United States District Court, D. Maryland
W. GRIMM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
confined at the Federal Correctional Institution in
Cumberland, Maryland ("FCI-Cumberland"), Petitioner
Abdul Abdullah, acting without counsel, filed a Petition for
Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241,
challenging the validity of a disciplinary hearing finding
him guilty of possession of a cell phone during his
confinement at the Federal Correctional Institution at Joint
Base Maguire Dix in Lakehurst, N.J. ("FCI-Fort
Dix"). ECF No. 1. Respondent, the Warden of
FCI-Cumberland, moves to dismiss or for summary judgment. ECF
No. 6. Because Abdullah cannot prove a violation of his
Constitutional rights based on the undisputed material facts,
Respondent's unopposed motion,  construed as a motion for
summary judgment, shall be granted; and the Petition shall be
denied and dismissed.
is serving a five year sentence, with a current projected
release date of September 12, 2019. Jimenez Decl. ¶ 3
& Art. A (Inmate Data), ECF No. 6-2, at 3-4,
On June 8, 2016, while housed at FCI-Fort Dix, Abdullah was
charged with a possession of a cell phone, which is deemed a
violation of "Code 108, " "possession of a
hazardous tool." Pet. Ex. A, ECF No. 1-3; Jimenez Decl.
¶ 5 & Art. B (Inmate History) & C (Incident
Report), ECF No. 6-2, at 4, 12, 14-19. Officers conducting a
pat search of inmates inside Cell 218 had instructed Abdullah
to remove his shoes as part of the search. Pet. Ex. A, ECF
No. 1-3; Jimenez Decl. Att. C, ECF No. 6-2, at 14-15. An
officer charged Abdullah with possession of a cell phone,
which the officer claimed was found in one of Abdullah's
just-removed shoes. Pet. Ex. A, ECF No. 1-3; Pet'r Mem.
3, ECF No. 1-1; Jimenez Decl. Att. C, ECF No. 6-2, at 14-15.
Unit Disciplinary Committee ("UDC") held a hearing
on June 14, 2016 and noted that Abdullah "stated that
the phone was not his, and he was set up." Jimenez Decl.
Att. C, ECF No. 6-2, at 13-14. Due to the severity level of
the offense and "the seriousness/repetitive behavior of
the incident report, " the UDC referred the charge to
the Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO").
Id. ¶ 6 & Att. C, ECF No. 6-2, at 3, 14,
16. Abdullah received notice of the hearing, declined staff
representation, and waived his right to call witnesses.
Id. Att. D (Notice), ECF No. 6-2, at 23. The DHO
conducted a hearing on June 23, 2016, and found Abdullah
committed the violation. Id. ¶9 & Att. F
(DHO Report), ECF No. 6-2, at 4, 28-29; Pet. Ex. B (DHO
Report), ECF No. 1-3. The DHO's decision "was based
on the evidence supplied by the reporting officer in the
incident report detailing the search of Petitioner and the
discovery of the cellular phone inside Petitioner's
shoe" when Abdullah removed his shoe, and Abdullah's
admission at the DHO hearing "that the phone belonged to
him." Jimenez Decl.¶ 9 & Att. F, ECF No. 6-2,
at 4, 28-29. Additionally, "[p]hotographs of the phone
corroborated the reporting officer's statement."
the offense is categorized at the greatest security level,
the DHO had full discretion to "[f]orfeit and/or
withhold earned statutory good time or non-vested good
conduct time (up to 100%) and/or terminate or disallow extra
good time . . . ." Jimenez Decl. ¶ 10 & Att. G
(Program Statement 5270.09), ECF No. 6-2, at 4-5, 74-75.
