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Farrell v. Whitener

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

March 30, 2015

DANIEL THOMAS FARRELL, Petitioner,
v.
KEITH WHITENER, Respondent.

ORDER

FRANK D. WHITNEY, District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Petitioner Daniel Thomas Farrell's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. No. 1.) Also before the Court is Respondents' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 6.)

I. BACKGROUND

Petitioner is a prisoner of the State of North Carolina currently serving a 36-year sentence for multiple counts of armed robbery. On March 13, 2013, he received a prison disciplinary conviction for the A99 and B99 offenses of attempting to bring contraband, i.e., tobacco, marijuana, cellphones, and money, into prison. (DOC Record of Hearing, Resp't's Ex. #2 8, Doc. No. 7-2.)[1] For the A99 offense, Petitioner received 30 days segregation, 20 days "good-time" credit loss, 30 hours of extra duty, 90 days suspended canteen visitation, and three months limited account withdrawals. (DOC Offense and Disciplinary Report, Resp't's Ex. #2, supra, at 6.) For the B99 offense, Petitioner received the same sentences with the exception of two months limited account withdrawals. (Offense and Disciplinary Report, Resp't's Ex. #2, supra.)

Petitioner timely appealed to the Director of Prisons, and on March 26, 2013, the Chief Disciplinary Hearing Officer upheld the March 13, 2013 disciplinary action. (Letter, Pet'r's Ex. F 24, Doc. No. 1.) According to petitioner, he has filed no other petitions, applications, or motions concerning this judgment of conviction. (Pet. 3, Doc. No. 1.)

Petitioner filed the instant habeas petition challenging the revocation of his "good-time credits" on September 20, 2013. (Doc. No. 1.) Upon completion of an initial review of the petition and attached documents as required by Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases, the Court ordered Respondent to answer the petition. (Doc. No. 3.) On March 17, 2014, Respondent filed a Response, Motion for Summary Judgment, and Memorandum in Support. (Doc. Nos. 4, 6, 7.)

In accordance with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the Court provided Petitioner notice of Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment and an opportunity to respond. (Doc. No. 8.) Petitioner did so on April 14, 2014. (Doc. No. 9.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate in those cases where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and it appears that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2); United States v. Lee, 943 F.2d 366, 368 (4th Cir. 1991). Any permissible inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986). Where, however, the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).

III. DISCUSSION

When a state prisoner challenges the length or duration of his confinement by alleging that certain good time credits were cancelled or denied pursuant to an unconstitutional process, and then seeks the restoration of those credits, he must first exhaust his state remedies. See Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70, 72 (4th Cir. 1983). In order to exhaust his State remedies, "the prisoner must fairly present' his claim in each appropriate state court (including a state supreme court with powers of discretionary review), thereby alerting that court to the federal nature of the claims." Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 29 (2004) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

Respondent contends that Petitioner has not exhausted the remedies available to him in the State courts because he has not sought review of his constitutional claims by way of a Motion for Appropriate Relief filed in the appropriate state superior court. (Mem. in Supp. of Summ. J. 7-8, Doc. No. 7 (citing Jones v. Keller, 698 S.E.2d 49 (N.C. 2010)).) Respondent expressly declines to waive the exhaustion requirement. However, recognizing this Court's power to deny Petitioner's claims on the merits notwithstanding non-exhaustion, see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(2), Respondent urges the Court to exercise that power here to conserve scarce state and federal judicial resources.

Petitioner raises two constitutional claims invoking his right to due process: 1) that he was not given adequate notice of the charges against him; and 2) that there was insufficient evidence presented at the disciplinary hearing to support his convictions on the charges. In Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974), the Supreme Court set forth the due process rights that must be afforded to an inmate in the context of a prison disciplinary hearing that results in the loss of good time credits. The inmate must 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. Id. at 563-66; see also Superintendent Mass. Corr. Inst. at Walpole v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985) (discussing Wolff). When an inmate brings a habeas petition to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence underlying a revocation of his good time credits, the requirements of due process are met when "the findings of the prison disciplinary board are supported by some evidence in the record." Hill, 472 U.S. at 454. "The fundamental fairness guaranteed by the Due Process Clause does not require courts to set aside decisions of prison administrators that have some basis in fact." Id. at 456. "The relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board." Baker v. Lyles, 904 F.2d 925, 932 (4th Cir. 1990).

The DOC Offense and Disciplinary Report and Investigating Officer's Report show that Petitioner was ...


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