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Browning v. Mansukhani

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

May 3, 2017

Thomas W. Browning, Petitioner,
v.
A. Mansukhani, Warden FCI-Estill, Respondent.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, recommending Respondent's motion to dismiss the petition for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, or alternatively for summary judgment, be granted. For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts the Report and Recommendation and grants summary judgment for Respondent.

         I. Background

         Petitioner Browning is an inmate at Federal Correctional Institution Estill. He alleges that on February 3, 2015, Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") officers conducted a random search of his cell and found six strips of Suboxone and three pieces of rolled paper containing synthetic marijuana. Petitioner and his cellmate were charged with possession of drugs under the prison's disciplinary policy. Petitioner was provided a copy of the incident report detailing the charges.

         A disciplinary hearing was held on February 12, 2015. Petitioner denied the charges. During the hearing, prison officials presented the incident report, photographs of the contraband, and identification of the Suboxone by a staff pharmacist. Petitioner presented no evidence. The hearing officer found Petitioner guilty and revoked ninety-five days of good conduct time credit, among other sanctions. After exhausting administrative remedies, Petitioner filed the present petition on September 26, 2016. He claims that the revocation of his good conduct time credits violates his constitutional right to due process because the disciplinary hearing failed to meet the "some evidence" standard (Ground One) and that the revocation violates his constitutional right to equal protection because the BOP did not conduct a field test or laboratory test to confirm the substances alleged to be illicit narcotics (Ground Two). On December 21, 2016, Respondent moved to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment. On April 24, 2017, the Magistrate Judge recommended granting Respondent's motion. Petitioner filed timely objections to the Report and Recommendation.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         When a proper objection is made to a particular issue, "a district court is required to consider all arguments directed to that issue, regardless of whether they were raised before the magistrate." United States v. George, 971 F.2d 1113, 1118 (4th Cir. 1992). However, "[t]he district court's decision whether to consider additional evidence is committed to its discretion, and any refusal will be reviewed for abuse." Doe v. Chao, 306 F.3d 170, 183 & n.9 (4th Cir. 2002). "[A]ttempts to introduce new evidence after the magistrate judge has acted are disfavored, " though the district court may allow it "when a party offers sufficient reasons for so doing." Caldwell v. Jackson, 831 F.Supp.2d 911, 914 (M.D. N.C. 2010) (listing cases).

         B. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate if a party "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In other words, summary judgment should be granted "only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts." Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). "In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party." HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Nat'l Red Cross, 101 F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323(1986).

         III. Discussion

         Title 28, U.S.C. § 2241 is the proper means for a federal prisoner to challenge the BOP's sentencing calculations, including good conduct time credits. See United States v. Little, 392 F.3d 671, 679 (4th Cir. 2004). Petitioner argues his good conduct time credits were revoked in violation of his due process rights because he could not challenge the prison's identification of the items recovered from his cell as narcotics, and in violation of his equal protection rights because similarly situated inmates are purportedly treated differently.

         Petitioner has due process rights regarding his good conduct time credits, which implicate a protected liberty interest. See Wolff v. McDonnell,418 U.S. 539, 557 (1974). In disciplinary proceedings, inmates have a right to advance written notice of charges, to a fair and impartial tribunal, to call witnesses and to present evidence, and to receive written statement explaining the tribunal's findings. Id. at 563-67. Due process is satisfied if there is "some evidence" ...


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