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Thomas v. Lamb

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 27, 2017

MICHAEL N. THOMAS, Petitioner,
v.
NICHOLAS LAMB, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM and ORDER

          HERNDON, District Judge

         Michael N. Thomas is an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections. He filed a petition for habeas relief pursuant to §2254, Doc. 1. As construed on preliminary review, the petition alleges that prison disciplinary proceedings which resulted in the loss of good conduct credit violated petitioner's Due Process rights. See, Doc. 5.

         Now before the Court is respondent's motion to dismiss petition for a writ of habeas corpus. (Doc. 10). Respondent argues that the petition must be dismissed because petitioner failed to exhaust state judicial remedies. Petitioner filed a response at Doc. 12 arguing that his failure to exhaust should be excused because of inordinate delay in resolution of his state action.

         Relevant Facts

         In 1999, Thomas was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 40 years imprisonment. See, United States ex rel. Thomas v. Hodge, 2014 WL 1289607 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 31, 2014)(denying petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254). According to the website of the IDOC, https://www.illinois.gov/idoc/OFFENDER/Pages/InmateSearch.aspx, his projected release date is December 28, 2018.

         In November 2013, Thomas was issued a disciplinary ticket charging him with impeding or interfering with an investigation, giving false information to an employee, and “violation of rules.” He was found guilty after a prison adjustment committee hearing and was sanctioned with, as is relevant here, revocation of nine months good conduct credits or statutory good time. Doc. 1, Ex. 4, pp. 11-14. He alleges that his Due Process rights were violated in several respects by the disciplinary proceedings.

         Thomas exhausted administrative remedies in December 2014. Doc. 1, Ex. 4, p. 1.

         Thomas also attempted to pursue state judicial remedies. He filed an original habeas proceeding in the Illinois Supreme Court in May 2015. The Supreme Court construed this as a petition for leave to file an original habeas action, and denied leave to file in September 2015. Doc. 1, Ex. 4, p. 2. He then filed a habeas complaint pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/10-124 in the Circuit Court of Lawrence County in November 2015. He alleges that he heard nothing from that court before filing his federal habeas petition on July 18, 2016, despite writing several letters to the clerk of the circuit court.

         Thomas alleges that, in September 2016, he received a copy of a “record sheet” from the clerk of the Circuit Court of Lawrence County. That sheet indicates that his state habeas case was transferred on December 23, 2015, to the Circuit Court of Johnson County because Thomas was then confined to Shawnee Correctional Center. The sheet also indicates that a copy of the docket entry ordering the transfer of his case was mailed to him in August 2016. Doc. 12, pp. 12-13. In September 2016, the clerk of the Circuit Court of Johnson County informed Thomas that the respondents in his state habeas case had not been served and furnished him with summons forms for him to complete. Doc. 13, p. 6.

         Applicable Legal Standards

         Prison inmates retain due process rights in connection with prison disciplinary proceedings, but such proceedings “are not part of a criminal prosecution, and the full panoply of rights due a defendant in such proceedings does not apply.” Wolff v. McDonnell, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 2975 (1974). The minimum requirements of due process in such proceedings are (1) receipt of written notice of the charges in advance of the hearing, (2) an opportunity to be heard before an impartial decision maker, (3) the right to call witnesses and present evidence where same will not be unduly hazardous to safety or correctional goals, and (4) a written statement as to the evidence relied on and the reason for the decision. Wolff, 94 S.Ct. at 2978-2980; Henderson v. U.S. Parole Commission, 13 F.3d 1073, 1077 (7th Cir. 1994).

         A state prisoner may raise a due process challenge to prison disciplinary proceedings in a §2254 petition, but only after having exhausted both administrative remedies and state judicial remedies. McAtee v. Cowan, 250 F.3d 506, 508 (7th Cir. 2001).

         28 U.S.C.A. § 2254(b)(1) requires that state judicial remedies be exhausted before a federal court can grant habeas relief:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be ...

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