United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. HANKS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
petitioner, Patrick Dixon (TDCJ #01954209), is a state inmate
incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice -
Correctional Institutions Division ("TDCJ"). Dixon
has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28
U.S.C. § 2254 to challenge the result of a prison
disciplinary proceeding (Dkt. 1 at p. 2). 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 the reasons set forth below.
is serving concurrent 40-year sentences for drug possession
and aggravated assault (Dkt. 1 at p. 2). In this habeas
proceeding, Dixon challenges not his underlying conviction
but the result of a prison disciplinary proceeding lodged
against him (Dkt. 1 at pp. 2, 5). In his habeas petition,
Dixon explains that he was charged in disciplinary case
#20170062216 with assaulting a correction officer without
causing injury; he was found guilty of the charge on November
2, 2016 (Dkt. 1 at pp. 5-6). As punishment, Dixon was placed
on recreation, commissary, and telephone restriction for 30
days; had his custody classification reduced; and lost 30
days of good-time credit (Dkt. 1 at p. 5). For the reasons
set forth below, the Court holds that Dixon fails to state an
actionable claim under the standard of review that governs
disciplinary proceedings in the prison context.
PRISON DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS
seeks a federal writ of habeas corpus to challenge a prison
disciplinary conviction. The federal writ of habeas corpus is
an extraordinary remedy which shall not extend to any
prisoner unless he is "in custody in violation of the
Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States."
28 U.S.C. §§ 2241(c)(3) & 2254(a); Brecht
v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 633-34 (1993) (explaining
that "the writ of habeas corpus has historically been
regarded as an extraordinary remedy, a bulwark against
convictions that violate fundamental fairness"). Thus, a
habeas corpus petitioner must establish a constitutional
violation in order to prevail. Dixon's claims, on their
face, fail to make the requisite showing.
inmate's rights in the prison disciplinary setting are
governed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution. Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 557 (1974). Prisoners charged
with institutional rules violations are only entitled to
relief under the Due Process Clause when the disciplinary
action may result in a sanction that will infringe upon a
constitutionally protected liberty interest. Sandin v.
Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 483-84 (1995). These protected
liberty interests can emanate from either the Due Process
Clause itself or from state law-Kentucky Dept. of
Corrections v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 460 (1989)-but
the range of constitutionally protected liberty interests is
a "narrow" one. Orellana v. Kyle, 65 F.3d
29, 31-32 (5th Cir. 1995) (citing Sandin).
does not identify any particular right found in the Due
Process Clause upon which his habeas petition is grounded. To
the extent that the disciplinary convictions and any
consequent reduction in his time-earning classification may
affect Dixon'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. Greenholtz v. Inmates of the Neb. Penal &
Correctional Complex, 442 U.S. 1, 7 (1979). Under these
circumstances, then, Dixon's petition depends on the
existence of a constitutionally protected liberty interest
created by state law.
Supreme Court has decided that only those state-created
substantive interests which "inevitably affect the
duration of [a prisoner's] sentence" may qualify for
constitutional protection under the Due Process Clause.
Sandin, 515 U.S. at 487; see also Kyle, 65
F.3d at 31-32. In Texas, only those inmates who are eligible
for mandatory supervision have a constitutional expectancy of
early release. Malchi v. Thaler, 211 F.3d 953,
956-59 (5th Cir. 2000) (addressing the mandatory supervision
scheme in place prior to September 1, 1996); Teague v.
Quarterman, 482 F.3d 769, 774-77 (5th Cir. 2007)
(discussing the mandatory supervision schemes in place both
before and after September 1, 1996). It follows that a Texas
prisoner cannot demonstrate a constitutional violation
without first establishing: (1) that he is eligible for early
release on mandatory supervision; and (2) that the
disciplinary conviction at issue resulted in a loss of credit
for good conduct (i.e., good-time credit).
Malchi, 211 F.3d at 956-59 (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). Dixon admits in
his petition that he is not eligible for early release on
mandatory supervision (Dkt. 1 at p. 5). See Tex.
Gov't Code § 508.149(a)(7). This fact is fatal to
Dixon's due process claims.
custody classification was reduced as a result of the
disciplinary proceeding. However, the Fifth Circuit has held
that reductions in a prisoner's time-earning status, and
the potential impact of those reductions on good-time credit
earning ability, are too attenuated from the prisoner's
ultimate release date to invoke the procedural guarantees of
the Due Process Clause. Malchi, 211 F.3d at 958-59;
Luken v. Scott, 71 F.3d 192, 193 (5th Cir. 1995);
Neals v. Norwood, 59 F.3d 530, 533 (5th Cir. 1995).
Moreover, changes in the conditions of Dixon's
confinement resulting from the reduction in his custody
classification do not affect the duration or fact of
Dixon's confinement and do not constitute atypical,
significant hardships going beyond the ordinary incidents of
prison life. They therefore do not implicate due process
concerns. Madison v. Parker, 104 F.3d 765, 768 (5th
Cir. 1997); Malchi, 211 F.3d at 958 (citing
Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 493 (1973)). The
same is true of the temporary limitations imposed on
Dixon's privileges. Id.
the sanctions at issue do not implicate a protected liberty
interest, Dixon cannot demonstrate a violation of the Due
Process Clause. Absent an allegation that the petitioner has
been deprived of some right secured to him by the United
States Constitution or laws of the United States, federal
habeas corpus relief is not available. See Kyle, 65
F.3d at 31-32; Hilliard v. Board of Pardons and
Paroles, 759 F.2d 1190, 1192 (5th Cir. 1985). Thus, the
pending federal habeas petition must be dismissed.
CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
federal habeas corpus petition filed in this case is governed
by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (the
"AEDPA"), codified as amended at 28 U.S.C. §
2253. Therefore, a certificate of appealability is required
before an appeal may proceed. See Miller-El v.
Cockrell,537 U.S. 322, 336 (2003); see also
Hallmark v. Johnson,118 F.3d 1073, 1076 (5th Cir. 1997)