United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Reeves United States District Judge
Dana Tate is a federal inmate, currently confined at the
Federal Medical Center (“FMC”)-Lexington in
Lexington, Kentucky. Tate has filed a pro se
petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241. [Record No. 1] The matter is pending for initial
screening. 28 U.S.C. § 2243. Alexander v. Northern
Bureau of Prisons, 419 Fed.Appx. 544, 545 (6th Cir.
alleges that while he was previously incarcerated at the
Federal Correctional Institution (“FCI”)-Memphis
he and inmate James Morris had a verbal altercation involving
a chair. [Record No. 1 at p.1] Tate states that, at the end
of the “shouting match, ” both inmates apologized
and resumed their evening. [Id.] However, he
contends that notwithstanding the apology, Morris later came
to Tate's bed and threw hot chocolate on him.
staff issued Tate a Code 201 Incident Report for Fighting
With Another Person as a result of the altercation. [Record
No. 1-1 at p. 1] According to the Incident Report prepared by
staff member J. Phillips, the incident involving the chair
escalated to a physical altercation during which Morris
struck Tate and Tate threw coffee on Morris, causing burns to
Morris' chest. [Id.] In retaliation, Morris
later threw hot chocolate on Tate as Tate lay in his bunk.
[Id.] Officers conducted upper body searches,
revealing injuries to Morris' chest and injuries to
Tate's chest and elbow after Tate reported the incident.
[Id.] According to the report, Tate admitted to
being involved in an altercation with Morris and stated that
he had thrown coffee on Morris. [Id.] Morris denied
the altercation and alleged that his coffee cup fell from the
ice machine, but this account was contradicted by the
location of the spilled coffee. [Id.] The report
further states that medical assessments conducted on both
Tate and Morris noted bruising and erythema across Tate's
upper chest and a blister on Tate's left elbow, as well
as injuries to Morris' upper neck. [Id.]
Disciplinary Hearing Officer (“DHO”) held a
hearing on the charge against Tate on January 27, 2017.
[Record No. 1-1 at p. 2] During the hearing, Tate
acknowledged that he and Morris had a verbal altercation over
a chair but denied throwing coffee on Morris. [Id.]
Tate further stated that, although Morris apologized after
the verbal altercation, Morris later threw hot chocolate on
Tate. [Id.] According to the DHO report, before the
hearing, Tate was provided with written notice of the charge
via a copy of the Incident Report prepared by Phillips and
was advised of his rights before the DHO by Counselor Carter.
[Id.] The report indicates that Tate waived the
right to a staff representative at the hearing and did not
request witnesses. [Id.]
considered the Incident Report and investigation, as well as
photos of Morris and Tate, medical assessments for Morris and
Tate, and supporting memos from Officer A. Danner, Officer J.
Rush, Officer J. Jones and Lieutenant J. Phillips.
[Id. at p. 3-4] The DHO further considered
Tate's statement that Morris threw hot chocolate on Tate,
but denying that he threw coffee on Morris, as well as
Morris' statement denying throwing anything on Tate, but
stating that Tate threw coffee on him. [Id. at p. 4]
concluded that it was more than reasonable that Tate and
Morris were not being honest about the incident to avoid
disciplinary sanctions. [Id.] The DHO further stated
that he had no reason to disbelieve the findings of Lt.
Phillips' investigation of the incident, which confirmed
the argument that developed into a fight. [Id.] The
DHO also noted that the medical assessments indicated that
both Tate and Morris were exposed to hot liquids and that
staff memorandum further supported the charge against Tate.
[Id.] The DHO found that, based on facts related to
the evidence presented and Tate's admission to the
incident, Tate committed the Code 201 offense of Fighting
with Another Person. [Id.] The DHO imposed various
sanctions, including the loss of 27 days of good time credits
as required by 28 C.F.R. § 541.4(b)(2). [Id.]
appealed the DHO's decision administratively within the
Bureau of Prisons, but his efforts were unsuccessful. Tate
then filed his § 2241 petition with this Court,
requesting that the Court order Respondent to rescind
Tate's loss of good time credit. [Record No. 1]
Process Clause requires prison officials to observe certain
protections for the prisoner when a prison disciplinary board
takes action that results in the loss of good time credits in
which the prisoner has a vested liberty interest. The
prisoner is entitled to advanced notice of the charges, an
opportunity to present evidence in his or her defense,
whether through live testimony or documents, and a written
decision explaining the grounds used to determine guilt or
innocence of the offense. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418
U.S. 539, 563-66 (1974). Further, the board's findings
used as a basis to revoke good time credits must be supported
by some evidence in the record. Superintendent,
Massachusetts Corr. Inst., Walpole v. Hill, 472 U.S.
445, 454 (1985). When determining whether a decision is
supported by “some evidence, ” the Court does not
conduct an independent review of the evidence or assess the
credibility of witnesses. Instead, it asks only
“whether there is any evidence in the record that could
support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary
board.” Hill, 472 U.S. at 455-56; Higgs v.
Bland, 888 F.2d 443, 448-49 (6th Cir. 1989).
argues that the DHO's decision was not based on
sufficient evidence. However, while framed as a challenge to
the sufficiency of the evidence, Tate's petition actually
challenges the veracity of some of the evidence relied upon
by the DHO in reaching his conclusions. Specifically, Tate
argues that the Incident Report prepared by Lt. Phillips is
“full of errors” and contains “false
allegations.” [Record No. 1 at p. 2] Although Tate
concedes that, pursuant to BOP Program Statement 541.5(a), an
incident report may be prepared by a staff member who
witnesses or reasonably believes that a prohibited act
occurred, he repeatedly challenges the Incident Report based
solely on the grounds that Lt. Phillips did not actually
witness the incident. According to Tate, because there were
no witnesses to the incident and neither he nor Morris
provided a statement, the conclusions of the report are
necessarily unsupported by appropriate evidence.
[Id. at p. 3] Tate further denies that he admitted
to being in an altercation with Morris and throwing coffee on
him, as indicated in the report. [Id. at p. 4]
“a district court's role in reviewing a
disciplinary conviction is extremely limited.”
Stell v. U.S. Bureau of Prisons, No.
7:08-CV-150-KKC, 2008 WL 4758664, at *2 (E.D. Ky. Oct. 28,
2008). In ascertaining whether there is some evidence to
support the decision of the DHO, the Court does not
independently assess the credibility of witnesses or weigh
the evidence, but only examines whether there is “some
evidence” in the record to support the DHO's
decision, a very lenient standard. Hill, 472 U.S. at
455-56. Indeed, “the Court has no authority under the
guise of due process to review the resolution of factual
disputes in a disciplinary decision; a district court merely
ensures that the disciplinary decision is not arbitrary and
does have evidentiary support.” Stell, 2008 WL
4758664 at *2.
in addition to the Incident Report prepared by Phillips, the
DHO's decision was also based on a review of photos of
Morris and Tate, the medical assessments for Morris and Tate,
and supporting memos from Officers Danner, Rush, and Jones.
[Record No. 1-1 at p. 3-4]. This evidence constitutes more
than “some evidence” to support the DHO's
finding that Tate was guilty of the charged offense of
fighting with another person. While Tate may argue that the
Incident Report prepared by Phillips and relied upon by the
DHO lacked credibility, the Court is not required to
independently assess credibility and/or weigh evidence.
See Amerson v. Samuels, Civil ...