Abdullah received sanctions, including the disallowance of
forty days good conduct time ("GCT"), the
forfeiture of fourteen days of non-vested GCT, and
privileges, including a three year restriction on email
correspondence and telephone communication. Pet. Ex. B, ECF
No. 1-3; see Pet. 2. Abdullah's appeals of the
conviction and sanctions were unsuccessful. Pet. Ex. G, ECF
No. 1-9 (Inmate Req. to Staff Member Resp.). Abdullah now
seeks restoration of the GCT and restoration of those
privileges. Pet. 8; Pet'r Mem. 6.
alleges that the DHO's finding was based on insufficient
evidence, his procedural due process and equal protections
rights were violated, the sanctions imposed were too harsh,
and the administrative grievance process is abusive and
racially discriminatory. Pet. 7-8. The crux of Abdullah's
claim that the DHO's decision was improper centers on his
assertion that the phone discovered during a search did not
come from his shoe, but rather was in a shoe found among many
other shoes in the dorm. Pet'r Mem. 3. Abdullah also
insists that he never admitted that the phone was his.
Id. He further alleges the reporting officer
violated protocol by failing to secure the area prior to the
search. Id. at 4. Abdullah states, generally, that
the decisions of the DHO, Regional Director, and Central
Office were biased and rooted in racial discrimination, and
that the decision-makers failed to "follow their own
rules and regulations" and were part of a conspiracy to
deny due process rights to a person of color. Id. at
filed its motion as one, in the alternative, for summary
judgment, and submitted evidence for the Court's review;
Abdullah has not requested an opportunity for discovery (or
otherwise responded to the motion); and I will consider the
evidence in my analysis. Accordingly, the motion is construed
properly as a motion for summary judgment. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 12(d); Walker v. Univ. of Md. Med. Sys.
Corp., No. CCB-12-3151, 2013 WL 2370442, at *3 (D. Md.
May 30, 2013); Ridgell v. Astrue, No. DKC-10-3280,
2012 WL 707008, at *7 (D. Md. Mar. 2, 2012).
judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates,
through "particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations .. .,
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, "
that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A); see Baldwin v.
City of Greensboro, 714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th Cir. 2013).
If the party seeking summary judgment demonstrates that there
is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the
burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify evidence
that shows that a genuine dispute exists as to material
facts. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 & n.10 (1986). The
existence of only a "scintilla of evidence" is not
enough to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251 (1986).
Instead, the evidentiary materials submitted must show facts
from which the finder of fact reasonably could find for the
party opposing summary judgment. Id. The Court
considers the undisputed facts, and to the extent there is a
genuine dispute of material fact, "this Court reviews
the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party." Downing v. Bait.
City Bd. of Sch. Comm'rs, No. RDB-12-1047, 2015 WL
1186430, at *1 (D. Md. Mar. 13, 2015) (citing Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007)).
retain rights under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due
Process Clause, but "prison disciplinary proceedings are
not part of a criminal prosecution, and the full panoply of
rights due a defendant in such proceedings does not
apply." Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556
(1974) (citing Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471,
488 (1972)). In prison disciplinary proceedings where an
inmate faces the possible loss of diminution credits, he is
entitled to certain procedural protections, including: (1)
"advance written notice" of the charges against
him; (2) "a written statement of ... the evidence relied
upon and the reasons for the disciplinary action taken";
(3) a hearing where he is afforded the right to call
witnesses and present evidence when doing so is not
inconsistent with institutional safety and correctional
concerns; (4) the opportunity to have legal assistance-albeit
not from an attorney-when the inmate is illiterate or the
disciplinary hearing involves complex issues; and (5) an
impartial decision-maker. See Wolff, 418 U.S. at
564-66, 570-71, 578-79. There is no constitutional right to
confront and cross-examine witnesses or to retain or be
appointed counsel. See id.; Baxter v. Palmigiano,
425 U.S. 308, 322 (1976); Brown v. Braxton, 373 F.3d
501, 504-05 (4th Cir. 2004).
due process is satisfied if "some evidence"
supports the disciplinary hearing decision.
Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, Ml U.S.
445, 455 (1985). Federal courts do not review the correctness
of a disciplinary hearing officer's findings of fact.
See Kelly v. Cooper,502 F.Supp. 1371, 1376 (E.D.
Va. 1980). The findings will only be disturbed when
unsupported by any evidence, or when wholly arbitrary and
capricious. See Hill, 472 U.S. at 456; see also
Baker v. Lyles,904 F.2d 925, 933 (4th Cir. 1990). As
long as there is some evidence in the ...