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Pittman v. Thomas

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 19, 2014

DARNELL PITTMAN, SR., Petitioner,
v.
J.E. THOMAS, Warden, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM

RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchik's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 25) concerning Petitioner Darnell Pittman's 28 U.S.C. § 2241 petition for writ of habeas corpus in which he claims his constitutional rights were violated during the course of prison disciplinary proceedings (Doc. 1). Magistrate Judge Mehalchick recommends the Petition be denied and dismissed with prejudice because Petitioner did not exhaust his administrative remedies and his claims are barred by procedural default. (Doc. 25 at 5.) Petitioner filed objections to the Report and Recommendation on December 16, 2014 (Doc. 28), after receiving an extension of time within which to do so (Doc. 27). For the reasons discussed below, we adopt the Report and Recommendation, deny the Petition, and dismiss this action.

I. Background

Petitioner does not object to the Background set out in the Report and Recommendation (Doc. 25 at 1-3). Therefore, we repeat that recitation here.

On January 11, 2013, Pittman received Incident Report No. 2395917, charging him with threatening bodily harm to his cellmate and to prison staff. (Doc. 10-2, at 32-34). On February 2, 2013, Pittman received a disciplinary hearing on these charges. (Doc. 10-2, at 40-49). The disciplinary hearing officer ("DHO") found that Pittman committed the charged offense and imposed disciplinary sanctions, including the disallowance of 27 days of good conduct time. (Doc. 10-2, at 43; Doc. 10-2, at 48). The DHO completed and signed his written report on March 4, 2013. (Doc. 10-2, at 49). The signature of another prison staff member indicates that it was delivered to Pittman that same day, on March 4, 2013. (Doc. 10-2, at 49).
Pittman, however, claims that the DHO report was not delivered to him on March 4, 2013. The record reflects his filing of several administrative grievances, complaining that he had not received the DHO report and requesting that it be provided to him so he could appeal it. ( E.g., Doc. 10-2, at 26-27). Pittman claims that he did not receive a copy of the DHO report until April 11, 2013. ( See Doc. 1, at 22).
Pittman then submitted an appeal from the DHO report, which was received by the BOP regional office on April 22, 2013. (Doc. 1 at 28; see also Doc. 1, at 26; Doc. 1, at 27; Doc. 10-2, at 21). For reasons that are unclear, [1] the regional office logged it as an appeal from one of the Pittman's facility-level grievances regarding the delay in receiving of the DHO report, marking it as Remedy ID No. 730676-R1. ( See Doc. 1, at 28; Doc. 1, at 27; Doc. 10-2, at 21). This appeal was rejected on the ground that Pittman's facility-level grievance regarding the delay was still pending before the facility warden.[2] (Doc. 1, at 27; Doc. 10-2, at 21).
Pittman resubmitted his appeal, which was received by the regional office on May 8, 2013. (Doc. 1, at 28; see also Doc. 1, at 26; Doc. 10-2, at 21). On resubmission, the regional office logged the document correctly as an appeal from the DHO report, this time marking it as Remedy ID No. 733679-R1. (Doc. 1, at 28; Doc. 1, at 26; Doc. 10-2, at 21). On May 9, 2013, Pittman's appeal from the DHO report was rejected as untimely. (Doc. 1, at 26; Doc. 10-2, at 23). The rejection notice expressly acknowledged that the appeal had been first received on April 22, 2013, but found it to be untimely because it had been submitted approximately one month after the deadline for appeal had expired. (Doc. 1, at 26; Doc. 10-2, at 23).
Pittman did not appeal the regional office's decision to the BOP central office level, as is required for a federal inmate to exhaust administrative remedies. See 28 C.F.R. § 542.15(a).
On May 27, 2013, Pittman submitted the instant § 2241 petition to the Court for filing, alleging that he was denied the minimum procedural due process rights afforded to inmates in prison disciplinary proceedings. (Doc. 1). See generally Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974) . On August 2, 2013, the Respondent answered the petition, contending that Pittman failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies prior to filing his petition, that relief on these claims is barred due to his procedural default, and that Pittman's claims are meritless in any event. (Doc. 10). On August 29, 2013, the Court received and filed Pittman's brief in reply to the Respondent's answer. (Doc. 17).

(Doc. 25 at 1-3.)

II. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

When a magistrate judge makes a finding or ruling on a motion or issue, his determination should become that of the court unless objections are filed. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150-53 (1985). When no objections are filed, the district court is required only to review the record for "clear error" prior to accepting a magistrate judge's recommendation. See Cruz v. Chater, 990 F.Supp. 375, 378 (M.D. Pa. 1998). When objections are filed, the district judge makes a de novo review of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. See Cippolone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 822 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 976 (1987). The de novo standard applies only to objections which are both timely and specific. Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). Although the review is de novo, the court may rely on the magistrate judge's recommendations to the ...


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