Graham v. Warden

Filing 10

MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge George Jarrod Hazel on 2/22/2017. (c/m 2/22/2017 aos, Deputy Clerk)

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IN HIE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND Sal/them Dit'isiol/ ,..,. c- ...• ..J, ! , VINCENT K. GRAHAM, * I'etitioner, * v. * WARDEN, * Respondent. * * Civil Action No. G,IH.16.16.t7 * * * * * * * MEMORANDUM Respondent No, 4. in rcsponsc Warden lOCI Cumbcrland to the above-entitled pursuant to 28 U.S.c. ~ 2241. Petitioner the reasons statcd herein. Rcspondent's * * * * * * OPINION movcs to dismiss or lar summary judgmcnt. ECF Pctition far Writ of I labeas Corpus. ECF No, I. filcd Vincent Graham opposcs the motion. ECF NO.8. For motion. construcd as a Motion lar Summary .Iudgment.t shall be granted and the petition shall be dismissed. I. BACKGROUND A. The Incident and Resultin::: Petition Petitioncr Vincent Graham the Federal Correctional Institution is a Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") in Cumbcrland. Maryland ("FCI Cumberland"), states that on February 8. 2015. while ineareerated ("MDC") New York. "he had a minor disagreement in Brooklyn. inmate confined at the Metropolitan Dctention to Graham Centcr with another inmate. Larry I Respondent's dispositive submission \vill be treated as a Motion for SUlllmary Judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 because materials outside the original pleadings have been considered. See Bosixer t'. u.s. Airu'(/.rs. 510 F.3d ~42. 450 (4th Cir. 2007). Skinner. about a Super Bowl game:' ECF No. I at 8.2 Graham states that other inmates intervened in the disagreement. and that Cadre Officer Hernandez placed both Graham and Skinner in the Speciall-lousing Unit (""SHU") as a result of the disagreement. Id. Graham alleges that on February 9. 2015. a "SIA officer"' wrote an incident report stating that surveillance tapes were reviewed in the "cadre unit:' and prison officials determined that Graham and Skinner were "attcmpting to tight:' Id. The incident report described Graham and Skinner being in a "lighting stance moving towards each other:' Id. Graham denies that he or Skinner were ever in a lighting stance and asserts that had that been true. Officer Ilernandez would havc included that information in his memorandum written on the day of the incident. /d. Graham states that the resulting decision linding him guilty of attempting to light was improper because: the charge (20 IA) does not reference a proper violation because "all violations consist of only numbers without leiters following the number"': the evidence did not support the hearing officer's decision: Graham was denied the opportunity to view the video: there was a miscalculation of his security custody level score: the SIA officer misstated the facts in the incident report: and the hearing officer tricked him into waiving a continuation when it became known his staff representative was unavailable. ECF No. I at 8-9. As reliet: Graham seeks to have the incident report removed from his prison record and the restoration of the 27 days of good conduct that were revoked. Id. at 9. B. The BOP Discipline Process Respondent explains that when BOP staff have a reasonable belief that a violation ofa Bureau regulation has been committed by an inmate. they prepare an ineident rep0l1. ECF No. 4I at 2: see a/sa 28 C.F.R. ~ 541.5(a). The inmate is provided with a written copy of the charges 2 Pin cites to documents by that system. tiled on the Court's electronic tiling system (CM/ECF) refer to the page numbers generated 2 against him. which is usually done within twenty-four hours of the time staff became aware of the inmate's involvement in an incident warranting a report. 28 C.F.R. * 541.5(a). When the written report is provided. an investigating oflicer reads the charges to the inmate and asks for the inmate's statement concerning the incident. * 541.5(b). An investigation is conducted. and all steps and actions taken are recorded on the incident report. See id. All relevant materials are then lorwarded to the Unit Disciplinary Committee ("UDC) lor an initial hearing. See 28 C.F.R. * 541.5(b). The UDC holds an initial hearing. ordinarily within five working days from the time the incident report was issued. excluding the day the incident report was issued. weekends. and holidays. See 28 C.F.R. * 541.7(c). The inmate is entitled to be present at the initial hearing. except during deliberations of the decision makers. or when institutional security would be jeopardized by the inmate's presence. See 28 C. F.R. * 541. 7(d). The inmate is entitled to make a statement and to present documentary evidence on his own behal I'at the initial hearing. See 28 C.F.R. * 541.7(e). The UDC makes a decision "based on at least some facts and. if there is conflicting evidence. on the greater weight of the evidence:' hi.. or may refer the report to a Disciplinary Hearing Ot1icer (DHO) for further proceedings. * 541. 7(g). At the DIIO hearing. the inmate may appoint a staff representative. 28 C.F.R. * 541.8(d). The inmate is also entitled to provide the names of witnesses the inmate wishes to be called to testify at the hearing and what testimony they are expected to provide. * 541.8(1). The DHO considers all evidence presented at the hearing and bases his decision on at least some facts. and if there is conflicting evidence. on the greater weight of the evidence. Id. The DHO prepares a written report explaining his decision and provides a copy to the inmate. 3 * 541.8(h). Pursuant to these regulations. 