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Major v. Warden, FCC Coleman-Low

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

September 4, 2019




         This cause comes before the Court on the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Dkt. 1) filed by Cleon Edward Major pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, and the response (Dkt. 29). After careful consideration of the submissions of the parties and the entire file, the Court concludes the petition should be denied.


         Cleon Major is a federal inmate who was housed at the Federal Correctional Institution Williamsburg, located in Salters, South Carolina, when he filed his petition. Dkts. 1, 1-2.[1] He is serving a 110-month term of incarceration imposed by the United States District Court in the Southern District of Florida. Dkt. 29-1 at 4-5. In July 2015, Mr. Major was disciplined by the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”). Id. at 24-26. He contends he did not commit the imposed disciplinary infraction and seeks to overturn the sanctions imposed. Dkt. 1. His current release date is calculated at February 6, 2021.[2]

         Mr. Major properly filed this petition in his “district of confinement, ” which at the time was in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division. See Dkts. 21, 23; Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542 U.S. 426, 447 (2004); Meriweather v. Augustine, No. 5:10-cv-236/RS/EMT, 2010 WL 5152979, at *1 (N.D. Fla. Nov. 22, 2010) (citing Padilla). Once jurisdiction is properly acquired, “the petitioner's subsequent removal to another judicial district does not destroy the court's jurisdiction.” Elcock v. Streiff, 554 F.Supp.2d 1279, 1282 (S.D. Ala. 2008) (citing Padilla). “[J]urisdiction attaches upon the initial filing of the § 2241 petition and will not be destroyed by a petitioner's subsequent Government-effectuated transfer and accompanying change in physical custodian.” Id. (citing Tang v. Gonzales, No. 4:06cv277-MP/WCS, 2006 WL 3628061 (N.D. Fla. Aug. 18, 2006)); see also Dotson v. United States, No. CV 312-004, 2013 WL 1786568, at *1 n.1 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 7, 2013) (transferring prisoner to other prison facilities does not defeat otherwise properly acquired jurisdiction) (citations omitted), adopted by 2013 WL 1786559 (S.D. Ga. Apr. 25, 2013).

         In early 2018, Mr. Major filed a notice of change of address to the Federal Correctional Institution Coleman - Low (Coleman). Dkt. 18. The District Court of South Carolina held that it did not retain jurisdiction after the inmate was moved to another federal penitentiary and transferred the case to this Court. Dkts. 21, 23. In reaching this conclusion, the court noted conflicting law among the district courts in the Fourth Circuit. Dkts. 21 at 3 n.2, 23. Although Eleventh Circuit law supports the finding that the transferor court retained jurisdiction, this Court will not return the case but defer to the District Court of South Carolina's decision that it no longer has jurisdiction. Mr. Major is now within this district and this Court will consider the petition on the merits.


         Incident and Disciplinary Proceedings

         On July 5, 2015, Mr. Major was housed at the Federal Correctional Institution in Estill, South Carolina. Dkt. 29-1 at 7 ¶3, 9 ¶8. He was written up that day for stealing a used insulin syringe (Incident No. 2734566) in violation of 28 C.F.R.. § 541.3, Table 1, Code 219. Dkt. 29-1 at 15-16. The incident occurred at 5:00 p.m. and was described in the report as follows:

[The inmate] did drop a Lancet in the sharps container to simulate the sound of a syringe being dropped. I did observe a portion of the safety sleeved in the inmate's left hand which is the hand away from this observer. Inmate was exiting the room door when confronted and the inmate quickly retreated and dropped the syringe in the sharps container.

Id. at 15. The report was delivered to Mr. Major the following morning. Id. at 15. At that time, an investigating BOP lieutenant advised him of his rights, and he stated that he understood his rights and the charges. Id. at 16. He stated that he did not try to steal the syringe, but was only playing a trick on Mr. Crosby, a staff member. Id. at 16.

         Before the Unit Discipline Committee (“the UDC” or “the Committee”), Mr. Major stated, “It was an innocent prank, a joke and that's it. It [wasn't] suppose to go this far. It was only a joke. It was not intentional.” Id. at 15. The Committee referred the charge to a Discipline Hearing Officer (DHO) for further hearing. Id. at 15. The Committee recommended that should he be found guilty, thirty days' loss of good conduct time among other sanctions would be appropriate. Id. at 15. Mr. Major received notice of the hearing and he was informed of his rights. Id. at 18, 20.

         Mr. Major invoked his right to be represented at the disciplinary hearing by a staff member, Dr. Contino. Id. at 22. At the hearing before the DHO, his due process rights were again reviewed with him. Id. at 25. He admitted his guilt for trying take a syringe from health services, even though he maintained the position that he was merely playing a prank on Mr. Crosby. Id. at 24, 25. Dr. Contino stated that Mr. Major was “always appropriate” and she never had any problem with him. Id. at 25. Mr. Major did not call any witnesses. Id. at 18, 24.

         The DHO found Mr. Major guilty of attempting to steal. Id. at 25. Mr. Major's defense of pranking was unpersuasive because “it is obvious [he was] trying to deceive Mr. Crosby” when he “dropp[ed] something in the box to make a simulation sound of a needle.” Id. The DHO found the statement of staff member Crosby more credible and gave the following admonishment: “Stealing cannot and will not be tolerated in this environment as it creates more cost for the operation of the institution.” Id. The DHO imposed 30 days' ...

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