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BROWN v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

May 28, 1993

LLOYD BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES R. RICHEY

 I. INTRODUCTION

 The Plaintiff in the above-captioned case challenges the decision of a prison administrative board that found him guilty, inter alia, of assault and destruction of property in violation of prison regulations. He claims that the decision is in violation of his due process rights under the 14th Amendment. The Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss for failing to state a constitutional claim, and the Plaintiff has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. After reviewing the memoranda and exhibits in support of the parties' respective motions, and considering the applicable law and the arguments presented by the parties at a hearing on the motions held on May 26, 1993, the court concludes that no genuine disputes exist as to any material fact, and that the Plaintiff is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

 II. BACKGROUND

 The essential facts in this case are undisputed by the parties. The Plaintiff, Lloyd Brown, is a prisoner who, at the time of the incident giving rise to this suit, was housed at the Occoquan Facility in Lorton, Virginia. Brown was accused of throwing several cartons of fermented solutions of urine, milk, and feces from his cell onto a passing guard, spitting on the guard, and threatening the guard on September 28, 1992. A disciplinary report filed by the guard charged Brown with Assault, Damage or Destruction of Property, Threatening Conduct, creating a Disturbance, and Bodily Injury, all in violation of the Lorton Regulations Approval Act ("LRAA").

 At an administrative hearing held before the Occoquan Adjustment Board on October 5, 1992, the only evidence presented in support of the charges against Brown was the disciplinary report filed by the prison guard which is attached hereto and made a part hereof. After deliberation, the Adjustment Board found Brown guilty of all five charges. Brown was required to serve 14 days in administrative segregation or detention as a result of the findings of the Board.

 At the May 26, 1993, hearing, counsel for the Plaintiff indicated that the Plaintiff sought to have the guilty findings as to the Assault and the Damage charge vacated and expunged from his record. Counsel represented to the Court at the hearing, on the Plaintiff's behalf, that this action was not a predicate for a damages suit and that the Plaintiff waived any damages claim relating to the suit.

 III. BECAUSE THE PLAINTIFF'S DUE PROCESS RIGHTS ARE IMPLICATED IN THIS CASE, AND BECAUSE THE SOLE PIECE OF EVIDENCE RELIED UPON BY THE BOARD DID NOT SUPPORT THE BOARD'S DECISION, THE COURT MUST VACATE THE DECISION OF THE BOARD AND EXPUNGE THE RECORD OF THE PLAINTIFF.

 Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment is appropriate in cases in which:

 
the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

 In this case, the facts surrounding the hearing are undisputed, and the Court is only required to evaluate whether the hearing procedure complied with the requirements of due process. Consequently, the Court may decide the case on summary judgment grounds.

 The first question the Court must consider is whether the Plaintiff in this case has "a liberty or property interest which has been interfered with by the State . . . ." Kentucky Dep't of Corrections v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 460, 104 L. Ed. 2d 506, 109 S. Ct. 1904 (1989). Only then do the protections of due process come into play. Id. In the prison context, "a State creates a protected liberty interest by placing substantive limitations on official discretion." Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238, 249, 75 L. Ed. 2d 813, 103 S. Ct. 1741 (1983).

 In this case, the procedures set forth in the LRAA clearly place substantive limitations on official discretion. The procedures outline the offenses with which a prisoner may be charged, the process by which a prisoner's responsibility for those charges is determined, and the sanctions faced by a prisoner found guilty of committing an offense. See generally §§ 102, 103, 104 (possible offenses); §§ 108, 109, 110, 111 (hearing procedures); § 105 (possible sanctions). Throughout these sections, the LRAA uses "language of an unmistakably mandatory character, requiring that certain procedures 'shall,' 'will,' or 'must' by employed . . . ." Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 471, 74 L. Ed. 2d 675, 103 S. Ct. 864 (1983). This mandatory language, combined with ...


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