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Kareem Hassan Milhouse v. B.A. Bledsoe

April 8, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Rambo)


Presently before the court is a petition for writ of habeas corpus (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, filed by Petitioner Kareem Hassan Milhouse ("Milhouse"), an inmate confined at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania ("USP-Lewisburg"). Milhouse alleges that his constitutional rights were violated in the context of a disciplinary proceeding. For the reasons that follow, the petition will be denied.

I. Facts

On May 14, 2009, at approximately 11:38 a.m., while performing his duties as the Special Management Unit ("SMU") Lieutenant, Lieutenant A. Jordan went to Milhouse's cell and ordered him to submit to hand restraints in order to move him to another cell. (Doc. 7-2 at 9.) Milhouse refused to comply with the order. (Id.) As a result, a use of force team was assembled to effectuate the cell move. (Id.) The use of force team entered the cell and Milhouse threatened staff by stating, "if you put me on the compound, I will kill staff," and "somebody will die tomorrow." (Id.) Milhouse was placed in ambulatory restraints by the use of force team and removed from the cell. (Id.)

As a result of this incident, Milhouse was issued an incident report charging him with Refusing a Program Assignment, Refusing an Order, and Threatening Staff, in violation of Sections 306, 307, and 203 of the Bureau of Prisons' ("BOP") disciplinary code, respectively. (Id.) The incident report was delivered to Milhouse at 12:00 p.m. on May 15, 2009. (Id.)

An investigation was conducted on May 18, 2009, commencing at 12:00 p.m. (Id. at 10.) The investigating officer, Lieutenant Sassaman, noted that the incident report was not investigated within 24 hours of Milhouse's removal from restraints due to a lack of qualified staff working over the weekend. (Id.) On May 20, 2009, the Unit Disciplinary Committee ("UDC") held a hearing to review the incident report. (Id. at 9.) At the hearing, Milhouse stated that he did not receive the incident report within 24 hours, and the UDC properly documented Milhouse's complaint. (Id.) After reviewing the matter, the UDC referred it to the Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO") for further hearing. (Id.) Milhouse was advised of the DHO hearing and advised of his rights at that hearing. (Id. 11-14.) He was given copies of "Duties of Staff Representative," "Notice of Discipline Hearing Before the DHO," and "Inmate Rights at Discipline Hearing." (Id.) Milhouse requested Lieutenant Fosnot act as his staff representative, and listed two staff members he wished to have the DHO call as witnesses in order to provide testimony that during the incident "he didn't threaten anybody." (Id. at 12, 15.) The DHO secretary, M. Inch, subsequently documented that the two witnesses were contacted and reported that during the incident neither one was in a position to hear what was being said by Milhouse. (Id. at 15.)

The DHO scheduled a hearing for June 23, 2009. (See id. at 4.) On that date, the DHO decided to continue the hearing until July 7, 2009, to allow time for both the DHO and Milhouse's staff representative to review the video footage of the incident that Milhouse had requested. (Id. at 4-6.)

The DHO hearing resumed on July 7, 2009. (Id. at 4-8.) Milhouse acknowledged that he understood his rights before the DHO and was ready to proceed with the hearing. (Id. at 6.) He presented no documentary evidence for the DHO to consider. (Id.) Milhouse testified that he did refuse staff orders to submit to hand restraints, but that he did not make any threatening statements towards staff during the incident. (Id.) The DHO relied on Milhouse's testimony, as well as memoranda from several staff members regarding the incident and the video footage, to support his finding that Milhouse had committed the Code 307 violation, Refusing an Order. (Id. at 7.) Milhouse was sanctioned with disallowance of 14 days of good conduct time, 15 days of disciplinary segregation, loss of 120 days commissary privileges, and loss of 120 days of visiting privileges. (Id. at 8.)

II. Discussion

The BOP disciplinary process is fully outlined in Code of Federal Regulations ("C.F.R."), Title 28, Sections 541.10 through 541.23. These regulations dictate the manner in which disciplinary action may be taken should a prisoner violate, or attempt to violate, institutional rules. The first step requires filing an incident report and conducting an investigation pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 541.14. Staff is required to conduct the investigation promptly absent intervening circumstances beyond the control of the investigator. 28 C.F.R. § 541.14(b).

Following the investigation, the matter is then referred to the UDC for a hearing pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 541.15. If the UDC finds that a prisoner has committed a prohibited act, it may impose minor sanctions. If the alleged violation is serious and warrants consideration of more than minor sanctions, or involves a prohibited act listed in the greatest or high category offenses, the UDC refers the matter to a DHO for a hearing. 28 C.F.R. § 541.15. Because Milhouse was charged with Threatening Staff, an offense in the high severity category, the matter was referred for a disciplinary hearing.

High and moderate category offenses carry a possible sanction of, inter alia, a loss of good conduct time credits. 28 C.F.R. § 541.13. When a prison disciplinary hearing may result in the loss of good conduct time credits, due process requires that the prisoner receive (1) written notice of the claimed violation at least twenty-four (24) hours in advance of the hearing, (2) an opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in his or her defense when doing so would not be unduly hazardous to institutional safety or correctional goals, and (3) a written statement by the factfinder as to evidence relied on and reasons for the disciplinary action. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 564-66 (1974).

A. Sufficiency of the Evidence

Milhouse contests the sufficiency of the evidence relied upon in finding him guilty of the Code 307 violation. (Doc. 1 at 5.) The DHO's decision is required to be supported by some evidence in the record. See Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); see also Young v. Kann, 926 F.2d 1396, 1402-03 (3d Cir. 1991) (applying Hill standard to federal prisoner due process challenges to prison disciplinary proceedings). The standard is met if there was a modicum of evidence from which the conclusion of the tribunal could be deduced. See Hill, 472 U.S. at 455. Determining whether this standard is met does not require examination of the entire record, independent ...

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