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Mauricio Materon v. Warden David Ebbert

June 27, 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 Mauricio Materon ("Materon"), an inmate confined at the Federal Correctional Institution at Allenwood in White Deer, Pennsylvania ("FCI-Allenwood"). Mauricio 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

At all relevant times to this petition, Mauricio was confined at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, New Jersey ("FCI-Fort Dix").*fn1 On October 12, 2010, at approximately 1:20 p.m., while conducting unit rounds, Officer E. Morales entered Materon's cell and observed him talking on a cellular telephone. (Doc. 7-1 at 17.) Officer Morales told Materon to hand over the phone, but Materon refused to comply, handing over only the homemade phone charger. (Id.) When Officer Morales called for assistance, Materon smashed the screen of the phone against the bunk bed and then handed it to the Officer. (Id.) Materon then sat down in a chair by the cell's window and waited for staff response. (Id.)

As a result of this incident, Materon was issued an incident report charging him with Possession, Manufacture, or Introduction of a Hazardous Tool, in violation of Section 108 of the Bureau of Prisons' ("BOP") disciplinary code. (Id.) The incident report was delivered to Materon at 6:30 p.m. on October 12, 2010. (Id.) Thereafter, the incident report was referred to the Unit Disciplinary Committee ("UDC") for further action. (Id. at 17-18.)

On October 13, 2010, the UDC held a hearing to review the incident report. (Id.) After reviewing the matter, the UDC referred it to the Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO") for further hearing. (Id. at 18.) Materon was advised of the DHO hearing and advised of his rights at that hearing. (Id. at 20-21.) He was given copies of "Inmate Rights at Discipline Hearing" and the "Notice of Discipline Hearing Before the DHO." (Id.) Materon signed both forms acknowledging that he had been advised of his rights. (Id.)

On October 20, 2010, the DHO held a hearing. (See id. at 23-25.) Prior to the hearing, Materon was advised of his right to appear before the DHO. (Id. at 23.) In addition, he waived his right to a staff representative and did not request witnesses on his behalf. (Id.) At the hearing, when the DHO read the incident report aloud, Materon stated, "That's true." (Id.) In admitting the charge, he further stated that he had the phone "[a] long time. I had another phone before this one." (Id.)

The DHO issued his written decision on November 3, 2010, finding that Materon had committed the act as charged. (Id. at 23-25.) In doing so, he considered the reporting officer's incident report, Materon's statement, and photographs of the cell phone. (Id. at 24.) Materon was sanctioned with disallowance of 40 days of good conduct time, 30 days of disciplinary segregation, forfeiture of 540 days of non-vested good conduct time, 60 days loss of visiting and commissary privileges, and 18 months loss of telephone and TRULINCS*fn2 privileges. (Id.)

At the time of the filing of Respondent's answer to the instant petition, Materon had filed five requests for administrative remedies since entering the BOP. (See Doc. 7-1 at 13-15.) Four of these requests relate to the incident report or DHO hearing and decision at issue in this petition, with rejections or denials based on timeliness. (See id.)

II. Discussion

The BOP disciplinary process is fully outlined in 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 Materon was charged with Possession, Manufacture, or Introduction of a Hazardous Tool, an offense in the greatest severity category, the matter was referred for a disciplinary hearing.

Greatest 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).

Further, despite the absence of a statutory exhaustion requirement attached to § 2241, courts have consistently required a petitioner to exhaust administrative remedies prior to bringing habeas claims under § 2241. Speight v. Minor, 245 F. App'x 213, 215 (3d Cir. 2007); Callwood v. Enos, 230 F.3d 627, 634 (3d Cir. 2000); Moscato v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 98 F.3d 757, 760 (3d Cir. 1996). Exhaustion promotes a number of goals: "(1) allowing the appropriate agency to develop a factual record and apply its expertise facilitates judicial review; (2) permitting agencies to grant the relief requested conserves judicial resources; and (3) providing agencies the opportunity to correct their own errors fosters administrative autonomy." Moscato,98 F.3d at 761-62 (citing Bradshaw v. Carlson, 682 F.2d 1050, 1052 (3d Cir. 1981)). Courts, however, have excused exhaustion when it would not promote these goals. See, e.g., Gambino v. Morris, 134 F.3d 156, 171 (3d Cir. 1998) (Roth, ...

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