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Maurice Hardaway, #B-59247 v. Bretta Meyerhoff

January 26, 2011

MAURICE HARDAWAY, #B-59247, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BRETTA MEYERHOFF, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert U. S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER GILBERT, District Judge:

Plaintiff, an inmate in the Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915A, which provides, in pertinent part:

(a) Screening.-- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for Dismissal.-- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint--

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or

(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds that some of the claims in the complaint may be dismissed at this point in the litigation.

Facts:

September 16, 2009 Plaintiff was questioned by Defendant Meyerhoff regarding the alleged selling of fake electronic contracts in the prison. Plaintiff responded that he did not have any information, signed documents giving his consent to take a lie detector test*fn1 , and then returned to the inmate waiting area. Upon returning to this area, Plaintiff was sent to segregation, where he later received a disciplinary report written by Defendant Meyerhoff, charging Plaintiff with forgery, misuse of property, and trading and trafficking.

On September 18, 2009 Plaintiff received a disciplinary hearing before Defendant Parnell. At this hearing Plaintiff was denied the opportunity to present handwriting evidence that would have shown that the forged documents were not written by Plaintiff's hand. Instead, Defendant Parnell denied Plaintiff's evidence, and used evidence supplied by a confidential witness to find Plaintiff guilty. Plaintiff was then sentenced to six months of segregation.

Plaintiff then filed a grievance with Defendant Cowan, alleging that the disciplinary hearing had been faulty. Defendant Cowan denied this grievance, and when it was forwarded to Defendant Gaetz it was denied a second time. Some time later Plaintiff appealed to the Administrative Review Board, which stated that based on its review it recommended that a new hearing be held regarding the ticket, for which more evidence needed to be collected, and that Plaintiff's grievance be affirmed.

Discussion:

Plaintiff claims that his due process rights were violated when he was not allowed to present his own evidence at his disciplinary hearing, and also when he was denied the opportunity to review the evidence offered against him by Defendant Parnell.Prison disciplinary hearings satisfy due process requirements where an inmate is provided: (1) written notice of the charge against the prisoner 24 hours prior to the hearing; (2) the right to appear in person before an impartial body; (3) the right to call witnesses and to present physical/documentary evidence, but only when doing so will not unduly jeopardize the safety of the institution nor correctional goals; and (4) a written statement of the reasons for the action taken against the prisoner. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974); Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139, 1145 (7th Cir. 1988).

Not only must the requirements of Wolff be satisfied, but the decision of the disciplinary hearing board must be supported by "some evidence." Black v. Lane, 22 F.3d 1395, 1402 (7th Cir. 1994). To determine whether this standard has been met, courts must determine whether the decision of the hearing board has some factual basis. Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649 (7th Cir. 2000).

Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that Defendant Parnell violated his rights to due process. Although Plaintiff was given notice, the right to appear at his hearing, and a written statement concerning his guilt, he was consistently denied the opportunity to present his handwriting evidence, which he believed would exonerate him. The Court in Wolff requires that a plaintiff be given the opportunity to present this sort of evidence, which Plaintiff was ...


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