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Godbey v. Warden FCI Williamsburg

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division

March 28, 2017

Walter T. Godbey, #45377-083, Petitioner,
v.
Warden FCI Williamsburg, Respondent.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         Petitioner Walter T. Godbey (“Petitioner”) filed this pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (“Petition”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging an administrative disciplinary action he received while incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution (“FCI”) Petersburg Low.[1] (ECF No. 1.) Respondent Warden FCI Williamsburg (“Respondent”) responded by filing a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 9.)

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02, the matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant for pre-trial handling. On September 23, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report, ” ECF No. 19) recommending the court grant Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 9), and deny the Petition (ECF No. 1). This review considers Petitioner's Objections to the Report and Recommendation (“Objections”) filed October 11, 2016. (ECF No. 21.) For the reasons set forth herein, the court ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report (ECF No. 19), GRANTS Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 9), and DISMISSES the Petition (ECF No. 1) without prejudice.

         I. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This court concludes, upon its own careful review of the record, that the Magistrate Judge's factual synopsis is accurate and incorporates it by reference. This court will thus focus on the facts pertinent to the analysis of Petitioner's Objections.

         Petitioner is presently incarcerated at FCI Bennettsville (“Bennettsville”). Petitioner alleges that on March 4, 2014, inmate Bernard Doherty (“Doherty)[2] sought him out and assaulted him. (ECF No. 1-1 at 3.) On March 26, 2014, a Special Investigation Services (“SIS”) investigation was completed and an Incident Report was provided to Petitioner. (ECF No. 1-1 at 23.) Because of this “fighting incident, ” Petitioner was found guilty of a Disciplinary Code 201 (Fighting with Another Person) violation by a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (“DHO”), and was subject to multiple sanctions.[3] (ECF No. 1-1 at 4.) Petitioner asserts that he was never put on “lawful ‘notice' of the Rules/Regs of the [Federal Bureau of Prisons] FBOP.” (ECF Nos. 1-1 at 2.) Petitioner alleges DHOs improperly relied upon correctional officer (“CO”) statements, and the multiple DHO Reports contained false and inaccurate information. (ECF No. 1 at 7, 11.) Petitioner asserts he has a right to self-defense (id. at 8), that the parameters of a Code 201 violation are too vague (id. at 9), that the DHO was not an independent fact finder, (id.), and that Petitioner's rehearing venue was improper (id. at 10). Petitioner also seeks to draw a comparison between himself and another inmate who had his record expunged after engaging in fighting. (Id.) Petitioner appealed his disciplinary sentence at multiple DHO hearings, the Southeast Regional Office, and after being repeatedly found guilty, appealed to the Central Office at General Counsel. (ECF No. 1-1 at 5.) Petitioner never received an answer from the Central Office. (Id.) Petitioner seeks an expungement of the Incident Report and the DHO Report, a transfer back to FCI Petersburg Low, the restoration of the twenty-seven days of good conduct time (“GTC”), and the restoration of Form BP 606[4] (removing five points from his record). (ECF No. 1-1 at 1.)

         Petitioner filed the instant action on October 15, 2015. (ECF No. 1.) On March 15, 2016, Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 9). On March 25, 2016, Petitioner filed his Response in Opposition. (ECF No. 13.) On April 1, 2016, Petitioner filed an Affidavit in Support (ECF No. 14), and on April 15, 2016, filed a Supplemental Motion to his Response in Opposition (ECF No. 15).

         On September 23, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report, recommending the court grant Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment, and dismiss Petitioner's Petition. (ECF No. 19 at 21.) The Magistrate Judge found that the prison officials complied with the due process requirements set forth in Wolff v. McDonnell.[5] (Id.) Judge Marchant's Report found that Respondent had shown “some evidence existed to support the decision, ” satisfying the minimal due process standard necessary for prison disciplinary proceedings. (Id.) The Report dismissed Petitioner's assertions that he lacked notice of the FBOP's rules and regulations (id. at 11-13, 17), that he had a right to self-defense (id. at 15), and that his case was comparable to another inmate's case (id.). The Report also found no bias on the part of the DHO (id. at 19), no prejudice in Petitioner's rehearing (id. at 20), and no reliance by Respondent on inaccurate or false information (id at 14-15, 20-21). On October 11, 2016, Petitioner filed Objections to the Report. (ECF No. 21.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Magistrate Judge's Report is made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina. The Magistrate Judge's Report is only a recommendation to this court, and has no presumptive weight-the responsibility to make a final determination remains with this court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objections are made. Id. The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the Magistrate Judge's recommendation or recommit the matter with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         Objections to a Report and Recommendation must specifically identify portions of the Report and the basis for those objections. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). “[I]n the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.'” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 316 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note). Failure to timely file specific written objections to a Report will result in a waiver of the right to appeal from an order from the court based upon the Report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985); Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841 (4th Cir. 1985); United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91 (4th Cir. 1984). If the petitioner fails to properly object because the objections lack the requisite specificity, then de novo review by the court is not required.

         Additionally, pro se filed documents should be “liberally construed, ” held to a less stringent legal standard than those complaints or proceedings drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). However, even liberally construed, objections to a Report must specifically identify portions of the Report and the basis for those objections. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2). Furthermore, while pro se documents may be entitled to “special judicial solicitude, ” federal courts are not required to recognize “obscure or extravagant claims.” Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A petition for habeas corpus under § 2241 is the proper method to challenge the computation or execution of a federal sentence. See United States v. Little, 392 F.3d 671, 679 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing In re Vial, 115 F.3d 1192, 1194 n.5 (4th Cir. 1997)). A petition pursuant to § 2241 challenging the execution of a federal prisoner's sentence generally addresses “such matters as the administration of parole, computation of a prisoner's sentence by prison officials, prison disciplinary actions …” Jiminian v. Nash, 245 F.3d 144, 146 (2d Cir. 2010). A § 2241 petition is appropriate where the prisoner challenges the fact or length of his confinement, but generally not the conditions of his confinement. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 499-500 (1973); Ajaj v. Smith, 108 F. App'x 743, 744 (4th Cir. 2004). The court agrees with the Report and Respondent that Petitioner's § 2241 Petition is the proper method to challenge his disciplinary action.[6]

         In his Objections, Petitioner accuses the Report of “misconstru[ing] and misrepresent[ing] numerous facts, ” and asserts that each of his nine claims should not be subject to summary judgment. (ECF No. 21.) However, though Petitioner outlines his objections in detail, very little new information is brought to the court's attention that was not sufficiently addressed by the Magistrate's Report.[7] What new information Petitioner does put forth either contradicts his position, or is insufficient to overcome the due process standard of prisoner disciplinary proceedings. As the Report notes, the Supreme Court in Wolff v. McDonnell only allows an inmate a minimal standard of due process in a prison disciplinary setting. (ECF No. 19 at 8-9.) The ...


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