Godbey v. Warden FCI Williamsburg
ORDER adopting Report and Recommendations of Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant; granting 9 Motion for Summary Judgment and DISMISSING this action (ECF No. 1) without prejudice. Signed by Honorable J Michelle Childs on 3/28/2017.(cwhi, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Walter T. Godbey, #45377-083,
Warden FCI Williamsburg,
Civil Action No.: 9:15-cv-04233-JMC
ORDER AND OPINION
Petitioner Walter T. Godbey (“Petitioner”) filed this pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas
Corpus (“Petition”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging an administrative disciplinary
action he received while incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution (“FCI”) Petersburg
Low.1 (ECF No. 1.) Respondent Warden FCI Williamsburg (“Respondent”) responded by filing
a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 9.)
In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02, the matter was
referred to United States Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant for pre-trial handling.
September 23, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report,” ECF
No. 19) recommending the court grant Respondent’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No.
9), and deny the Petition (ECF No. 1). This review considers Petitioner’s Objections to the
Report and Recommendation (“Objections”) filed October 11, 2016. (ECF No. 21.) For the
reasons set forth herein, the court ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge’s Report (ECF No. 19),
GRANTS Respondent’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 9), and DISMISSES the
The court notes that although Petitioner has filed the Petition against the Warden of FCI
Williamsburg, the disciplinary action stemmed from an incident that took place at FCI
Petersburg Low. Currently, Petitioner is an inmate at FCI Bennettsville. On May 16, 2016,
Petitioner filed a change of address notifying all parties he had been transferred from FCI
Williamsburg to FCI Bennettsville. (ECF No. 17.)
Petition (ECF No. 1) without prejudice.
RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
This court concludes, upon its own careful review of the record, that the Magistrate
Judge’s factual synopsis is accurate and incorporates it by reference. This court will thus focus
on the facts pertinent to the analysis of Petitioner’s Objections.
Petitioner is presently incarcerated at FCI Bennettsville (“Bennettsville”). Petitioner
alleges that on March 4, 2014, inmate Bernard Doherty (“Doherty)2 sought him out and assaulted
(ECF No. 1-1 at 3.)
On March 26, 2014, a Special Investigation Services (“SIS”)
investigation was completed and an Incident Report was provided to Petitioner. (ECF No. 1-1 at
23.) Because of this “fighting incident,” Petitioner was found guilty of a Disciplinary Code 201
(Fighting with Another Person) violation by a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (“DHO”), and was
subject to multiple sanctions.3 (ECF No. 1-1 at 4.) Petitioner asserts that he was never put on
“lawful ‘notice’ of the Rules/Regs of the [Federal Bureau of Prisons] FBOP.” (ECF Nos. 1-1 at
2.) Petitioner alleges DHOs improperly relied upon correctional officer (“CO”) statements, and
the multiple DHO Reports contained false and inaccurate information. (ECF No. 1 at 7, 11.)
Petitioner asserts he has a right to self-defense (id. at 8), that the parameters of a Code 201
violation are too vague (id. at 9), that the DHO was not an independent fact finder, (id.), and that
Petitioner’s rehearing venue was improper (id. at 10). Petitioner also seeks to draw a comparison
between himself and another inmate who had his record expunged after engaging in fighting.
(Id.) Petitioner appealed his disciplinary sentence at multiple DHO hearings, the Southeast
Regional Office, and after being repeatedly found guilty, appealed to the Central Office at
An inmate at FCI Petersburg Low.
Sanctions included: loss of commissary for ninety days; loss of twenty-seven days for good
time conduct; and fifteen days of disciplinary segregation. (ECF No. 1-1 at 4, 30.)
General Counsel. (ECF No. 1-1 at 5.) Petitioner never received an answer from the Central
Office. (Id.) Petitioner seeks an expungement of the Incident Report and the DHO Report, a
transfer back to FCI Petersburg Low, the restoration of the twenty-seven days of good conduct
time (“GTC”), and the restoration of Form BP 6064 (removing five points from his record).
(ECF No. 1-1 at 1.)
Petitioner filed the instant action on October 15, 2015. (ECF No. 1.) On March 15,
2016, Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary
Judgment. (ECF No. 9).
On March 25, 2016, Petitioner filed his Response in Opposition.
(ECF No. 13.) On April 1, 2016, Petitioner filed an Affidavit in Support (ECF No. 14), and on
April 15, 2016, filed a Supplemental Motion to his Response in Opposition (ECF No. 15).
