United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division
following Recommended Disposition
(“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States
District Judge James M. Moody, Jr. You may file written
objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do
so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the
factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be
received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days
of the entry of this Recommendation. The failure to timely
file objections may result in waiver of the right to appeal
questions of fact.
before the Court is a § 2254 habeas
Petition filed by Petitioner, Thomas Crockett
(“Crockett”). Doc. 1. He attacks a
prison disciplinary conviction he received while incarcerated
in the Maximum Security Unit of the Arkansas Department of
Correction (“ADC”). Doc. 1.
December 15, 2017, Crockett received a major disciplinary
charging him with failure to obey staff order(s), refusing a
direct verbal order to leave or enter any area, resisting
apprehension, battery on staff, and possession of a cell
phone. The charges stemmed from ADC Captain Nicola
Kelly's contention that, while conducting a security
check, she observed Crockett laying in his bed, with a pillow
on top of his head, holding what appeared to be a cell phone.
As she attempted to seize the object from Crockett, he
grabbed it back from her, “ran to the toilet and
flushed the phone.” Crockett then refused her order to
“submit to restraint.” Doc. 1, p. 10.
December 28, 2017, Crockett appeared at a disciplinary
hearing, denied all the charges, and read a statement into
the record. Doc. 1, p. 11. The hearing
officer found Crockett guilty of failure to obey verbal
orders of staff, resisting apprehension, battery on staff,
and possession of a cell phone. The hearing officer sentenced
Crockett to: (1) 17 days' punitive isolation; (2) a
reduction in classification from IC to IV; (3) loss of
commissary, phone and visitation privileges; and (4) a loss
of 500 days of good-time credit. Id.
appealed the disciplinary hearing officer's decision to
the Warden, the Disciplinary Hearing Administrator, and then
to Wendy Kelley, the Director of the ADC. All three affirmed.
Doc. 1, p. 13-14.
August 17, 2018, Crockett filed the habeas Petition now
before this Court. In his first claim, he contends his
procedural due process rights were violated because the ADC
gave him the wrong form, an ISSR 100, rather than form
F-831-1, to initiate the disciplinary proceeding. In claims
two through four, Crockett asserts that he is “actually
innocent” of the charges of possessing a cell phone,
committing battery on staff, and resisting apprehension.
Crockett asks this Court to reverse the disciplinary, expunge
it from his records, and release him from administrative
segregation. Doc. 1.
contends that Crockett's claims are not cognizable or
lack merit. Doc. 8. Crockett has filed a Reply in
further support of his claims. Doc. 15.
reasons explained below, the Court recommends the dismissal
of Crockett's habeas Petition, with prejudice, because
his claims are not cognizable in a habeas action.
Respondent's Claims Are Not Cognizable
prisoner may maintain a procedural due process challenge to a
prison disciplinary proceeding only if he is deemed to have a
liberty interest sufficient to trigger the protections of the
Fourteenth Amendment. Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S.
472, 485-86 (1995); Phillips v. Norris, 320 F.3d
844, 847 (8th Cir. 2002). Liberty interests arising from
state law are limited to “freedom from restraint”
which “impose[s] atypical and significant hardship on
the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison
life, ” or to actions which “inevitably
affect the duration of [a prisoner's] sentence.”
Sandin v. Connor, 515 U.S. 472, 484, 487 (1995).
habeas action, “[i]f the prisoner is not challenging
the validity of his conviction or the length of his
detention, such as loss of good time, then a writ of
habeas corpus is not the proper remedy.” Kruger v.
Erickson, 77 F.3d 1071, 1073 (8th Cir. 1996) (per
curiam) (citing Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475,
499 (1983) (emphasis added); see also Spencer v.
Haynes, 774 F.3d 467, 469-70 (8th Cir. 2014) (citing and
applying Kruger). Thus, for Crockett's claims
arising from the disciplinary proceeding to implicate a
“liberty interest” capable of making them
actionable under § 2254, he must establish that the loss
of 500 days of good-time credit served to lengthen his
sentence. As the Court noted in Sandin, the
“Due Process Clause itself does not create a liberty
interest in credit for good behavior.” Id. at
477. Instead, a court must look to the specific state statute
in question to determine whether a liberty interest in
good-time credit has been created by the state. Id.
statutory law establishing good-time credit “plainly
states ‘[m]eritorious good time will not be applied
to reduce the length of a sentence, '” but
instead impacts an inmate's “transfer eligibility
date.” McKinnon v. Norris, 366 Ark. 404, 408,
231 S.W.3d 725, 729 (Ark. 2006) (quoting Ark. Code
Ann. § 12-29-201(d) and (e)(1)) (emphasis added). In
McKinnon, the Arkansas Supreme Court rejected the
state habeas petitioner's claim that his prison sentence
had been extended unlawfully because, following a prison
disciplinary, his good-time credits were forfeited and his
ability to earn future credits was eliminated. According to
the Court, ...