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Culbert v. Young

decided: November 12, 1987.

LLEWELLYN CULBERT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
WARREN YOUNG, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, No. 86 C 504 -- John C. Shabaz, Judge.

Coffey, Ripple and Manion, Circuit Judges.

Author: Ripple

RIPPLE, Circuit Judge.

The plaintiff is an inmate at the Wisconsin Correctional Institution (WCI) in Waupun, Wisconsin. He brought this suit against the Superintendent of WCI claiming that the defendant violated his due process rights by improperly processing certain disciplinary conduct report as major rather than minor offenses and by failing to provide adequate statements of the evidentiary bases for finding him guilty of those violations. The district court held that the plaintiff did not have a protectible liberty interest in having conduct reports classified as minor that than major and that the written statement of reasons provided by the defendant for the disposition of each of the reports satisfied due process requirements. Because we agree with both of these holdings, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I

Facts

A. Wisconsin Regulatory Scheme

Wisconsin Administrative Code section HSS 303 governs the discipline of inmates housed by the state's division of corrections. Wis. Admin. Code § HSS 303 (Aug. 1980).*fn1 These regulations define a variety of inmate disciplinary violations and establish a scheme of sanctions for those offenses. When a staff member observes or finds out about a rule violation, the regulations direct him to write up a conduct report setting forth the details of the incident. The prison security director then reviews the conduct report and classified the offense as either major or minor. The regulations identify twelve particular violations that always constitute major offenses.*fn2 The security director must determine whether to treat all other offenses as major or minor offenses. The regulations establish five specific criteria that "should be" considered in making this determination.*fn3 If a prisoner is allege dot have committed a major violation, he is entitled to a hearing before a hearing officer or the adjustment committee. The hearing officer or committee then determines the disposition of the conduct report and imposes a penalty if the prisoner is found guilty.

B. The Disciplinary Action Against the Plaintiff

Between November 1982 and February 1984, the plaintiff received five conduct reports alleging violations of various provisions of § HSS 303. In each instance, the security directo classified the violations as a major offense indicating on the record only that the conduct report was "justified." None of the alleged offense was defined as a major offense under § HSS 303.68(2) with the exception of Conduct Report No. 90283, in which the plaintiff was originally charged with arson. The plaintiff was found guilty of all but one of the charges against him. The give conduct report and their dispositions were as follows:

Conduct Report No. 98318. On November 9, 1982, the plaintiff was issued Conduct Report No. 98318 for conspiracy to commit battery and treats in violation of §§ HSS 303.21 and 303.16. R.13, Ex. A. The complaining officer gave a lengthy statement in the conduct report in which he said that members of the staff heard rumors that an inmate intended to harm several officers. Upon investigation, one officer was approached by the plaintiff. He asked her if she was aware of the rumors and if she knew that she was one of the officers who was going to be hurt. Id. At the hearing, the complaining officer submitted a memorandum containing the confidential statements of an informant who claimed that "he was informed by inmate Culbert that Sgt. Duerst was going to be 'Shanked' by Culbert, and that Sgt. Sawyer and Holder were also to be harmed. Further, Informant states that Culbert showed him the 'Shank' that he was going to use on Sgt. Duerst." Id. The memorandum went on to say that the officer believed the informant "because his information is supported by other information and facts." Id. The plaintiff appeared at the hearing and made a general denial of the allegations in the conduct report stating that he was locked up during the incidents described. Id. He also said that he only asked the officer about the threats when he heard the rumors from another inmate. R.13, Ex. B. The adjustment committee found the plaintiff not guilty of conspiracy to commit battery, but guilty of threats. The evidentiary basis stated for the finding of guilt was "reliance on statements in Conduct Report and mainly in confidential statement that this inmate made a threat to injure staff." Id.

Conduct Report No. 89424. On December 6, 1982, the plaintiff was issued Conduct Report No. 89424 for disobeying orders in violation of §§ HSS 303.24. R.13, Ex. C. The complaining officer stated that "inmate Culbert was given several direct orders to come to the bars to be cuffed so we could put another man in the cell. Inmate Culbert refused all orders." Id. At his hearing, the plaintiff stated that the officer was incorrect. "I was at bars when they came with Stawicki to triple with him. I told them I refused to triple with him. They didn't even ask." R.13, Ex. D. The adjustment committed found the plaintiff guilty of disobeying orders. The written statement of the evidence relied on stated that the hearing officer relied "on C.R. statement by Staff member that inmate refused several orders to come to front of cell to be cuffed . . . " Id.

Conduct Report No. 90283. On January 7, 1983, the plaintiff received Conduct Report No. 90283 charging him with arson in violation of § HSS 303.37. R.13, Ex. E. The charge was later changed to creating a hazard in violation of § HSS 303.39. Id. The complaining officer stated that he observed the plaintiff put his arm through the bars of his cell and throw a "rolled up was of paper" at a fire that the officer was attempting to put out. Id. At the disciplinary hearing, the plaintiff defended by stating that there were two people in the cell, that the officer only saw an arm come out of the cell, and that the officer relied on the name of the inmate on the cell door to identify the perpetrator. The plaintiff contended that only his name and not his roommate's name appeared on the cell door. R.13, Ex. F. The adjustment committee found the plaintiff guilty of creating a hazard. The record indicates as the reasons forth finding of guilt that the hearing officer relied "on Conduct Report, statement and testimony received via telephone call to officer that inmate was positively identified" as the offending party. Id.

Conduct Report No. 141066. On July 16, 1983, the plaintiff was issued a Conduct Report No. 141066 for disobeying orders, disrespect, and disruptive conduct, in violation of §§ HSS 303.24, 303.25, and 303.28. R.13, Ex. G. The complaining officer wrote in the conduct report that the plaintiff approached him at his desk and began yelling very loudly. When ordered to stop yelling, the plaintiff responded with profanities and continued yelling before finally returning to his cell. At the disciplinary hearing, the plaintiff defended by stating that the officer "left out half of the story. I was at Rec and when I returned[,] my cell was messed up." R.13, Ex. H. The plaintiff admitted saying profanities to the officer. Id. The adjustment committee found the plaintiff guilty of these violations. The reasons ...


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