United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. HANKS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
petitioner, Aaron Jernigan (TDCJ #01978068), is a state
inmate incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal
Justice - Correctional Institutions Division
("TDCJ"). Jernigan 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
to publicly available records and his petition, Jernigan is
serving two concurrent 10-year prison terms for robbery (Dkt.
1 at p. 2). In this habeas proceeding, Jernigan challenges
not his underlying convictions but the result of a prison
disciplinary proceeding lodged against him (Dkt. 1 at pp. 2,
5). In his habeas petition, Jernigan explains that he was
charged in disciplinary case #20170192746 with possession of
contraband tobacco; he was found guilty of the charge on
March 6, 2017 (Dkt. 1 at pp. 5-6). As punishment, Jernigan
was placed on recreation, commissary, and telephone
restriction for 45 days; had his custodial classification
reduced; spent seven days in solitary confinement; and lost
365 days of good-time credit (Dkt. 1 at p. 5). He is not
eligible for release on mandatory supervision (Dkt. 1 at p.
5). See Tex. Gov't Code §508.149(a)(11).
For the reasons set forth below, the Court holds that
Jernigan 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. Jernigan'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 conviction and any
consequent reduction in his time-earning classification may
affect Jernigan'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, Jernigan'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). Although he lost
good-time credit, Jernigan is not eligible for early release
on mandatory supervision (Dkt. 1 at p. 5). See Tex.
Gov't Code § 508.149(a)(l 1). That fact is fatal to
Jernigan's due process claims.
true that Jernigan's custodial 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 Jernigan's confinement resulting from the
reduction in his custody classification do not affect the
duration or fact of Jernigan'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 Jernigan's privileges. Id.
Jernigan's placement in solitary confinement for seven
days also does not implicate due process concerns; the Fifth
Circuit has firmly stated that, "absent extraordinary
circumstances, administrative segregation as such, being an
incident to the ordinary life as a prisoner, will
never be a ground for a constitutional
claim[.]" Pichardo v. Kinker, 73 F.3d 612, 612
(5th Cir. 1996) (emphasis added); see also Allums v.
Phillips, 444 Fed.App'x 840, 841 (5th Cir. 2011)
("Placement in administrative segregation or a change in
custodial classification as a result of a disciplinary
infraction, without more, does not constitute a deprivation
of a constitutionally cognizable liberty interest, and,
therefore, there is no right to due process.");
Wilkerson v. Goodwin, 774 F.3d 845, 855 (5th Cir.
2014) ("[T]he duration in segregated confinement that
courts have found does not give rise to a liberty
interest ranges up to two and one-half years[.]")
the sanctions at issue do not implicate a protected liberty
interest, Jernigan 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)
(noting that ...