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HARRIS v. MACDONALD

United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D


January 14, 1982

SANFORD NORMAN HARRIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEAL D. MACDONALD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Sanford Norman Harris ("Harris") is a prisoner at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville") who sues a number of state officials based on incidents surrounding Harris' February 1981 transfer from Sheridan Correctional Center ("Sheridan") to Stateville. Harris' claims sound in both 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") and habeas corpus (28 U.S.C. § 2254) and employ a three-step analysis:

    (1) Harris was disciplined at Sheridan and then
  transferred to Stateville in violation of numerous
  regulations of the Illinois Department of
  Corrections (the "Department").

    (2) Those regulations create justifiable
  expectations on the part of prison inmates,
  establishing a "liberty" interest under the Due
  Process Clause. See Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215,
  226 [96 S.Ct. 2532, 2539, 49 L.Ed.2d 451] (1976);
  Shango v. Jurich, 521 F. Supp. 1196, 1202 (N.D.Ill.
  1981).

    (3) Because the state-created procedures were
  not followed in Harris' case, the treatment
  afforded him by defendants amounts to a
  deprivation of that liberty interest.

Defendants move to dismiss chiefly on the ground that Harris has not stated a cause of action against them either individually or collectively. For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part as to Count I of Harris' First Amended Complaint (the "Complaint"), granted as to Count II and denied as to Count III.

Facts*fn1

On October 17, 1980 defendant William Hiser ("Hiser") was the head of Sheridan's Internal Affairs unit. Hiser summoned Harris to Hiser's office for questioning by an Illinois Department of Law Enforcement ("IDLE") investigator as to Harris' alleged delivery of illegal drugs to another inmate. Harris denied the allegations and also declined the IDLE agent's request to submit to a polygraph test. Harris was not presented with a Miranda-rights waiver form at the investigation, nor was he otherwise informed of such rights.

On December 9, 1980 the prison officials served a disciplinary "ticket" upon Harris charging him with violations of several sections of Administrative Regulation ("A.R.") 804. Those charges related to the same alleged delivery of drugs.

Next day the Sheridan Adjustment Committee (the "Committee") called Harris to consider the charges against him. On his motion it granted a 20-day continuance to December 30. On the continued hearing date Harris attempted to make both oral and written presentations of his defense to the Committee but was prevented from doing so.*fn2 Committee member Partak told Harris the inmate to whom Harris had assertedly delivered the drugs had taken two polygraph tests. Two other inmates also testified at the hearing, one of whom (inmate Wembley) executed two affidavits that same day claiming he had offered testimony that Harris was not guilty.

After the hearing the Committee found Harris guilty of four sections of A.R. 804. Three of the violations involved drug use, possession or delivery, while the fourth was for "[d]isobeying . . . any prison rule." A.R. 804.II.A.1(1). Harris was penalized with 30 days' segregation, the loss of 30 days' good time, demotion to "C" grade (from which grade Harris could not earn good time) for 90 days and transfer from Sheridan (less than a maximum security prison) to Stateville (a maximum security prison).

Harris pursued internal grievances in accordance with A.R. 845, but no action was immediately forthcoming. Harris served 35 days in segregation rather than the scheduled 30 and was released from segregation February 3, 1981. On February 8 the prison officials transferred Harris to Stateville. Sheridan's Inquiry Board rejected Harris' grievance February 27.

On May 13, though, the Department's Director informed Harris that the December 9 disciplinary ticket was being "expunged" from his record because prison records showed Harris had not been given 24 hours to prepare his defense, as guaranteed by A.R. 804.II.G.2. Harris' good time and "A" grade status were therefore restored to him and he received state pay for time spent in segregation. Harris however remains at Stateville.

Count I

Prison disciplinary proceedings involving assignment to segregation and the loss of statutory good-time credit implicate the deprivation of "liberty" in Fourteenth Amendment terms. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556-58, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 2974-75, 41 L.Ed.2d 935 (1974). Accordingly a prisoner is constitutionally guaranteed certain procedural protections, including advance written notice of the charges and a written statement of the factfinders as to the evidence relied upon and the reasons for disciplinary action. Id. at 563-66, 94 S.Ct. at 2978-79; Chavis v. Rowe, 643 F.2d 1281, 1286-87 (7th Cir. 1981); Hayes v. Walker, 555 F.2d 625, 631-33 (7th Cir. 1977). See also Chavis, 643 F.2d at 1285-86 (disclosure of exculpatory evidence must be made to the inmate). Because the Committee's proceedings indeed resulted in loss of statutory good time and in segregation, those proceedings had to comport with due process under Wolff.*fn3

What process was due Harris? Certainly compliance with the A.R.s' procedures would have satisfied the Due Process Clause. Meachum, 427 U.S. at 226-29, 96 S.Ct. at 2539-40. Count I however asserts substantial noncompliance:

    (1) In violation of A.R. 804.II.G.1, the
  December 9 disciplinary ticket was issued more
  than 72 hours after the chargeable offense was
  discovered.

    (2) In violation of A.R. 17, no Miranda warnings
  were given to Harris during his October 17
  interview.

    (3) In violation of A.R. 804.II.G.2, Harris was
  not served with the disciplinary ticket more than
  24 hours before the initial December 10 Committee
  hearing.

    (4) In violation of A.R. 804.II.G.7, the
  Committee refused Harris permission to present
  evidence and call witnesses.

