O'NEILL v. SMITH
Entry Dismissing Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus - The petitioner filed a writ of habeas corpus challenging a prison disciplinary proceeding, MCF 17-03-0351. For the reasons set forth below, the respondent's motion to dismiss, dkt. 9 , is granted and this action is dismissed as moot. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue (SEE ENTRY). Signed by Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on 11/30/2017. (DW)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
TERRE HAUTE DIVISION
BRYAN SMITH, Warden of the Putnamville
Correctional Facility, 1
Entry Dismissing Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
The petitioner filed a writ of habeas corpus challenging a prison disciplinary proceeding,
MCF 17-03-0351. The respondent has filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the challenged
disciplinary proceeding and the sanctions resulting therefrom have been vacated, making this
action moot. For the reasons set forth below, the respondent’s motion to dismiss, dkt. , is
granted and this action is dismissed as moot.
The petitioner was subject to disciplinary proceeding MCF 17-03-0351, in which he was
found guilty of offense B-215 unauthorized alternation of a television. His sanctions included a written
reprimand, a change in work/housing assignment, 30 days’ loss of commissary privileges, 30 days’
loss ECT, and a suspended sentence of a demotion in credit class. He filed the instant petition for a
writ of habeas corpus on August 30, 2017. While the instant case was pending, the Indiana
Department of Correction final reviewing authority, on October 17, 2017, vacated the petitioner’s
disciplinary conviction and sanctions and designated the case for re-hearing.
Effective July 1, 2017, Senate Enrolled Act 387 changed the title of the heads of Indiana penal
facilities and correctional institutions from “superintendent” to “warden.” See Pub. L. No. 672017, §§ 1–20, 2017 Ind. Acts 241, 241–52.
“A case becomes moot when it no longer presents a case or controversy under Article III,
Section 2 of the Constitution.” Eichwedel v. Curry, 700 F.3d 275, 278 (7th Cir. 2012). “In general
a case becomes moot when the issues presented are no longer live or the parties lack a legally
cognizable interest in the outcome.” Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted). A federal court
may issue a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 only if it finds the applicant “is in
custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(a) (emphasis added). Therefore, a habeas action becomes moot if the Court can no longer
“affect the duration of [the petitioner’s] custody.” White v. Ind. Parole Bd., 266 F.3d 759, 763
(7th Cir. 2001).
In response to the motion to dismiss, the petitioner argues that the case is not moot because
he still wants and has not been given the 6 months back pay he would have earned had he not lost
his job as a result of the disciplinary action. Unfortunately for the petitioner this relief is not
available in this action. “[I]n all habeas corpus proceedings under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the successful
petitioner must demonstrate that he ‘is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties
of the United States.’” Brown v. Watters, 599 F.3d 602, 611 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(a)). “It is the custody itself that must violate the Constitution. Accordingly, prisoners who
are not seeking earlier or immediate release are not seeking habeas corpus relief.” Washington v.
Smith, 564 F.3d 1350, 1350 (7th Cir. 2009). In other words, “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.” Id.
When such a sanction is not imposed, the prison disciplinary officials are “free to use any
procedures it chooses, or no procedures at all.” Id. at 644. Here the loss of income from a prison
job did not affect the petitioner’s custody and no relief is warranted on this basis.
Because the petitioner’s conviction and sanctions were vacated and thus can no longer
affect the duration of his custody, the petitioner’s habeas action is moot. See id. An action which
is moot must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. See Diaz v. Duckworth, 143 F.3d 345, 347 (7th
Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
PUTNAMVILLE - CF
PUTNAMVILLE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
Electronic Service Participant – Court Only
INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL
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