United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
LAKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
petitioner, Greg Shelton, also known as Gregory James Shelton
(TDCJ #2056565), 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 McConnell Unit as the result
of a murder conviction that was entered against him in 2 015,
in the 23rd District Court of Brazoria County,
Texas. Shelton received a life sentence, which
was affirmed on direct appeal. See Shelton v.
State. No. 17-2139 WL 5851899 (Tex. App. - Houston [1st
Dist.] (_______ef'd). Shelton does not challenge that
conviction in this action.
seeks relief from a prison disciplinary conviction that was
entered against him at the McConnell Unit in late
2016.In particular, Shelton challenges his
conviction in disciplinary-case #20170089846 for possessing a
weapon in violation of prison rules. As a result of this
disciplinary conviction, Shelton spent 18 days in pre-hearing
detention or solitary confinement. Shelton filed grievances to
challenge the conviction, but his appeals were
related claims for relief, Shelton contends that the
challenged disciplinary conviction was entered against him in
violation of the right to due process because there was
insufficient evidence to support his conviction beyond a
reasonable doubt. For reasons explained below, the court
concludes that Shelton 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 the disciplinary
conviction may affect the petitioner'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 2302. See also Orellana v.
Kvle, 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 he admits that he did not lose any previously earned
good-time credit and that he is not otherwise eligible for
mandatory supervision. This is fatal to Shelton's due process
claims. See Malchi, 211 F.3d at 957-58. Under these
circumstances, Shelton 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 granted.
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,
2565 (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 should
be resolved in a different manner. Therefore, a certificate
of appealability will not issue.