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Quintero v. Benov

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 29, 2014

MICHAEL L. BENOV, Respondent.


JENNIFER L. THURSTON, Magistrate Judge.

Petitioner Miguel Quintero 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 40 days loss of good time credits. (Doc. 1 at 9)

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. 14 at 4-7) 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 January 13, 2008, prison officials found nine green capsules in Petitioner's cell during a random locker-search. (Doc. 14-1 at 19) Petitioner was not prescribed this medication. Id . As a result, an incident report was prepared and, ultimately, the matter referred for a hearing. Id.

During the investigation, Petitioner reported that he had back pain due to a disk problem. (Doc. 14-1 at 21) He was given Ben Gay but this did not alleviate his pain nor did the medication available in the commissary. Id.

On January 14, 2008, Petitioner appeared before the Unit Disciplinary Committee. (Doc. 14-1 at 21) Petitioner told the committee that he had pain in his back and that he obtained the medication from another inmate who had a similar back problem. Id . As a result, the UDC referred the matter for hearing before the Disciplinary Hearing Officer because if the charge was found true, Petitioner should suffer greater sanctions than the UDC could impose.

On February 14, 2008, DHO Logan conducted the disciplinary hearing. (Doc. 14-1 at 23) He was given advance written notice of the charge on January 13, 2008 and was advised of his rights before the DHO on January 14, 2008. Id . Petitioner exercised his right to have staff representation and his counselor appeared with him. Id.

At the hearing, Petitioner stated, "I have back problems. Medical didn't give me anything that worked for the pain so I got them from another inmate. Now, medical is giving me more medicine." (Doc. 14-1 at 23) In addition to this admission, Logan considered the incident report in which the officer described finding the medication in Petitioner's locker and the photos taken of the pills found in Petitioner's locker. Id. at 20-21, 24.

Based upon this evidence, Logan determined that the charge was true and that Petitioner should be sanctioned with 40 days disallowance of good conduct credit and placed in disciplinary segregation for 15 days. Id. at 25. Logan's determination was reviewed and found to comport with due process by the BOP's Privatization Management Branch on February 25, 2008. Id. 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. Petitioner was served with the certified decision of the DHO on February 26, 2008. Id. at 27.

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. 14-1 at 25) Petitioner did not appeal at that time. Instead, on August 12, 2013, three 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. Id. at 35-37. The appeal was denied as untimely. Id. at 34.

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 ...

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