20 IS. where he denied the allegations toward Skinner. but admitted Graham was provided a UOC hearing on February 12. and claimed he was not in a fighting stance or moving they had a disagreement. ECF No. 4-4 at 2. The UOC referred the charge to the DHO based on the severity of the incident. ECF No. 4-2 ~ 2. Graham was provided with a copy of his rights for the OHO hearing and elected to have a staff representative hearing. but did not request witnesses. ECF No. 4-5 at 1-2. OlIO Daniel Garcia. who presided over the February evidence 19.2015 relied upon to arrive at a guilty finding included Graham's that depicted at the Graham and Skinner in the common hearing. noted that the own statement. the video area of unit 832. and the officer's report. Eel' No. 4-6 at 2. The hearing oflicer noted that: I also reviewed the video and also observed you and Skinner arguing with each other in the common area of unit 832. He would walk away and your (sic) were behind him both continuing to argue. There was an inmate that was between you both. lIe walked toward his bunk to put his sneakers on and you walked to your bunk area. lIe was being held back by an inmate as you were walking toward him. He got past the inmate. You threw something that you had in your hands to the side and you both approached each other preparing to fight. Again another inmate got in between you both. This time an inmate pushed you away from the situation and another inmate was pushing him away from the situation. It was noted you had every opportunity to leave this area but you stayed. You could have left out of the unit and toward the unit team. You had every opportunity to leave this area but you did not. Jd. The sanctions commissary, provided imposed were 30 days of disciplinary 90 days of impound for the sanction property, segregation. 180 days loss of and 27 days loss of good conduct. Id. The rationale is noted as follows: Fighting A ... cannot be tolerated because it is a clear violation of a prohibited act. This type of behavior disrupts the orderly running of this institution and staffs ability to perform their assigned duties. This type of action is unacceptable and if allowed to continue uncorrected, tends to encourage other inmates to participate in the same type of behavior. ... These sanctions are imposed to deter 4 you from future negative behavior and to again remind you that you arc expected to follow the rules and regulations of the institution and any BOP facility. Id. II. STANDARD OF REVIEW Summary Judgment is governed by Fed. R. Civ. 1'. 56(a). which provides that ..[tlhe court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law:' Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The Supreme Court has clarified that this docs not mean that any factual dispute will defeat the motion explaining. "rb]y its very terms. this standard provides that the mere existence of sOllie alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment: the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of lIIaterial faet." Anderson I'. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U. S. 242, 247--48 (1986) (emphasis in original). "A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment 'may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings.' but rather must 'set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. ... Boucllal 1'. Baltilllore Ral'ens Foolhal! Cluh. Inc .. 346 F.3d 514. 522 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). The court should "view the evidence in the light most favorable to ... the nonmovant. and draw all inferences in rhis]fa\"(lf without weighing the evidence or assessing the witness' credibility:' Dennis I'. Colulllbia Colle Ion Med. Clr .. Inc .. 290 F.3d 639. 645 (4th Cir. 2002). The court must. however. also abide by the "affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial." Boucllat, 346 F.3d at 526 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Dre\l'ill I'. Prall. 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993). and citing CelOlex Corp. \'. Calrell. 477 U.S. 317. 323-24 (1986)). 5 III. ANALYSIS Prisoners retain rights under the Due Proccss Clause. but prison disciplinary proceedings are not part of a criminal prosecution and the full array of rights due a defendant in such proceedings does not apply. See Wo([(l'. McDol1l1ell. 418 U.S. 539. 556 (1974) (citing Morrissey \'. Brewer. 408 U.S. 471.488 (1972)). In prison disciplinary proceedings where an inmate faces the possible loss of diminution credits. he is entitled to certain due process protections. These include: (I) advance written notice of the charges against him: (2) a written statement of the evidence relied on and the reasons for taking any disciplinary action; (3) a hearing where he is afforded the right to call witnesses and present evidence when doing so is not inconsistent with institutional safety and correctional concerns. and a written decision: (4) the opportunity to have non-attorney representation when the inmate is illiterate or the disciplinary hearing involves complex issues: and (5) an impartial decision-maker. See Wolff: 418 U.S. at 564-66. 592. There is no constitutional right to confront and cross-examine witnesses or to retain and be appointed counsel at inmate disciplinary hearings. See Baxter t'. Palmigial1o. 425 U.S. 308. 322 (1976): Browl1 t'. Braxtol1. 373 F.3d 501. 504-05 (4th Cir. 2004). As long as the hearing officer's decision contains a written statement of the evidence relied upon. due process is satisfied. See Baxter. 425 U.S. at 322. n.5. Moreover. substantive due process is satislied if the disciplinary hearing decision was based upon "some evidence:' Superil1tel1del1t.Mass. ClI/T. 111.1'/. \'. Hill. 472 U.S. 445. 455 (1985). Federal courts do not review the correctness ofa disciplinary hearing ofticer's lindings of f11Ct. Kelly \'. Cooper. 502 F. Supp. 1371. 