On September 23, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report, recommending the court
grant Respondent’s Motion for Summary Judgment, and dismiss Petitioner’s Petition. (ECF No.
19 at 21.) The Magistrate Judge found that the prison officials complied with the due process
requirements set forth in Wolff v. McDonnell.5 (Id.) Judge Marchant’s Report found that
Respondent had shown “some evidence existed to support the decision,” satisfying the minimal
due process standard necessary for prison disciplinary proceedings. (Id.) The Report dismissed
Petitioner’s assertions that he lacked notice of the FBOP’s rules and regulations (id. at 11-13,
17), that he had a right to self-defense (id. at 15), and that his case was comparable to another
Also called the Male Custody Classification Form (“MCC Form”), “([t]his form determines
what level an inmate will be housed in, e.g., Camp, Low, Med., High).” (ECF No. 1-1 at 4.)
In Wolf, due process is satisfied in a disciplinary hearing when: (1) an inmate receives advance
notice of the charges; (2) a written statement is provided to the inmate citing the evidence relied
upon by the fact finder and/or the disciplinary committee; (3) the right of an inmate to call
witnesses and present documentary evidence, assuming institutional safety would not be
jeopardized; (4) allowance of the inmate the aid of a fellow prison or staff member to present
evidence in an understandable way; and (5) impartial fact finders. 418 U.S. 539, 563-76 (1974).
The court notes that the Report only references the first three components. (See ECF No. 19 at
inmate’s case (id.).
The Report also found no bias on the part of the DHO (id. at 19), no
prejudice in Petitioner’s rehearing (id. at 20), and no reliance by Respondent on inaccurate or
false information (id at 14-15, 20-21). On October 11, 2016, Petitioner filed Objections to the
Report. (ECF No. 21.)
The Magistrate Judge’s Report is made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and
Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina. The Magistrate Judge’s Report is only
a recommendation to this court, and has no presumptive weight—the responsibility to make a
final determination remains with this court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71
(1976). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the
Report to which specific objections are made. Id. The court may accept, reject, or modify, in
whole or in part, the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation or recommit the matter with
instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
Objections to a Report and Recommendation must specifically identify portions of the
Report and the basis for those objections. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b). “[I]n the absence of a timely
filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must ‘only satisfy
itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation.’” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 316 (4th Cir. 2005)
(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 72 advisory committee’s note). Failure to timely file specific written
objections to a Report will result in a waiver of the right to appeal from an order from the court
based upon the Report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985); Wright v.
Collins, 766 F.2d 841 (4th Cir. 1985); United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91 (4th Cir. 1984). If
the petitioner fails to properly object because the objections lack the requisite specificity, then de
novo review by the court is not required.
Additionally, pro se filed documents should be “liberally construed,” held to a less
stringent legal standard than those complaints or proceedings drafted by lawyers. Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). However,
even liberally construed, objections to a Report must specifically identify portions of the Report
and the basis for those objections.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2).
Furthermore, while pro se
documents may be entitled to “special judicial solicitude,” federal courts are not required to
recognize “obscure or extravagant claims.” Weller v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91
(4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985)).
A petition for habeas corpus under § 2241 is the proper method to challenge the
computation or execution of a federal sentence. See United States v. Little, 392 F.3d 671, 679
(4th Cir. 2004) (citing In re Vial, 115 F.3d 1192, 1194 n.5 (4th Cir. 1997)). A petition pursuant
to § 2241 challenging the execution of a federal prisoner’s sentence generally addresses “such
matters as the administration of parole, computation of a prisoner’s sentence by prison officials,
prison disciplinary actions …” Jiminian v. Nash, 245 F.3d 144, 146 (2d Cir. 2010). A § 2241
petition is appropriate where the prisoner challenges the fact or length of his confinement, but
generally not the conditions of his confinement. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 499-500
(1973); Ajaj v. Smith, 108 F. App’x 743, 744 (4th Cir. 2004). The court agrees with the Report
and Respondent that Petitioner’s § 2241 Petition is the proper method to challenge his
The court also agrees with Respondent that Petitioner has exhausted his administrative
remedies. (ECF No. 9 at 5.)
misrepresent[ing] numerous facts,” and asserts that each of his nine claims should not be subject
to summary judgment. (ECF No. 21.) However, though Petitioner outlines his objections in
detail, very little new information is brought to the court’s attention that was not sufficiently
addressed by the Magistrate’s Report.7
What new information Petitioner does put forth either
contradicts his position, or is insufficient to overcome the due process standard of prisoner
disciplinary proceedings. As the Report notes, the Supreme Court in Wolff v. McDonnell only
allows an inmate a minimal standard of due process in a prison disciplinary setting. (ECF No. 19
at 8-9.) The court concludes that the information brought up in Petitioner’s Objections is not
sufficient to abrogate the Report’s recommendation of the granting of summary judgment and
dismissal of the Petition.
