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White v. Stansil

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 25, 2016

BRIAN WHITE, Petitioner,
v.
M. A. STANSIL, Respondent.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          EDMUND F. BRENNAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Petitioner challenges a disciplinary conviction that he received on June 28, 2013 for “use of any drug not prescribed for the individual by the medical staff.” He seeks federal habeas relief on the following grounds: (1) prison officials’ actions in failing to inform him that his urine had tested positive for Methadone in time for him to obtain a second drug test to verify those results denied him the right to present exculpatory evidence at his prison disciplinary hearing and violated prison regulations; and (2) prison staff’s delay in serving him with an “incident report” after his urine tested positive for Methadone violated prison regulations. Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, and for the reasons that follow, petitioner’s application for habeas corpus relief must be denied.

         I. Background

         Petitioner is currently serving a 400-month term of imprisonment following his plea of guilty to multiple charges of drug-related offenses and of being a felon in possession of a firearm. ECF No. 13 (Declaration of Board of Prison (BOP) paralegal specialist Jennifer Vickers), at 2. On March 23, 2013, petitioner provided a urine sample for purposes of a BOP drug test. ECF No. 13-2 at 3. The results came back positive for the presence of Methadone. Id. at 4. On March 25, 2013, after the initial results were subjected to a second drug confirmation test, which also came back positive, the BOP sent petitioner’s urine sample to Phamatech Laboratories for testing. Id. at 3, 4.

         On April 11, 2013, Phamatech Laboratories sent an email notification to the prison that petitioner’s urine sample had tested positive for Methadone. Id. Due to “an administrative oversight, ” this email was not reviewed by prison staff until May 31, 2013. On that same day, after medical staff verified that petitioner was not taking any medication that would cause a positive urine test for Methadone, reporting employee N. Boyd prepared an Incident Report describing the facts related above. She attached to that report the April 11, 2013 email from Phamatech Laboratories and a memorandum explaining why the urine test result from Phamatech Laboratories was not discovered until May 31, 2013. Id.; ECF No. 13-3 at 2. Petitioner was served with the Incident Report on the same day. ECF No. 13-3 at 2.

         On June 2, 2013, petitioner filed an “Inmate Request to Staff, ” in which he requested a blood test to determine whether he had used Methadone. ECF No. 1 at 14. On June 20, 2013, petitioner received a response to this request, in which he was informed that:

A review of this matter reveals you are over the thirty day period since the last test indicating the use of any form of methadone. Typically, a blood test will not show any traces of methadone a month after the use of it; therefore, a blood test is not warranted as a result of timeliness.
Additionally, Health Services has reviewed your medical record and there’s no record of any medication before your test that would indicate the use of methadone.

Id.

         The disciplinary hearing on the Incident Report was held on June 28, 2013. ECF No. 13-2 at 2. Petitioner appeared at the hearing via video conference and stated he was ready to proceed. Id. Petitioner was advised of his rights by the disciplinary hearing officer (DHO) and he stated that he understood those rights. Id. He also stated that he had received his copy of the Incident Report. Id. Petitioner waived his right to a staff representative and to present witnesses. Id. Petitioner denied that he had used Methadone. Id. When asked if he wanted to make further comment, he stated, “I never took Methadone and anything with it. There must have been something wrong with the test.” Id.

         Petitioner was found guilty of “the prohibited act of Use of any Drug not Prescribed for the Individual by the Medical Staff.” Id. at 3. In reaching his verdict, the DHO relied on: (1) the BOP Chain of Custody form for petitioner’s urine sample; (2) the lab report issued by Phamatech Laboratories; (3) the memorandum from BOP medical staff to the effect that petitioner was not taking any medication that would cause a positive urine test for Methadone; (4) the memorandum from reporting employee Boyd; and (5) the April 11, 2013, email from Phamatech Laboratories to the effect that petitioner’s urine sample had tested positive for Methadone. Id. at 2-4. At the hearing, the DHO discussed with petitioner “the reason for the delay” in processing the results of the urine test. Specifically, he told petitioner that “due to an administrative oversight on the part of [prison] staff, ” the email from the lab indicating that petitioner’s urine sample had tested positive for Methadone was not opened until more than one month after it was received. Id. at 3. The hearing officer “found that this delay did not warrant the expungment of your incident report and that it did not harm your ability to prepare or assert a defense.” Id.

         The DHO took into consideration petitioner’s statement that he had never taken Methadone and that the results of the lab test were inaccurate. Id. However, he found that Ms. Boyd’s incident report was more credible than petitioner’s denial of culpability. He also found that Ms. Boyd was clear about what had transpired and that she “had no reason . . . to falsify her statement in which she wrote that subsequent to you providing a prior use urine sample, laboratory testing revealed that you had Methadone present in your urine, which is indicative of your using Methadone in the recent past.” Id.

         The DHO also noted that petitioner’s urine had been subjected to a preliminary drug test at the prison, which tested positive, and was also subjected to a confirmation test, which also tested positive. Id. at 4. After these tests had been conducted, the urine specimen was sent to Phamatech Laboratories for a “confirmation test.” Id. According to the DHO, “the test performed by this laboratory is very accurate and is performed at a much higher level of accuracy and specificity than the initial drug test cup screening.” Id. The DHO also considered that petitioner had a prior prison disciplinary conviction for use of marijuana. Id. Finally, the DHO determined “that the greater weight of evidence in this case is given to the report writer, due to the greater credibility given to staff, which are impartial and have no reason to provide false or inaccurate information.” Id.

         As punishment for his disciplinary conviction, petitioner was assessed 41 days loss of time credits and placement in disciplinary segregation for 30 days. He also received ...


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