United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
F. ATLAS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Lenor (TDCJ #1675926), a state inmate incarcerated in the
Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Correctional
Institutions Division (“TDCJ”), seeks a writ of
habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 to challenge a
prison disciplinary conviction. After reviewing all of the
pleadings and the applicable law under Rule 4 of the Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District
Courts, the Court concludes that this case must be dismissed
for reasons set forth below.
is currently incarcerated in TDCJ as the result of several
convictions from Harris County, Texas, including: (1) assault
on a public servant with bodily injury, cause no. 1267397;
(2) possession of cocaine, cause no. 1267398; (3) aggravated
assault, cause no. 1146561; (4) aggravated assault, cause no.
864324; and (5) aggravated assault, cause no.
864323. Lenor does not challenge any of his prior
now seeks relief from a prison disciplinary conviction that
was entered against him at the Ferguson Unit, where he is
currently incarcerated. On April 27, 2017, Lenor was convicted
in disciplinary case #20170247351 of assaulting an officer by
grabbing the officer's arm through the bars of his
cell. As a result of this disciplinary
conviction Lenor was restricted to his cell and his
commissary privileges were curtailed for 30
days. He was reduced in custodial status and he
also forfeited 15 days of previously earned good-time
credit. Lenor filed grievances to challenge the
conviction, but his appeal was unsuccessful.
now seeks a federal habeas writ of habeas corpus, arguing
that he is entitled to relief from his disciplinary
conviction because his appeal was not properly
investigated. In several other related grounds for
relief, Lenor contends that he was denied due process because
the conviction was not supported by sufficient evidence or
was based on harassment and retaliation for his previous
grievances against the officer he was accused of
assaulting. For reasons set forth below, the Court
finds that Lenor is not entitled to relief under the legal
standard that governs disciplinary proceedings in the state
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, 418 U.S. 539, 557 (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, 515 U.S. 472 (1995). A Texas
prisoner can demonstrate a constitutional violation in the
prison disciplinary context only if he first satisfies the
following criteria: (1) he must be eligible for early release
on the form of parole known as mandatory supervision; and (2)
the disciplinary conviction at issue must have resulted in a
loss of previously earned good-time credit. See Malchi v.
Thaler, 211 F.3d 953, 957-58 (5th Cir. 2000) (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
instance because, although he lost 15 days of 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 Lenor's claims.
See Malchi, 211 F.3d at 957-58.
the disciplinary conviction at issue also resulted in the
loss of privileges, the Fifth Circuit has recognized that
sanctions such as these, 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). 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). In addition,
temporary cell restriction or confinement in administrative
segregation, standing alone, does not implicate a
constitutionally protected liberty interest. See
Sandin, 515 U.S. at 473; Martin v. Scott, 156
F.3d 578, 580 (5th Cir. 1998) (holding that “absent
exigent circumstances, administrative segregation as such,
being an incident to the ordinary life of a prisoner, will
never be a ground for a constitutional claim because it
simply does not constitute a deprivation of a
constitutionally cognizable liberty interest”) (quoting
Pichardo v. Kinker, 73 F.3d 612 (5th Cir. 1996)).
Under these circumstances, Lenor 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, 542 U.S. 274,
282 (2004) (quoting Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473,
484 (2000)). A certificate of appealability is required
before an appeal may proceed. See Miller-El v.
Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 336 (2003).
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). After careful review of the pleadings
and the applicable law, the Court concludes that reasonable
jurists would not find the assessment of the constitutional
claims debatable or wrong. Because the petitioner does not
otherwise allege facts showing that his claims could be
resolved in a different manner, a certificate of
appealability will not issue in this case.