Petitioner argues that he did not receive “fair notice” (ECF No. 21 at 12) of his Code 201
violation because he did not receive a copy of the FCI Petersburg’s “Rules and Regulations”
(“R&R”) when he re-entered the FBOP in the summer of 2010 (after having left FBOP’s custody
the previous November 2009) (ECF No. 14 at 1). He argues that despite being served with a
copy of the FBOP’s R&R at FCI Manchester in 2005 (ECF No. 21 at 11), and having public
notice of Code 201 through 28 C.F.R. § 541.3 (id.), a procedural mandate exists that requires a
new FBOP R&R copy be provided to him. Though Petitioner cites to a case where prisoners
were entitled to a copy of the rules and regulations8 (ECF No. 21 at 12), the authority referenced
The court notes that the arguments laid out in the first ten pages of Petitioner’s Objections are
essentially restated on pages eleven through twenty-nine (when Petitioner reviews each of his
nine claims). (See ECF No. 21.)
See Hamilton v. Love, 358 F. Supp. 338 (E.D. Ark. 1973) (holding that detainees were entitled
to information regarding prisoner conduct and privileges, and that a copy of the rules would be
posted near their cells). But see Gibbs v. King, 779 F.2d 1040 (5th Cir. 1985) (holding only that
is only persuasive. The court finds that the Report’s citation to cases holding that the “CFR
provided federal inmates with public notice of prison rules” (ECF No. 19 at 11) to be sufficient
notice. Regardless, Code 201 remained unchanged despite the FBOP’s R&R 2011 amendments.
(ECF No. 9 at 11.)
Petitioner takes issue with the Report’s dismissal of his second claim by asserting that
Unit Mgr. Karen Williams (“Williams”), along with Unit Case Mgr. Altman (Altman), verbally
admitted the reason behind the five points added to Petitioner’s MCC Form was because he was
found guilty of a Code 201 violation. (ECF No. 21 at 14.) Despite Petitioner’s assertions, the
court finds no record of such statements. As the Report notes, the Inmate Disciplinary Program
does not use custody level adjustments as sanctions (ECF No. 19 at 12), and though Petitioner
claims that “[h]ere the prison officials admit they lack authority to increase my ‘Base’ Score,”
(ECF No. 21 at 14), prison officials only lack such authority in the context of imposing sanctions
derived from disciplinary convictions.
Petitioner seems to be trying to show a “quantum change in level of custody” (ECF No.
19 at 12, citing Gosier v. Mitchell, No. 09-931, 2010 WL 619175, at **3-4 (D.S.C. Feb. 18,
2010)), by saying he faced a “severe change in conditions of confinement” (ECF No. 21 at 14).
However, because Petitioner’s custody classification does not impact the fact or duration of
confinement, the court concludes his claim is not cognizable under § 2241. See Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 499-500 (1973); see also Banks v. Warden of the Federal Transfer
Center, No. 11-201, 2012 WL 728370, at *2 (W.D. Okla. Feb. 15, 2012).
In his third Objection, Petitioner takes issue with the Report’s reliance on CO statements.
(ECF No. 21 at 15.)
Petitioner claims the DHO’s statements were contradictory, and
an inmate is entitled to prior notice of proscribed conduct before sanction). Gibbs says nothing
about inmates receiving physical copies of the rules.
unreasonable. (Id. at 16-18.) He also claims that his Segregated Housing Unit (“SHU”) Review
was in contravention of his rights (id. at 18-19), that witnesses refused to admit the truth (id. at
20), and that he should be allowed to have a polygraph, despite admitting that FBOP is “not
required to provide an inmate with a polygraph examination in disciplinary matters” (id. at 16).
Though Petitioner argues that the DHO made contradictory statements, Petitioner also
contradicts himself, claiming at different times that he did not “engage” (ECF No. 1 at 9) in the
fight, that he “pushed him [Doherty] away” (ECF No. 1-1 at 39), and “that the swing did not
connect [toward Doherty]” (ECF No. 21 at 16).
