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Robert Hairston v. Warden M.P. Heffron

December 21, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Renee Marie Bumb United States District Judge



This matter comes before the Court upon submission of Petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.*fn1 See Docket Entry No. 1. This Court directed Respondent to answer Petitioner's challenges, and Respondent duly complied. See Docket Entries 2 and 5. Petitioner duly filed his traverse, see Docket Entry No. 6, with regard to which Respondent filed her sur-reply.*fn2 See Docket Entry No. 7.

For the reasons detailed below, the Petition will be dismissed, with prejudice.

It appearing that:

1. The facts underlying Petitioner's challenges (and the rationale of Petitioner's position) are largely undisputed, supported by extensive record filed in this matter and summarized by Respondent as follows:

[Petitioner] is a federal inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution Fort Dix in New Jersey ("FCI Fort Dix"). His . . . Petition . . . stems from [an] incident [that took place] in the early hours of December 5, 2008[, when Petitioner] punched an[other] inmate named David Majeski ("Majeski") in the face several times. Bloodied, Majeski did not respond. Despite admitting [during his administrative proceedings the fact of him] punching another inmate in the face, [Petitioner] seeks to[: (a)] expunge the disciplinary finding that he had been fighting and [(b) vacate] the resulting sanction. [Petitioner] concedes that he was charged with violating the Bureau of Prisons' ("BOP") regulation against "fighting with another person" (an infraction known as "Code 201"). [Petitioner, however,] contends that he could not have violated Code 201, because fighting involves two or more people and [neither Majeski nor any] other inmate was charged [in connection with the incident. In other words, Petitioner first asserts] that he was charged with violating a regulation that he could not have violated [because of lack of charges against Majeski, and then Petitioner] leaps to the conclusion that prison authorities violated his due process rights by not informing him of the charge [that, according to his logic, he could not have violated]. . . . [The record, however, unambiguously indicates that Petitioner] was informed of the Code 201 charge against him less than 12 hours after he [physically attacked and injured] Majeski[.*fn3 The record also [Petitioner] admitted to . . . Lieutenant Kaough . . . that he had punched Majeski several times in the face after Majeski had removed a photograph of President indicates that Petitioner] received a hearing before an independent officer [and] the hearing officer's determination that [Petitioner] violated Code 201 was . . . supported by [abundance of] evidence [entered in the record], including [Petitioner's] own admission that he [indeed] punched Majeski in the face. . . . [Moreover, Petitioner] cites no legal support for his assertion -- and there is none [existing in the BOP's regulations or interpretative statements] -- that a Code 201 violation requires that at least two inmates be charged. [In sum, Petitioner's position is entirely pegged on Petitioner's own, self-serving, interpretation of Code 201.]

Docket Entry No. 5, at 6-7.

2. The bulk of Petitioner's position was exhaustively addressed in Respondent's answer summarizing the applicable legal regime and applying these legal principles to the facts at bar. This Court, therefore, finds little need for reciting the points already addressed by Respondent and -- operating on presumption that Petitioner is well familiar with Respondent's position -- will provide, below, a mere summary of this analysis: for completeness of this Court's review.

3. However, two key points omitted from Respondent's argument warrant a more detailed discussion. Specifically:

a. Petitioner's application for expungement of record is facially meritless, and this outcome does not depend on the invalidity of Petitioner's due process challenges. The only case in this Circuit on the issue of expungement is Williams v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 85 Fed. App'x 299 (3d Cir. 2004), a case decided before the Supreme Court's ruling in Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74 (2005). In Williams, the inmate filed a habeas petition claiming that federal officials had improperly refused to delete false information contained in his prison file. See Williams, 85 Fed. App'x at 303. Examining that petition, the magistrate judge employed the rationale later articulated by the Supreme Court in Wilkinson and "concluded that, since [the inmate's] habeas claims did not challenge the length of his confinement, the habeas petition [had to] be construed as a Bivens action."*fn4 Id.

The district court adopted the magistrate judge's conclusion and, eventually, dismissed the petition. See id. The inmate appealed. Addressing the issue, the Court of Appeals observed as follows:

We have never had to decide whether to endorse the right of expungement announced in Paine v. Baker, 595 F.2d 197 (4th Cir.1979), and other Circuit Courts of Appeals have expressly questioned its precedential value. [See, e.g.,] Johnson v. Rodriguez, 110 F.3d 299, 308-09 n. 13 (5th Cir. 1997). Nevertheless, [the inmate in Williams] argues that his . . . prison file expungement claim are meritorious under Paine v. Baker. There, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit announced that, in limited circumstances, state prisoners have a federal due process right to have "prejudicial erroneous information expunged from their prison files." [Paine,] 595 F.2d at 202. The [Paine] court held:

In certain limited circumstances a claim of constitutional magnitude is raised where a prisoner alleges (1) that information is in his file, (2) that the information is false, and (3) that it is ...

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