Submitted: June 5, 2019
BEFORE: HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, RENÉE COHN
JUBELIRER, ROBERT SIMPSON, (P)  P. KEVIN BROBSON, ANNE E. COVEY,
MICHAEL H. WOJCIK, ELLEN CEISLER, Judges.
this Court are the preliminary objections of John Wetzel,
Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
(DOC), Superintendent Barry R. Smith, State Correctional
Institution (SCI)-Houtzdale (Superintendent Smith), Acting
Chief Hearing Examiner Zachary Moslak (Moslak) and Hearing
Examiner F. Nunez (Nunez) (collectively, Respondents) to a
petition for review (Petition) filed by inmate Albert
Dantzler (Dantzler). Dantzler, representing himself, claims
Respondents violated his state due process rights by
punishing him for possessing a DOC-issued belt, which
Respondents deemed to be contraband. Upon review, we sustain
Respondents' preliminary objections and dismiss the
Petition, with prejudice.
his Petition, Dantzler set forth the following facts. While
Dantzler was serving his sentence at SCI-Fayette, DOC issued
him a belt. In December 2017, DOC transferred Dantzler to
SCI-Houtzdale as a promotional transfer. The transfer was
conditioned on Dantzler serving his first six months at
SCI-Houtzdale without any infractions. Prior to the transfer,
Dantzler's property was searched and deemed to be
contraband-free. Dantzler's property was also inspected
after his arrival at SCI-Houtzdale. Again, his property was
found to be devoid of contraband.
cell at SCI-Houtzdale was searched twice in January 2018.
Neither search yielded any contraband. At some point, DOC
revised its policies regarding inmate clothing, causing
Dantzler's belt to be deemed impermissible contraband.
DOC did so without notifying Dantzler that its policies
April 2018, Corrections Officer D. Smith (Officer Smith)
confronted Dantzler and informed him that he was not
permitted to possess the belt. Officer Smith confiscated the
belt and ordered Dantzler to return to his housing unit.
Dantzler received a misconduct report for possession of
contraband, the belt. As a result, he was called before his
unit shift commander at SCI-Houtzdale for resolution of the
matter. However, Dantzler elected to request a formal hearing
through DOC's prisoner grievance system.
2018, Nunez, a DOC hearing examiner, held a hearing. At the
hearing, Dantzler pled not guilty, stating, "[w]hen
[Officer Smith] gave me a receipt for [the belt], I told him
I've had that belt since I transferred [to SCI-Houtzdale]
…." Pet. for Review, Ex. D. However, Nunez found
Officer Smith's written report regarding the incident
more credible than Dantzler's version of events,
determining a preponderance of the evidence supported Officer
Smith's claim that Dantzler possessed contraband. Thus,
Nunez found Dantzler guilty, imposed a sanction of 30
days' cell restriction, and ordered the belt revoked as
contraband. Dantzler appealed to DOC's Program Review
this appeal, Dantzler argued he was never informed that the
DOC-issued belt was contraband and there was no preexisting
documentation establishing it was impermissible for him to
possess the belt. Additionally, Dantzler asserted Nunez
should not have refused to admit evidence that Dantzler
offered, nor "relied solely on the word of [Officer
Smith]." Pet. for Review, Ex. E. Dantzler argued Nunez
could not have properly found him "guilty of possession
of contraband for an item that was issued to [him] by [DOC],
especially when there is no documentation stating that the
item [is] no longer permissible for [him] to retain prior to
the [misconduct] in question." Id.
upheld Nunez's decision, concluding Nunez
"adequately document[ed]" his findings in a manner
that was "sufficient to support the decision[,]"
and "no violations of law, [DOC] directive[s], or
regulation[s]" occurred. Pet. for Review, Ex. F. The PRC
observed Nunez had authority to impose various sanctions,
including up to 90 days' disciplinary custody for each
misconduct charge for which an inmate is found guilty or
pleads guilty. However, Nunez elected to impose a more
lenient sanction, which the PRC found was "proportionate
to the indicated offense." Id.
appealed the PRC's decision to Superintendent Smith, who
denied the appeal, stating Dantzler's claim pertaining to
lack of notice "has no relevance to this appeal.
… The facts of the incident remain that you were in
possession of an item deemed contraband by policy. You are
responsible for any and all items in your possession."
Pet. for Review, Ex. H. Superintendent Smith determined
Dantzler was properly charged with, and punished for,
possession of contraband, finding no error with the manner in
which Nunez or the PRC disposed of the matter.
Dantzler filed his final administrative appeal from
Superintendent Smith's decision to Moslak, reiterating
his previously raised arguments. Moslak denied Dantzler's
2018, Dantzler filed his Petition with this Court, claiming
Respondents' actions violated his due process rights
under Article I, Section 25 of the Pennsylvania
Constitution. On that basis, Dantzler seeks: (1) a
declaratory judgment that Respondents violated his rights;
(2) expungement of his misconduct citation or, alternatively,
a disciplinary hearing that complies with DOC regulations and
procedures; (3) compensation from DOC for the days he was
removed from his work assignment because of the misconduct at
issue; and (4) compensation from DOC for costs he incurred as
a result of pursuing this action. Dantzler raises no claims
based on federal law.
filed preliminary objections to the Petition, asserting this
Court should dismiss the Petition. First, according to
Respondents, this Court cannot exercise appellate
jurisdiction to the extent Dantzler seeks to challenge prior
misconduct procedures. Additionally, Respondents argue, this
Court cannot exercise original jurisdiction as Dantzler did
not show he possessed a legally cognizable liberty interest
and, as a result, he was not entitled to due process at the
we agree with Respondents that this Court lacks jurisdiction,
in our appellate capacity, to consider Dantzler's
Petition. Specifically, "[i]nmate misconducts are a
matter of internal prison management and, thus, do not
constitute adjudications subject to appellate review."
Hill v. Dep't of Corr., 64 A.3d 1159, 1167 (Pa.
Cmwlth. 2013). Thus, to the extent Dantzler seeks appellate
review of DOC's misconduct proceedings and his conviction
for possession of contraband, we sustain Respondents'