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Jimenez v. Benov

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 21, 2014

MICHAEL L. BENOV, Respondent.


JENNIFER L. THURSTON, Magistrate Judge.

Petitioner Daniel Ramirez Jimenez is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Petitioner challenges the results of a prison disciplinary hearing at which he was found to have been in breach of prison policies and assessed 27 days loss of good time credits. (Doc. 1 at 13-16)

In his petition, Petitioner argues that because the hearing officer was not an employee of the Bureau of Prisons and was, instead, an employee of the contractor operating the prison, the discipline was improperly imposed. (Doc. 1) Respondent argues that Petitioner failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and, therefore, the petition should be denied. (Doc. 12 at 4-6) For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus be DENIED.

I. Factual Background

Petitioner is housed at Taft Correctional Institution, a government-owned but privately-run prison contracted with the Bureau of Prisons. (Doc. 1 at 3) On October 13, 2011, prison officials found that Petitioner had obtained a new tattoo on his leg. (Doc. 1 at 13-16) Prison policies prohibited inmates from obtaining tattoos or engaging in self-mutilation. Id . When confronted with the tattoo, initially, Petitioner denied the tattoo was new. Id. at 13. However, when the officer noted that the skin where the tattoo was applied appeared to have been shaved, Petitioner then admitted that the tattoo was new. Id . As a result, an incident report was prepared and, ultimately, the matter referred for a hearing. Id.

On December 13, 2011, DHO Logan heard the disciplinary complaint against Petitioner. Id. at 14-16. At the hearing, Petitioner admitted getting the tattoo however, he explained, "I had just got here and I didn't know I couldn't do it." Id. at 14.

In addition to this admission, Logan considered the incident report in which the officer described discovering the tattoo and the photos taken of the tattoo. (Doc. 1 at 13-16) Based upon this evidence, Logan determined that Petitioner's explanation that he didn't know he was prohibited from obtaining tattoos while in prison was unreasonable given he had been in custody for three years. Id. at 15. Thus, Logan found the charge was true and determined that Petitioner should be sanctioned with 27 days disallowance of good conduct credit. Id.

Logan's determination was reviewed and found to comport with due process by the BOP's Privatization Management Branch on May 13, 2009. (Doc. 12-1 at 32) As a result, the DHO's decision was certified by the BOP and the recommended sanction was approved given it was in accord with the BOP's policies. Id . Notably, until Petitioner was served with the certified DHO decision, the sanction was not imposed. Id. at 29-30. Petitioner was served with the certified decision of the DHO on December 20, 2011. (Doc. 1 at 16)

In the certified statement of decision, which also set forth the intended discipline, Petitioner was advised of his right to appeal the determination and the time period in which this must occur. (Doc. 1 at 16) Petitioner did not appeal at that time. Instead, on April 19, 2013, about five weeks before filing this habeas action and nearly four years after the imposition of the sanction, Petitioner submitted an appeal to the Privatization Management Branch. (Doc. 1 at 10-12) The appeal was denied as untimely. Id. at 10.

II. Jurisdiction

Habeas corpus relief is appropriate when a person "is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c); Williams v. Taylor , 529 U.S. 362, 375 (2000). Petitioner asserts that he suffered violations of his rights as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution based upon the outcome of a prison disciplinary proceeding. If a constitutional violation has resulted in the loss of credits, it affects the duration of a sentence and may be remedied by way of a petition for writ of habeas corpus. Young v. Kenny , 907 F.2d 874, 876-78 (9th Cir. 1990). Thus, this Court has subject matter jurisdiction. Moreover, at the time the petition was filed, Petitioner was in custody at the Taft Correctional Institute, located in Taft, California, which is located within the jurisdiction of this Court. Therefore, this Court is the proper venue. See 28 U.S.C. § 2241(d).

III. Standard of Review

"It is well settled that an inmate's liberty interest in his earned good time credits cannot be denied without the minimal safeguards afforded by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.'" Mitchell v. Maynard , 80 F.3d 1433, 1444 (10th Cir.1996) (quoting Taylor v. Wallace , 931 F.2d 698, 700 (10th Cir.1991)). Though not afforded the full panoply of rights, due process requires the prisoner receive: (1) advance written notice of the disciplinary charges; (2) an opportunity, when consistent with institutional safety and correctional goals, to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in his defense; and (3) a written statement by the fact finder of the evidence relied on and the reasons for the disciplinary action. Superintendent, Mass. Correctional Inst. v. Hill , 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); Wolff v. McDonnell , 418 U.S. 539, 563-67 (1974). Indeed, "revocation of good time does not comport with the minimum requirements of procedural due process unless the findings of the prison disciplinary board are supported by some evidence in the record." Hill , 472 U.S. at 455 ...

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