JANET CONOVER, WARDEN AND KRISTINE GOETZINGER, ADJUSTMENT OFFICER APPELLANTS
KRISTY LAWLESS APPELLEE
MODIFIED: MARCH 23, 2018
RENDERED: NOVEMBER 2, 2017
REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2015-CA-000039-MR
SHELBY CIRCUIT COURT NO. 14-CI-00550
APPELLANTS: Angela Turner Dunham Justice and Public Safety
APPELLEE: Kieran Comer Assistant Public Advocate
a prison discipline case involving a fight between two
inmates in which a Corrections officer was injured. One of
the inmates involved in the altercation, Appellee, Kristy
Lawless, was disciplined as a result of the officer's
injury. She appealed that disciplinary determination through
the appropriate channels and eventually exhausted her appeals
as a matter of right resulting in a decision by the Court of
Appeals ruling in her favor. For the forgoing reasons, we
reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and reinstate
the trial court's order denying Lawless' petition.
2014, Appellee, Kristy Lawless, and Remonia Mills were
inmates at the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women
(KCIW). Mills had previously assaulted Lawless and was
labeled as "maximum assaultive status." On February
24, 2014, Mills violently attacked Lawless during recreation
time. Two Corrections officers, Officer Jessica Evans and
Sergeant Timothy Schmid, intervened to break up the
(altercation. Officer Evans was injured.
Evans subsequently filed a disciplinary report claiming that
Lawless kicked her in the knee during the fight. As a result
of the report, an investigation commenced and Lawless was
charged with a disciplinary violation-physical actions
resulting in death or injury to an employee. Adjustment
Officer (AO), Kristine Goetzinger, conducted a hearing in
March 2014. At the hearing, Lawless denied kicking Officer
Evans and stated that she was merely trying to defend herself
from Mills. Lawless requested that AO Goetzinger review the
security video that documented the fight. She also presented
statements from two witnesses. One statement was from the
other Corrections officer who responded to the altercation.
That officer confirmed that Lawless was attempting to defend
herself and was cooperative once Mills was separated from
her. The officer made no mention of Officer Evans'
injury. The second statement was from another inmate claiming
that she did not witness Lawless strike Officer Evans and
that Lawless w* as compliant as possible.
considering the evidence, AO Goetzinger found Lawless guilty
of the charged disciplinary offense and sentenced her to 365
days in segregation and 1, 321 days of lost good-time credit.
AO Goetzinger's findings state in pertinent part as
Inmate stated that Officer Evans was in the middle of
breaking up the fight and is questioning how the officer
could determine who caused the injury to her. Inmate states
that she was compliant, just like [Sergeant Schmid's]
statement is saying, but that the other inmate was not
compliant.... Due to this report from [Officer Evans] that
injury was caused from this inmate while trying to separate a
physical altercation, I am. going to find her guilty of this
Lawless appealed to the Warden, who affirmed the AO's
decision and punishment.
then filed a pro se declaration of rights action against
Warden Conover and AO Goetzinger in Shelby Circuit Court
wherein she argued that the disciplinary proceeding violated
her Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. Approximately
two weeks later, AO Goetzinger executed an affidavit stating:
1) she reviewed the surveillance video per Lawless'
request; 2) nothing in the camera footage altered her
determination that Lawless was guilty; and 3) that her