United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
LAKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
petitioner, Adrian Lamont Green (TDCJ #1495025), has filed a
Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus By a Person in State
Custody ("Petition") (Docket Entry No. 1), seeking
relief from a prison disciplinary conviction. After
considering the pleadings and the applicable law, the court
will dismiss this action for the reasons explained below.
is currently incarcerated at the Ellis Unit as the result of
a murder conviction that was entered against him in 2008 in
the 187th District Court of Bexar County,
Texas. Green received a 33-year prison sentence
in that case. Green does not challenge that conviction
in this action.
seeks relief from a prison disciplinary conviction that was
entered against him at the Ellis Unit on May 20,
2016. In particular, Green challenges his
conviction in disciplinary case #20160278946 for possessing
contraband (tobacco) in violation of prison
rules. As a result of this disciplinary
conviction, Green forfeited 360 days of previously earned
good-time credit and he temporarily lost commissary,
recreation, and contact visitation privileges. Green was reduced
in custodial and classification status as punishment for his
offense. Green filed grievances to challenge the
conviction, but his appeals were unsuccessful.
related claims for relief, Green contends that the challenged
disciplinary conviction was entered against him in violation
of the right to due process because there was insufficient
evidence to establish that he possessed tobacco as alleged in
the disciplinary case against him. For reasons explained below,
the court concludes that Green is not entitled to relief
under the legal standard that governs
disciplinary-proceedings in the state prison context.
Prison Disciplinary Proceedings
inmate's rights in the prison disciplinary setting are
governed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution. See Wolff v.
McDonnell, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 2974-75 (1974). Prisoners
charged with institutional rules violations are entitled to
rights under the Due Process Clause only when the
disciplinary action may result in a sanction that will
infringe upon a constitutionally protected liberty interest.
See Sandin v. Conner, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 2302 (1995).
Liberty interests emanate from either the Due Process Clause
itself or from state law. See Kentucky Dep't of
Corrections v. Thompson, 109 S.Ct. 1904, 1908 (1989)
(citation omitted) . To the extent that a disciplinary
conviction may affect an inmate's eligibility for early
release from prison, the Due Process Clause does not include
a right to conditional release before the expiration of a
valid sentence. See Greenholtz v. Inmates of the Nebraska
Penal and Correctional Complex, 99 S.Ct. 2100, 2104
(1979) . Under these circumstances, the petitioner's
claims depend on the existence of a constitutionally
protected liberty interest created by state law.
Supreme Court has decided that only those state-created
substantive interests that "inevitably affect the
duration of [a prisoner's] sentence" may qualify for
constitutional protection under the Due Process Clause.
Sandin, 115 S.Ct. at 23 02. See also Orellana v.
Kyle, 65 F.3d 29, 31-32 (5th Cir. 1995) . In Texas only
those inmates who are eligible for the form of parole known
as mandatory supervision have a constitutional expectancy of
early release. See Malchi v. Thaler, 211 F.3d 953,
956 (5th Cir. 2000). As a result, a Texas prisoner cannot
demonstrate a constitutional violation in the prison
disciplinary context without first satisfying the following
criteria: (1) he must be eligible for early release on
mandatory supervision; and (2) the disciplinary conviction at
issue must have resulted in a loss of previously earned
good-time credit. See id. at 957-58 (explaining that
only those Texas inmates who are eligible for early release
on mandatory supervision have a protected liberty interest in
their previously earned good-time credit).
cannot demonstrate a constitutional violation in this case
because, although he lost good-time credit as the result of
the challenged disciplinary conviction, he admits that he is
not eligible for mandatory supervision. This is fatal
to Green's due process claims. See Malchi, 211
F.3d at 957-58.
the disciplinary conviction at issue also resulted in a loss
of privileges and affected Green's classification status,
the Fifth Circuit has recognized that such sanctions, which
are "merely changes in the conditions of [an
inmate's] confinement, " do not implicate due
process concerns. Madison v. Parker, 104 F.3d 765,
768 (5th Cir. 1997) . Limitations imposed on privileges are
the type of sanctions that do not pose an atypical or
significant hardship beyond the ordinary incidents of prison
life. See Id. Likewise, reductions in a
prisoner's custodial classification and the potential
impact on good-time credit earning ability are too attenuated
to be protected by the Due Process Clause. See
Malchi, 211 F.3d at 958; Luken v. Scott, 71 F.3d
192, 193 (5th Cir. 1995); Neals v. Norwood, 59 F.3d
530, 533 (5th Cir. 1995). Under these circumstances Green
cannot demonstrate a violation of the Due Process Clause, and
his pending federal habeas corpus Petition must be dismissed
for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
Certificate of Appealability
of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases now requires a
district court to issue or deny a certificate of
appealability when entering a final order that is adverse to
the petitioner. A certificate of appealability will not issue
unless the petitioner makes "a substantial showing of
the denial of a constitutional right, " 28 U.S.C. §
2253(c)(2), which requires a petitioner to demonstrate
"that reasonable jurists would find the district
court's assessment of the constitutional claims debatable
or wrong." Tennard v. Dretke, 124 S.Ct. 2562,
2564 (2004) (quoting Slack v. McDaniel, 120 S.Ct.
1595, 1604 (2000)). Under the controlling standard this
requires a petitioner to show "that reasonable jurists
could debate whether (or, for that matter, agree that) the
petition should have been resolved in a different manner or
that the issues presented were * adequate to deserve
encouragement to proceed further.'" Miller-El v.
Cockrell, 123 S.Ct. 1029, 1039 (2003) . Where denial of
relief is based on procedural grounds the petitioner must
show not only that "jurists of reason would find it
debatable whether the petition states a valid claim of the
denial of a constitutional right, " but also that they
"would find it debatable whether the district court was
correct in its procedural ruling." Slack, 120
S.Ct. at 1604.
district court may deny a certificate of appealability,
sua sponte, without requiring further briefing or
argument. See Alexander v. Johnson, 211 F.3d 895,
898 (5th Cir. 2000). For reasons set forth above, the court
concludes that jurists of reason would not debate whether the
petitioner states a valid claim or that the Petition ...