1376 See (E.D. Va. 1980). The findings will only be disturbed when unsupported by any evidence. or when wholly arbitrary and capricious. See Hill. 472 U.S. at 456: see also Baker \'. Lyles. 904 6 F.2d 925. 933 (4th Cir. 1990). As long as there is some evidence in the record to support a disciplinary committee's factuallindings. a federal court will not review their accuracy. In his Opposition. Graham states that he was denied due process at the UDC hearing because only one staff member was present and the 1301' rule requires the committee to be made up of ..two or more staff members with the authority to hold an initial hearing:' ECF NO.8 at I. He states that Case Manager M. Chissolm was the only member present during the UDC hearing. Ill. Graham is correct in his observation that only one staffmember"s signature appears on the UDC report. See ECI' No. 8-2 at 1. The UDC hearing. however. did not result in any sanctions being imposed on Graham; rather. the only result was a referral to the DHO for another hearing to detemline his guilt or innocence. it/.. thus the absence of another stafT member does not violate the Constitution even though it did not comply with 1301' rules. See e.g.. Riccio \'. COlln/)' rJ/" Fail/ax. 907 F.2d 1459. 1466 (4th Cir. 1990) ("A state does not necessarily violate thc Constitution every time it violates one of its rulcs"). Whcre. as here. the rule in question does not result in a denial of that which is guaranteed by the Due Process clause. the violation of the rule does not amount to a Constitutional violation. Graham further maintains that "201 A" is not a valid rule citation and rclies upon a list of rules promulgated by the 1301'. ECF NO.8 at I; ECF No. 8-2 at 4. Rule 201 is described as lighting with another person: however. Graham was charged with attempting to tight with another person and the notice he was provided makes that ttlCtclear. ECF No. 4-2 '14. The designation of "20 1A" is an indication that Graham was charged with an attempt to violate Rule 201. See ECF 4-1 at 11. (Program Statement 5270.09. Inmate Discipline Program). There is no violation of the due process clause through the use of such a designation: to conclude otherwise is to honor form over substance. See e.g., Cas/ellanos \'. Snyder. 2000 WL 1434590 (6th Cir. 7 2000) (charge alleging violation of code "102A" was sufticient notice of alleged aiding in attempt to escapc charge). Graham's claim that his security level score was miscalculated. ECr NO.1 at 8-9: ECF NO.8 at 1. is conclusory and vague. He simply states that on September 9. 2014. his custody level score was 10. and two months later when the Northeast Region granted Graham's administrative appeal and ordercd FCI Loretto camp to change his custody score for program participation and living skills from average to good. it should have been changed to a scorc of 8. ECr NO.8 at I: ECF No. 8-2 at 8. Even assuming Graham's security level score was wrong. the claim does not implicate a constitutionally protected interest. The error, which Graham does not allege was intentional. has not deprived him of a protccted liberty interest. SeeSalldill\'. Caillier. 515 U.S. 472. 484 (1995) (liberty interest implicatcd where "atypical and significant hardship ... in relation 10 the ordinary incidcnts of prison life" is established). Assignment to one prison vcrsus another. access to programs. or particular housing assignments and other matters lhat pertain to c1assilication and assignment of prisoners to particular prisons do not implicate due process. See Moody \'. Daggell. 429 U.S. 78. 88 (1976). "[G]iven a valid conviction. the criminal defendant has been constitutionally deprived of his liberty to the extcnt that the State may confine him and subject him to the rules of its prison systcm so long as the conditions of confinement do not otherwise violate the Constitution:' MeachulIl I'. Falla. 427 U.S. 215, 224 (1976). Graham's claim that he was tricked into waiving his request for a stair representative is without any evidentiary support. Hc does not include cvidence to support the conclusory claim. nor docs he ofter any objective proof lhat his waiver was anything other than voluntary. ECF No. 8 at I. This allegation does not support a cognizable claim. 8 Finally, with rcgard to the evidencc relied upon to find Graham guilty of committing the rule violation, all that is requircd is that thc hearing officcr relied upon "some cvidence:' See Hill, 472 U.S. at 455. In DHO Garcia's declaration under oath, he states that under Program Statement 5270.09, hc is required to review video footage whcn evidcnce of a rule violation is captured on video and he did so in this instance. ECl' No. 4-2 ~ 7. Garcia further explains that inmates are not permitted to vicw video footage "because it would jeopardize the safe and orderly operation of the institution for inmates to know the locations of the security camcras and what each camera can and cannot see:' /d. Graham's assertions that it was somehow improper for thc SIA officer to neglect mentioning a memorandum written by Officer Ilernandez does not vitiate the evidence relied upon to arrive at a guilty tinding. See ECl' NO.8 at 1-2. The only materia! t~lctat issue in the hearing before DHO Garcia was whethcr Graham was attempting to fight with another inmate. The circumstances of how the tact of his violation of the rulc eamc to be known are of little to no consequence and do not constitutc a violation of his duc process rights. IV. CONCLUSION Based on thc undisputed tacts before this Court, the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus must bc dismisscd. A scparatc Ordcr tiJllows. "'G/ z, V wq Datc &/L--- GEORGE J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 9

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