Petitioner tries to argue that his desired witnesses were “constructively ‘unavailable’”
because of the venue of the DHO hearing. (Id. at 20.) However, the witnesses did provide
written statements, statements that simply did not help Petitioner’s claims.
(Id. at 21.)
Furthermore, despite Petitioner’s seeming belief that witness statements, without the physical
presence of the author, correspond to obstruction, if a witness is unavailable, a statement is
sufficient to satisfy a DHO hearing under 28 C.F.R. § 541.8(f)(4).
Petitioner tries to rely on Hrbek v. Nix to show that the “some evidence”9 standard makes
Wolff essentially meaningless. (ECF No. 21 at 21.) However, the court in Hrbek said “[w]e
agree that disciplinary actions may be taken-and often they are-based only on a guard's report.
Even when there is substantial evidence to the contrary, the committee may find a guard's report
to be credible and therefore take disciplinary action.” 12 F.3d 777, 781 (8th Cir. 1993) (citing
Hill, 472 U.S. at 456). A CO’s report is enough to qualify as “some evidence.” Petitioner tries
to argue that under Wolff, inmates have an opportunity to persuade impartial decision makers.
(ECF No. 21 at 21.) The point is moot, however. Here, Petitioner has argued his case several
Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455-457 (1985) (establishing the “some
evidence” standard for a disciplinary decisions).
times, and had multiple opportunities to pursue impartial decision makers. The court agrees with
the Report’s finding that the DHO Reports and Hearings did not violate Petitioner’s minimal due
process. (ECF No. 19 at 15.)
In his Objection regarding claim four, Petitioner tries to argue self-defense. However, the
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (“7th Circuit”), held “[w]e determine that in view of our
deference to the administrative discretion of prison authorities, prisoners do not have a
fundamental right to self-defense in disciplinary proceedings.” Rowe v. DeBruyn, 17 F.3d 1047,
105253 (7th Cir.1994); see Turner v. Sofley, 482 U.S. 78, 95 (1987) (“[A] prison inmate retains
those [constitutional] rights that are not inconsistent with his status as a prisoner or with the
legitimate penological objectives of the corrections system.” (internal quotation marks omitted)).
Petitioner tries to distinguish his argument by citing to United States v. Gore, however, Gore
dealt with federal criminal prosecution, not with prisoner disciplinary proceedings. Gore is not
applicable here. Prisoners do not have a right to self-defense.
Petitioner brings up retaliation multiple times in his Objections. (ECF No. 21 at 5, 21,
27.) He feels that Williams retaliated against him because he helped other inmates with their
legal claims. (ECF No. 21 at 5.) The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has mandated that claims
of retaliation should be regarded with skepticism, asserting that “in forma pauperis [petitioners]
who claim that their constitutional rights have been violated by official retaliation must present
more than naked allegations of reprisal to survive § 1915(d).” Adams v. Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 74
(4th Cir. 1994). The court finds that Petitioner has offered no proof of retaliation on the part of
Williams, besides Petitioner’s own conclusory and accusatory statements.10
The court notes that Petitioner’s Objections regarding claims five through nine (pages 24-29)
do not offer any new information, and concludes the Report sufficiently addressed those claims.
Thus, the court concludes that Petitioner has failed to state a claim under § 2241.
Petitioner’s Objections are largely a recitation of previously given explanations. Petitioner has
failed to show a genuine issue of material fact to withstand summary judgment.
Based on the aforementioned reasons and a thorough review of the Report and the record
in this case, the court ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge’s Report (ECF No. 19), GRANTS
Respondent’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 9), and DISMISSES this action (ECF
No. 1) without prejudice.
Certificate of Appealability
The law governing certificates of appealability provides that:
(c)(2) A certificate of appealability may issue . . . only if the applicant has made a
substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.
(c)(3) The certificate of appealability . . . shall indicate which specific issue or
issues satisfy the showing required by paragraph (2).
28 U.S.C. § 2253(c). A prisoner satisfies this standard by demonstrating that reasonable jurists
would find this court’s assessment of his constitutional claims is debatable or wrong and that any
dispositive procedural ruling by the district court is likewise debatable.
See Miller-El v.
Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 336 (2003); Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000); Rose v. Lee,
252 F.3d 676, 683 (4th Cir. 2001). In this case, the legal standard for the issuance of a certificate
of appealability has not been met.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
United States District Judge
March 28, 2017
Columbia, South Carolina
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