United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division
Thomas W. Browning, Petitioner,
A. Mansukhani, Warden FCI- Estill, Respondent.
ORDER AND OPINION
RICHARD MARK GERGEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Petitioner's motion under
Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to vacate
the Court's order of May 3, 2017, which dismissed the
petition for habeas relief. For the reasons set forth below,
the Court denies the motion to vacate.
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.
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 5, 2017, the
Magistrate Judge recommended granting Respondent's
motion. Petitioner filed timely objections to the Report and
Recommendation. On May 3, 2017, the Court adopted the Report
and Recommendation. Petitioner's motion to vacate that
order was filed on December 3, 2017.
a party may seek relief under Rule 60(b), a party first must
show timeliness, a meritorious defense, a lack of unfair
prejudice to [any] opposing party, and exceptional
circumstances. After a party has crossed this initial
threshold, he then must satisfy one of the six specific
sections of Rule 60(b)." Dowell v. State Farm Fire
& Cas. Auto. Ins. Co., 993 F.2d 46, 48 (4th Cir.
1993). A court may relieve a party from a final judgment
under Rule 60(b) for the following reasons: "(1)
mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2)
newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence,
could not have been discovered in time to move for a new
trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether previously called
intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by
an opposing party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment
has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an
earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or
applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or (6) any
other reason that justifies relief." Relief under Rule
60(b)(6) requires a showing of "extraordinary
circumstances." Aikens v. Ingram, 652 F.3d 496,
510 (4th Cir. 2011). A motion under this rule must be made
within a reasonable time, and relief under reasons (1), (2),
and (3) is not available after one year from the entry of the
judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(c)(1).
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.
Court previously ruled that the February 12, 2015
disciplinary hearing Petitioner challenges comported with all
applicable due process requirements. (See Dkt. No.
37.) Petitioner had advance written notice of the charges,
Petitioner had a hearing before a fair and impartial
tribunal, Petitioner had the opportunity to call witnesses
and to present evidence, and Petitioner received a written
statement explaining the tribunal's findings. There was
"some evidence" supporting the hearing
officer's findings: the written statement of the
reporting officer, photographs of the recovered narcotics,
and visual identification of the narcotics by medical
personnel. The Court also ruled previously that
Petitioner's equal protection claim fails as a matter of
law because Petitioner does not allege that his purportedly
unequal treatment is the result of intentional
now moves to vacate under Rule 60(b), arguing the Court erred
in denying the petition for habeas relief for two reasons.
First, Petitioner argues he did not receive adequate advance
written notice of the charge against him because the notice
he received did not comply with a BOP policy requiring the
description of the incident should contain all known,
non-confidential facts. The Court, however, will not review
the notice for compliance with BOP policies, because those
policies are not enforceable through a writ of habeas corpus.
Habeas actions protect constitutional rights. As the Court
previously ruled, the incident report provided Petitioner
written notice of the charges against him sufficient to
satisfy due process requirements. Petitioner merely repeats
arguments already presented and considered. That is not a
proper basis for a Rule 660(b) motion: "Where the motion
is nothing more than a request that the district court change
its mind, however, it is not authorized by Rule 60(b)."
United States v. Williams, 674 F.2d 310, 313 (4th
Cir. 1982). Second, Petitioner argues his due process rights
were violated because he was not told, in advance of the
first disciplinary hearing, that video footage of his cell
had been reviewed. According to Petitioner, this prevented
him from reviewing the footage to see if it contained
exculpatory evidence. The record, however, clearly shows that
the review of video footage was reported on the incident
report. (See Dkt. No. 13-3 ¶ 26.)
that prison disciplinary hearing findings may be erroneous is
not a basis for habeas relief. Federal courts do not review
the accuracy of disciplinary hearing findings of fact.
Kelly v. Cooper, 502 F.Supp. 1371, 1376 (E.D. Va.
1980). Those findings will only be disturbed if they are
unsupported by any evidence or are wholly arbitrary and
capricious, so that they constitute a violation of
constitutional due process rights. See Smith v.
Rabalais, 659 F.2d 539, 545 (5th Cir. 1981). Judicial
review of factual findings of prison disciplinary hearings is
limited solely to a determination as to whether there is some
evidence in the record to support the decision. Viens v.
Daniels, 871 F.2d 1328, 1335 (7th Cir. 1989); see
also Kirillov v. Yancey, No. 9:05-3251-HFF, 2006 WL
2827373, at *8 (D.S.C. Sept. 28, 2006). As the Court
previously ruled, in this case there was some evidence to
support the hearing officer's determination that
Petitioner had illicit drugs in his prison cell.
Petitioner's motion to vacate, whether reviewed under the
applicable Rule 60(b) standard or reviewed de novo,
sets forth no basis for disturbing that ruling.
foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES the
motion to vacate (Dkt. No. ...