    (5) Though no A.R. is identified in this
  respect, the Committee ignored the exculpatory
  Wembley testimony.

    (6) In violation of A.R. 17, the Committee
  relied on the results of polygraph tests
  administered by IDLE investigators to two
  witnesses.

    (7) Again without reference to an A.R., Harris
  was retained in segregation past his outdate.

    (8) In violation of A.R. 819, Harris was
  transferred to Stateville without a pre-transfer
  hearing.

Not all those deficiencies create valid federal claims.*fn4 Surely the Committee was free to credit or not to credit Wembley's testimony. There can be no "justifiable expectation" on Harris' part as to the weight to be given such testimony, and thus no deprivation of a liberty interest.*fn5

In a like vein, not every violation of administrative procedure in connection with major discipline automatically equates with a due process violation. It does not matter whether that conclusion follows from the premise that minor procedural rules do not confer a liberty interest on the prisoner, or the premise that the process taken as a whole — albeit technically faulty — comports with due process. See United States ex rel. Houston v. Warden, Stateville Correctional Center, 635 F.2d 656, 658-59 (7th Cir. 1980) (the latter view).

Under either locution, it is plain that not all of the regulation-violative claims reach constitutional stature. Id. at 659. For precisely the reason stated in Houston, Harris' first three contentions fail here:

    (1) Harris claims no harm or prejudice from the
  over 72-hour delay from discovery of the offense
  to issuance of the December 9 ticket.

    (2) No Harris statement was used against him, so
  that the absence of Miranda warnings was of no
  moment.

    (3) Absence of a 24-hour notice of hearing was
  rendered harmless by the 20-day continuance
  granted December 10.

Finally the Committee's use of polygraph evidence does not, as Harris claims, impinge upon A.R. 17. That A.R. is simply silent on that score.

Three Count I allegations survive (it must be remembered that a motion to dismiss is not the occasion, as defendants have urged, to decide whether the facts conform to the allegations):

    (1) A.R. 804.II.G.7 and 9 are breached by the
  refusal to permit a defense (the Complaint says,
  "Plaintiff attempted to make oral and written
  presentations in his defense, but was cut off by
  defendant PARTAK") — in derogation of a truly
  fundamental procedural right.*fn6

    (2) Segregation may not be imposed as a
  disciplinary measure without a hearing before the
  Committee (see A.R.804.II.D.1). Wolff v. McDonnell
  so holds. As to the excessive segregation time —
  even a "mere" five days — no hearing was accorded
  Harris.

    (3) A.R. 819 promises a wholly separate hearing
  as to transfers. None took place. Due process is
  thus involved here as well. Shango, 521 F. Supp. at
  1203.

As severely limited by the foregoing discussion (and subject to the possible inclusion of the Wembley-related claim), Count I withstands defendants' motion to dismiss.*fn7

Count II

Count II states as its gravamen defendants' violations of the Department's A.R.s. To the extent constitutional violations are involved, it adds nothing to Count I. To the extent they are not, Harris has adduced no authority supporting such a cause of action. Count II is therefore dismissed.

Count III

In his final claim Harris seeks retransfer from Stateville to Sheridan under federal habeas corpus. Defendants respond by invoking Holland v. Ciccone, 386 F.2d 825, 827 (8th Cir. 1967). But that case is clearly inapposite, for it involved a denial of habeas where no federal claim was stated, id. at 826. Here the due process right to compliance with applicable state administrative regulations, not present in Holland, insures the prima facie vitality of federal issues.

Count III poses a different issue: Should federal habeas be available where a prisoner claims, not that any state detention is contrary to the Constitution, but only that he is being held in the wrong prison? So characterized, the claim relates to the conditions of the prisoner's confinement rather than his custody under state law.

On that score the Advisory Committee on the Rules Governing Cases Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 states (Note to Rule 1):

  It is . . . the view of the Advisory Committee
  that claims of improper conditions of custody or
  confinement (not related to the propriety of the
  custody itself), can better be handled by other
  means such as 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and other related
  statutes.

It goes on to point out that in Wilwording v. Swenson, 404 U.S. 249, 92 S.Ct. 407, 30 L.Ed.2d 418 (1971), the Court treated the habeas petition by a state prisoner challenging the conditions of confinement as a claim for relief under Section 1983. But Wilwording said (id. at 251, 92 S.Ct. at 409) that the claim was "cognizable in federal habeas corpus" as well. Moreover, Wilwording cited to Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483, 484, 89 S.Ct. 747, 748, 21 L.Ed.2d 718 (1969), where the Court had ruled favorably on a prisoner's habeas petition based on his disciplinary confinement for having assisted fellow prisoners in preparing legal papers.

It might be "better," as the Advisory Committee puts it, to utilize Section 1983 complaints and habeas petitions in discrete — and complementary — realms. But Wilwording and Johnson are still good law. This Court is constrained to hold that a habeas petition challenging conditions of confinement may still be brought, even though Section 1983 will also invariably be available in such cases. Harris' habeas claim grounded in his transfer to Stateville is valid, and defendants' motion to dismiss Count III must be denied.

Conclusion

Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part as to Complaint Count I, granted as to Count II and denied as to Count III. Hiser is dismissed from the action in its entirety. All other defendants are ordered to answer on or before January 27, 1982 and a status report is set for March 3, 1982 at 9:15 a.m.


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