiring
only that the decision not be arbitrary or without support in the record.” McPherson, 188 F.3d at
786. Here, the evidence shows that Miller’s employer discovered that Miller had stolen $650.00.
This is enough to find Miller guilty of violating the law.
2. Conduct Report
Miller next challenges the contents of the conduct report. He argues that the place of the
incident on the conduct report is misleading and that it is not clear that that conduct report was
written within 24 hours of the incident at issue. Due process requires that a conduct report provide
the prisoner fair notice of the charges against him. See Wolff, 418 U.S. at 564. The purpose of this
requirement is to inform him of the charges and enable him to marshal the facts and prepare a
defense. Here, the conduct report stated that Miller had stolen money from his employer. This was
sufficient to give Miller fair notice of the charges against him and the facts on which the charges
were based. Further, due process requires that the prisoner be given 24-hours notices of a
disciplinary hearing, See Hill, 472 U.S. at 454, but there is no due process requirement regarding
how soon after an incident a conduct report must be written. To the extent that Miller contends
that the presumed failure to write the conduct report within 24 hours of the incident violated prison
policy, this does not amount to a due process violation. See Hester v. McBride, 966 F. Supp. 765,
774-75 (N.D.Ind. 1997) (violation of policy not a due process violation).
3. Demotion in Credit Class
Miller finally argues that the three-step demotion in credit class violated the Adult
Disciplinary Procedures because the hearing report did not contain any justification for this result.
The respondent argues that because Miller did not raise this argument in his administrative appeals,
it is waived. Before seeking federal habeas relief, an offender must take all available administrative
appeals, and must raise in those appeals any issue on which he seeks federal review. Eads v. Hanks,
280 F.3d 728, 729 (7th Cir. 2002). Because it is undisputed that Miller did not appeal this argument
and he has not shown good cause for his failure, he cannot present it here. Further, as already
explained, a violation of prison policy, such as that alleged here, does not support a claim for
habeas relief. See Hester, 966 F. Supp. at 774-75.
"The touchstone of due process is protection of the individual against arbitrary action of
the government." Wolff, 418 U.S. at 558. There was no arbitrary action in any aspect of the charge,
disciplinary proceedings, or sanctions involved in the events identified in this action, and there
was no constitutional infirmity in the proceeding which entitles Miller to the relief he seeks.
Accordingly, Miller’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus must be denied and the action dismissed.
Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Date: July 27, 2016
Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
JAMES E. MILLER
PUTNAMVILLE - CF
PUTNAMVILLE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
1946 West U.S. Hwy 40
Greencastle, IN 46135
All electronically registered counsel
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