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Kareem Hassan Milhouse v. B.A. Bledsoe

May 18, 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 November 11, 2009, at 10:21 p.m., while performing a count on the first floor of USP-Lewisburg's Z-Unit, Senior Officer Specialist W. Robey arrived at cell 120 which housed Milhouse and his cellmate. (Doc. 8-1 at 15.) Milhouse's cellmate was covered up on the bottom bunk, preventing Officer Robey from seeing him for count. (Id.) Officer Robey knocked on the cell door and called his name several times with no response. (Id.) Milhouse then stated, "He is dead, you better call for medical staff." (Id.) Officer Robey called for the unit's Lieutenant and a medic to come to the cell. (Id.) He also ordered Milhouse to cuff up. (Id.) When the Lieutenant and the medic arrived at the cell with several other staff and opened the wicket slot in the cell door to apply hand restraints, Milhouse's cellmate uncovered himself. (Id.)

As a result of this incident, Milhouse was issued an incident report charging him with Interfering with Staff in the Performance of Duties and Lying to a Staff Member, in violation of Sections 198 and 313 of the Bureau of Prisons' ("BOP") disciplinary code, respectively. (Id.) The incident report was delivered to Milhouse at 10:10 a.m. on November 12, 2009. (Id.)

An investigation was conducted on November 12, 2009, commencing at 10:10 a.m. (Id. at 16.) The investigating officer, Lieutenant E. Stuart, advised Milhouse of his rights and Milhouse responded that he understood them. (Id.) Further, the officer noted that when he read the incident report to Milhouse, he stated, "He was in bed all day, how do I know if he is dead or not." (Id.) He also noted that Milhouse displayed a very poor attitude. (Id.) After completing his investigation, Lieutenant Stuart referred the incident report to the Unit Disciplinary Committee ("UDC") for further review. (Id.)

The UDC held a hearing on November 14, 2009. (Id. at 15.) At the hearing, Milhouse was advised of his rights and stated that he understood them. (Id.) Further, Milhouse stated, "I just close my eyes and listen to the voices." (Id.) After reviewing the matter, the UDC referred it to the Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO") for further proceedings. (Id.) Milhouse was advised of the DHO hearing and advised of his rights at that hearing. (Id. at 17-21.) He was given copies of "Duties of Staff Representative," "Notice of Discipline Hearing Before the DHO," and "Inmate Rights at Discipline Hearing." (Id.) Milhouse refused to sign the "Inmate Rights at Discipline Hearing" form. (Id. at 21.)

The DHO held a hearing on January 19, 2010. (See id. at 11-14.) On that date, the DHO noted that he had attempted to hear the case on three previous occasions, December 8, 2009, December 16, 2009, and January 5, 2010, but Milhouse's requested staff representative at each hearing date had to withdraw due to a conflict of interest. (Id. at 11.) On January 19, 2010, Milhouse received a Warden-appointed staff representative whom he agreed to. (Id. at 12.) At the hearing, Milhouse acknowledged that he understood his rights before the DHO and was ready to proceed with the hearing. (Id.) He presented no documentary evidence for the DHO to consider. (Id.) Milhouse testified that Section 11 of the incident report outlining the incident was accurate, except asserted that his statement to Officer Robey was as follows: "I don't know, he's probably dead. He hasn't moved all day." (Id.) The DHO noted that Milhouse made no complaints of procedural errors during the hearing. (Id.)

The DHO relied on the incident report and investigation, the reporting officer's eyewitness written account, and Milhouse's testimony, to support his finding that Milhouse had committed the Code 313 violation - Lying to a Staff Member. (Id. at 13.) Milhouse was sanctioned with disallowance of 14 days of good conduct time, 15 days of disciplinary segregation, loss of 120 days of commissary privileges, and loss of 120 days of telephone privileges. (Id. at 14.)

II. Discussion

The BOP disciplinary process is fully outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations, 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 for 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 Interfering with Staff in the Performance of Duties, an offense in the greatest severity category, the matter was referred for a disciplinary hearing.

Greatest and moderate category offenses carry a possible sanction of loss of good conduct time credits, inter alia. 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).

In his petition, Milhouse challenges only the sufficiency of the evidence used to find him guilty of the Code 313 violation. However, in an abundance of caution, the court will also ...

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