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Brown-Bey v. United States

decided*fn*: November 1, 1983.

BERNARD BROWN-BEY, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Benton Division. No. 80 C 4370 -- James L. Foreman, Judge.

Cummings, Chief Judge, Cudahy and Posner, Circuit Judges.

Author: Cummings

CUMMINGS, Chief Judge.

Appellant appeals from an order of the district court adopting the magistrate's report and recommendation and granting defendants' motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. We affirm.

I.

Appellant filed an amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus*fn1 on February 9, 1981, against the United States, the U.S. Attorney General, two officials in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, wardens of three U.S. correctional facilities, and the members of three prison disciplinary committees. Appellant's petition contained three principal claims. First, appellant contended he was denied the right to present his own witnesses and confront his accusers at a prison disciplinary hearing at which he was found guilty of assaulting a fellow inmate. Appellant also argued that the disciplinary committee's rationale for punishing him was insufficient. Second, appellant claimed that defendant Garrison, warden at the U.S. correctional institution at Petersburg, Virginia, violated appellant's right to privacy under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, when Garrison told appellant's fiancee certain details about appellant's prison record and behavior that harmed appellant's relationship with his fiancee. Finally, the amended petition included several vague references to prison transfer decisions involving appellant; the nature of appellant's complaint about the transfers is not entirely clear.

The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Appellant raises a plethora of issues on appeal, including contentions relating to the magistrate's ruling on both procedural and substantive issues.

II.

A.

The magistrate correctly dismissed appellant's Privacy Act claim. Appellant's amended petition names only individual defendants. The Privacy Act authorizes private civil actions for violations of its provisions only against an agency, not against an individual. 5 U.S.C. § 552a(g)(1) (1976); Wren v. Harris, 675 F.2d 1144, 1148 n.8 (10th Cir. 1982); Bruce v. United States, 621 F.2d 914, 916 n.2 (8th Cir. 1980).

B.

Appellant makes several claims with regard to the disciplinary hearing at which he was found guilty of assaulting another prisoner. All of appellant's contentions lack merit. First, appellant argues that requiring him to leave the room during the testimony of the victim violates his sixth amendment right to confront his accuser. The Supreme Court rejected appellant's argument nearly a decade ago. Confrontation and cross-examination of witnesses in the context of a prison disciplinary proceeding are matters left to the sound discretion of prison officials. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 567-69, 41 L. Ed. 2d 935, 94 S. Ct. 2963 (1974). Prison officials have broad discretion in operating a prison disciplinary system. Redding v. Fairman, 717 F.2d 1105, slip op. at 13 (7th Cir. 1983). Appellant does not point to any facts indicating an abuse of discretion, nor have we found any in our examination of the record.

Appellant's next contention is that his due process rights were violated by the disciplinary committee in finding him guilty of assault. Appellant claims specifically that there was insufficient evidence to find him guilty and that the committee relied on an impermissible factor (appellant's "sophistication") in deciding on a sanction. The victim identified appellant as his assailant to the disciplinary committee, but said that the problem had been settled and that he would not testify further. In addition, the testimony of appellant's alibi witness regarding appellant's whereabouts at the time of the assault differed materially from appellant's statement. We cannot say that "no reasonable adjudicator could have found the prisoner guilty on the basis of the evidence presented." Jackson v. Carlson, 707 F.2d 943, 949 (7th Cir. 1983). Similarly, there is no evidence that the disciplinary committee violated appellant's due process rights in recommending that appellant be held in disciplinary segregation for 30 days and be transferred to another institution. The committee considered ...


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