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Sanford v. Secretary, Department of Corrections

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division

March 20, 2018



          BRIAN J. DAVIS United States District Judge


         Petitioner Bryan Keith Sanford challenges a prison disciplinary conviction resulting in sixty days loss of gain time. Petitioner raises three claims for relief in his Petition (Doc. 1). Respondents filed a Response to Order to Show Cause (Response) (Doc. 6) with supporting Exhibits.[1] Petitioner filed a Reply Unto Respondent[s'] Response to Order to Show Cause (Reply) (Doc. 23). See Order (Doc. 7). The Court deemed Petitioner's Response to Court's Order (Doc. 8) to be his notice that he does not intend to reply. Order (Doc. 10). Based on the Petition and the Response, the Court concludes the Petition is due to be denied.[2]


         Petitioner raises three grounds in his Petition: (1) a due process violation due to insufficient evidence being presented to support the "some evidence" standard established in Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst., Walpole v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 447 (1985); (2) a due process violation based on inadequate written notice of the charge and evidence as established in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974); and (3) a due process violation due to insufficient evidence being presented to support a showing of constructive or actual possession or use of a cellular telephone.

         Respondents urge this Court to deny the Petition. Response at 15. The Court will address the three grounds raised in the Petition, see Clisby v. Jones, 960 F.2d 925, 936 (11th Cir. 1992), but no evidentiary proceedings are required in this Court.


         The Eleventh Circuit, in Medberry v. Crosby, 351 F.3d 1049, 1053 (11th Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 541 U.S. 1032 (2004), determined that "a state prisoner may file a habeas corpus petition to challenge the loss of gain time as a result of state prison disciplinary proceeding that allegedly violates his due process rights under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, although such a petition is governed by the restrictions set forth at 28 U.S.C. § 2254." Tedesco v. Sec'y for the Dep't of Corr., 190 Fed.Appx. 752, 755-56 (11th Cir. 2006) (citing Medberry, 351 F.3d at 1054), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1127 (2007). Therefore, this Court may not grant relief unless The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) parameters of review are satisfied. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254; Ledford v. Warden, Ga. Diagnostic & Classification Prison, 818 F.3d 600, 642 (11th Cir. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 1432 (2017).

         "AEDPA limits the scope of federal habeas review of state court judgments[.]" Pittman v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 871 F.3d 1231, 1243 (11th Cir. 2017). As such, AEDPA ensures that federal habeas relief is limited to extreme malfunctions, and not used as a means to attempt to correct state court errors. Ledford, 818 F.3d at 642 (quoting Greene v. Fisher, 132 S.Ct. 38, 43 (2011)).

         The parameters of review are as follows:

Thus, under AEDPA, a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court shall not be granted habeas relief on a claim "that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings" unless the state court's decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or ... 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). "For § 2254(d), clearly established federal law includes only the holdings of the Supreme Court-not Supreme Court dicta, nor the opinions of this Court." Taylor v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 760 F.3d 1284, 1293-94 (11th Cir. 2014).
As for the "contrary to" clause, "a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme Court] has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Terry Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000). Under the "unreasonable application" clause, a federal habeas court may "grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts." Id. at 413, 120 S.Ct. 1495. "In other words, a federal court may grant relief when a state court has misapplied a 'governing legal principle' to 'a set of facts different from those of the case in which the principle was announced.'" Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520, 123 S.Ct. 2527, 156 L.Ed.2d 471 (2003) (quoting Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 76, 123 S.Ct. 1166, 155 L.Ed.2d 144 (2003)). And "an 'unreasonable application of' [Supreme Court] holdings must be objectively unreasonable, not merely wrong; even clear error will not suffice." Woods v. Donald, --- U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376, 191 L.Ed.2d 464 (2015) (per curiam) (quotation omitted). To overcome this substantial hurdle, "a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103, 131 S.Ct. 770, 178 L.Ed.2d 624 (2011). This is "meant to be" a difficult standard to meet. Id. at 102, 131 S.Ct. 770.

Pittman, 871 F.3d at 1243-44.

         There is a presumption of correctness of state court's factual findings, unless the presumption is rebutted with clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). The standard of proof is demanding, requiring that a claim be highly probable. Bishop v. Warden, GDCP, 726 F.3d 1243, 1258 (11th Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 67 (2014). Also, the state court's determination will not be superseded if reasonable minds might disagree about the factual finding. Brumfield v. Cain, 135 S.Ct. 2269, 2277 (2015). Also of note, "[t]his presumption of correctness applies equally to factual determinations made by the state trial and appellate courts." Pope v. Sec'y for Dep't of Corr., 680 F.3d 1271, 1284 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Bui v. Haley, 321 F.3d 1304, 1312 (11th Cir. 2003)), cert. denied, 568 U.S. 1233 (2013).

         Prison disciplinary proceedings are not part of a criminal prosecution; therefore, the full panoply of rights that are due a defendant in a criminal proceeding do not apply in a prison disciplinary proceeding. See Wolff, 418 U.S. at 556 ("[T]here must be mutual accommodation between institutional needs and objectives and the provisions of the Constitution[.]"). It is important to note that inmates are entitled to some due process protections, and Wolff instructs that inmates must receive (1) advance written notice of the charges against them; (2) an opportunity for the inmate to call witnesses and present documentary evidence, so long as doing so is consistent with institutional safety and correctional goals; and (3) a written statement by the factfinder outlining the evidence relied on and the reasons for the disciplinary action. Id. at 563-66. Also of import, Hill instructs that the revocation of good time credits only satisfies minimal standards of procedural due process if "the findings of the prison disciplinary board are supported by some evidence in the record." Hill, 472 U.S. at 454. In determining whether there is "some evidence" in the record to support the disciplinary decision, this Court will not engage in a de novo review of the evidence. Id. at 455.

         Petitioner exhausted his state remedies by filing a petition for mandamus in Florida state court. Ex. A. The circuit court, citing the Supreme Court's decisions in Wolff and Hill, denied the mandamus petition. Ex. A at 100-104. The First District Court of Appeal (1st DCA) denied Petitioner's petition for writ of certiorari. Ex. B at 170.

         IV. ...

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