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Hasanati v. Lawrence

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

August 31, 2017

JAHI HASANATI, Petitioner,

          OPINION AND ORDER [1]


         Petitioner Jahi Hasanati, a prisoner in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections who is also a proclaimed sovereign citizen, initiated this action by filing a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (Doc. #1) on January 30, 2015. Petitioner challenges a disciplinary report he received at Desoto Correctional Institution stemming from attempting to bite a correctional officer. Petitioner is now proceeding on his Amended Petition challenging the disciplinary report, of which the disciplinary team found him guilty. As a result, Petitioner served sixty-days in disciplinary confinement and forfeited ninety-days gain time (Doc. #11, Amended Petition).

         Respondents filed a Response opposing the Petition (Doc. #18, Response) and attached supporting exhibits (Docs. #18-1 through #18-4). Respondents point out that Petitioner did not properly exhaust his challenge to the disciplinary report by filing a petition for relief in the State court. Response at 7-11. Consequently, Respondents argue that Petitioner's claims are unexhausted and procedurally defaulted. Id. Turning to address the merits, Respondents argue that Petitioner was afforded all of the due process protections required under the United States Constitution. Id. at 11-15.

         I. Factual History and Procedural Background

         Stemming from an incident that occurred around 4:00 p.m. on December 4, 2014, Hasanati was issued a disciplinary report (“DR”) for “assault or attempted assault on a correctional officer” in violation of Florida Administrative Code Rule 33-601.314. Response at 4, Exh. 2. Immediately preceding the incident, Correctional Officer Woods, the coordinator for Desoto Correctional Institution's security threat group, questioned Hasanati about documents Hasanati had previously filed with Desoto's library clerk referencing the Uniform Commercial Code and the Sovereign Citizen movement. Doc. #18-2 at 1. In the disciplinary report, Woods explained that while he was questioning Hasanati about the sovereign citizen movement, Hasanati became “argumentative to the questioning of his legal work.” Woods explained to Hasanati he would be going to administrative confinement pending the outcome of the investigation. Woods stated that Hasanati then began screaming down the hallway. Woods instructed Hasanati to submit to hand restraints, but he refused every order. Woods then went to grab Hasanati's right wrist while Hasanati was sitting down, at which point Hasanati tried to bite Woods arm.

         Woods' disciplinary report identifies correctional officer Rinvil as a witness. Rinval's written witness statement confirms that Hasanati refused to obey every order, but does not state that Hasanati tried to bite Woods. Doc. #18-3 at 23.

         Hasanati received notice of the charge on December 5, 2014. Doc. #18-2 at 1. An investigation into the charge commenced on December 5 and ended on December 8, 2014. Id. On December 11, 2014, the disciplinary hearing commenced with England and Stewart presiding. Id. Petitioner waived his right to be present at the disciplinary hearing and signed the 24 hour/refusal to appear waiver form. Doc. #18-2 at 10. The disciplinary team found Petitioner guilty as set forth in Woods' disciplinary report. The disciplinary finding further states that Rinvil witnessed Hasanati's actions. The disciplinary team also noted that Hasanati did not request any additional witnesses or evidence during the investigation, and that the team reviewed Hasanati's witness statement before reaching its conclusion.

         II. Standard of Review

         A. 28 U.S.C. § 2254 and Disciplinary Proceedings

         A state prisoner who is deprived of gain time as a result of a prison disciplinary proceeding that allegedly violated due process may seek federal habeas review, but such review is governed by restrictions set forth under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Medberry, 351 F.3d at 1054. Under the deferential review standard, habeas relief may not be granted regarding a claim adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the adjudication of the claim:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Cullen v. Pinholster, ___U.S.___, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011). ''This is a difficult to meet, and highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, which demands that the state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.'' Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted). See also Harrington v. Richter, ___U.S.___, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786 (2011) (pointing out that ''if [' 2254(d)'s] standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to be.''Both the Eleventh Circuit and the Supreme Court broadly interpret what is meant by an ''adjudication on the merits.'' Childers v. Floyd, 642 F.3d 953, 967-68 (11th Cir. 2011). Thus, a state court's summary rejection of a claim, even without explanation, qualifies as an adjudication on the merits that warrants deference by a federal court. Id.; see also Ferguson v. Culliver, 527 F.3d 1144, 1146 (11th Cir. 2008). Indeed, “unless the state court clearly states that its decision was based solely on a state procedural rule [the Court] will presume that the state court has rendered an adjudication on the merits when the petitioner's claim 'is the same claim rejected' by the court.” Childers v. Floyd, 642 F.3d at 969 (quoting Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002)).

         “A legal principle is 'clearly established' within the meaning of this provision only when it is embodied in a holding of [the United States Supreme] Court.” Thaler v. Haynes, ___U.S.___, 130 S.Ct. 1171, 1173 (2010); see also Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70, 74 (2006)(citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000))(recognizing ''[c]learly established federal law'' consists of the governing legal principles, rather than the dicta, set forth in the decisions of the United States Supreme Court at the time the state court issues its decision). AA state court decision involves an unreasonable application of federal law when it identifies the correct legal rule from Supreme Court case law but unreasonably applies that rule to the facts of the petitioner's case, or when it unreasonably extends, or unreasonably declines to extend, a legal principle from Supreme Court case law to a new context.'' Ponticelli v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 690 F.3d 1271, 1291 (11th Cir. 2012)(internal quotations and citations omitted). The 'unreasonable application' inquiry requires the Court to conduct the two-step analysis set forth in Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. 770. First, the Court determines what arguments or theories support the state court decision; and second, the Court must determine whether 'fairminded jurists could disagree those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior' Supreme Court decision. Id ...

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