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Fernandez v. Spaulding

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 30, 2019

MARTIN FERNANDEZ, Petitioner,
v.
STEPHEN SPAULDING, Respondent.

          ORDER AND MEMORANDUM ON PETITIONER'S PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS (Docket Nos. 1 & 14)

          TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN DISTRICT JUDGE

         Martin Fernandez (“Petitioner”) has filed a petitioner for a write of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Docket No. 1). Stephen Spaulding (“Respondent”) has moved to dismiss on several grounds. (Docket No. 14). No opposition has been filed. Nonetheless, I will examine the merits. For the reasons stated below, the petition for habeas corpus (Docket No. 1) is denied and Respondent's motion to dismiss (Docket No. 14) is granted.[1]

         Background

          Petitioner is incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center in Devens, MA (“FMC”). The events relevant to his petition, however, occurred while Petitioner was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix. N.J. (“FCI”).

         On August 28, 2017, a Correctional Officer searched Petitioner and asked to see his MP3 player for inspection. This examination revealed that the MP3 player had a memory card, a feature not permitted on BOP-authorized MP3 players. In addition, the player did not display Petitioner's name and register number when turned on, another feature required on authorized devices. Based on this inspection, staff concluded that Petitioner possessed an unauthorized MP3 player. Consequently, Petitioner was charged with a Code 108 prohibited act, “Possession of a Hazardous Tool.” A Disciplinary Hearing Officer (“DHO”) at FCI heard Petitioner's charges and found that he had committed the offense. Consequently, Petitioner was given 15 days of disciplinary segregation (suspended pending 90 days clear conduct); 40 days loss of good conduct time pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b); and 60 days loss of email privileges.

         It is somewhat difficult to understand Petitioner's challenges, but it seems that he contests the evidence DHO staff relied upon to conclude he possessed an MP3 player, disputes its characterization as a “Hazardous Tool, ” and argues that the sanctions violated the Equal Protection Clause.

         Standard of Review

         Respondent has moved to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a petitioner must allege “a plausible entitlement to relief.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 559, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007). Although detailed factual allegations are not necessary to survive a motion to dismiss, the standard “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955. “The relevant inquiry focuses on the reasonableness of the inference of liability that the plaintiff is asking the court to draw from the facts alleged in the complaint.” Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 13 (1st Cir. 2011).

         In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all factual allegations in the petition as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Langadinos v. American Airlines, Inc., 199 F.3d 68, 68 (1st Cir. 2000). It is a “context-specific task” to determine “whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief, ” one that “requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) (internal citations omitted). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). On the other hand, a court may not disregard properly pled factual allegations, “even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955.

         Because Petitioner appears pro se, we construe his pleadings more favorably than we would those drafted by an attorney. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197 (2007). Nevertheless, Petitioner's pro-se status does not excuse him from complying with procedural and substantive law. See Ahmed v. Rosenblatt, 118 F.3d 886, 890 (1st Cir. 1997).

         Discussion

         Since the Supreme Court's decision in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 558 (1974), it has been assumed in this Circuit that prison inmates have a liberty interest in good conduct time credits. See Lother v. Vose, 89 F.3d 823, 1996 WL 345958, at *1 (1st Cir. June 25, 1996) (unpublished table opinion); see also Pryor v. Grondolsky, 15 WL 1268164, at *2 (D. Mass. Mar. 19, 2015) (“[F]ederal prison inmates have a protected liberty interest in good time credits.”).

         1. Sufficiency of Evidence

         The extent to which a Court may review prison disciplinary hearings on habeas review is fairly clear and quite limited. “The fundamental fairness guaranteed by the Due Process Clause does not require courts to set aside decisions of prison administrators that have some basis in fact.” Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 456, 105 S.Ct. 2768 (1985); see also Mitchell v. Maynard, 80 F.3d 1433, 1445 (10th Cir. 1996) (“If there is some evidence ...


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