Wednesday, November 26, 2014

SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

CAPTION:
Freddie Williams, #244812 vs. SCDOC

AGENCY:
South Carolina Department of Corrections

PARTIES:
Appellant:
Freddie Williams, #244812

Respondent:
South Carolina Department of Corrections
 
DOCKET NUMBER:
00-ALJ-04-00904-AP

APPEARANCES:
n/a
 

ORDERS:

ORDER

I. STATEMENT OF CASE

This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division ("Division") pursuant to the appeal of Freddie Williams, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections ("Department"). On May 23, 2000, Inmate Williams was convicted of Sexual Misconduct after he was observed masturbating at the front entrance of Stono B shower at Lieber Correctional Institution ("Facility"). As a result of his conviction, Inmate Williams lost 240 days of "good-time" credit. Inmate Williams filed a grievance with the Department on May 23, 2000, and received the Department's final decision on September 14, 2000. On October 10, 2000, Inmate Williams filed this appeal.

II. BACKGROUND

On May 16, 2000 at approximately 4:50 a.m., Officer Patricia Sinkler, observed Inmate Williams "in the front entrance of the shower, curtains open, with his left hand propped up against the wall, turned sideways, making back and forth movements with his right hand on his penis (masturbation)." Subsequently, Officer Sinkler completed a Disciplinary Offense Report in which she described her observations and recommended charging Inmate Williams with Disciplinary Offense 2.9, Sexual Misconduct. Officer Sinkler then forwarded the Report to her supervisor, who recommended that a Major Disciplinary Hearing be held. On May 16, 2000, Inmate Williams was notified in writing of the charge. On May 23, 2000, Inmate Williams was brought before a Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO"). At the hearing, Officer Sinkler testified regarding the incident and was cross-examined by counsel substitute. In addition, Inmate Williams made statements on his behalf. At the conclusion of the hearing, the DHO informed Inmate Williams that he had been found guilty of Sexual Misconduct and sanctioned with the loss of 240 days' good time. After the hearing, the DHO completed a Disciplinary Report and Hearing Record, stating that he relied on Officer Sinkler's Report and her testimony in arriving at his decision.

Inmate Williams filed a grievance on May 23, 2000, appealing his conviction of Sexual Misconduct. Inmate Williams alleged there was no attempt of any willful exposure toward Officer Sinkler. On June 20, 2000, the warden denied his grievance, finding that Inmate Williams was found guilty based on Officer Sinkler's report. On July 6, 2000, Inmate Williams appealed the warden's decision. The Department denied his grievance, finding that the evidence presented was sufficient to support his conviction and that the sanction imposed was appropriate. This appeal followed.

III. ANALYSIS

The Division's jurisdiction to hear this matter is derived entirely from the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. 354, 527 S.E.2d 742 (2000). In Al- Shabazz, the Supreme Court created a new avenue by which inmates could seek review of final decisions of the Department of Corrections in "non-collateral" matters, i.e., matters in which an inmate does not challenge the validity of a conviction or sentence, by appealing those decisions to the Division and ultimately to the circuit court pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act. 338 S.C. at 373, 376, 527 S.E.2d at 752, 754.

The statutory right to sentence-related credits is a protected liberty interest under the Fourteenth Amendment. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 369-370, 527 S.E.2d at 750. An inmate facing the loss of sentence related credits is entitled to minimal due process to ensure that the state-created right is not arbitrarily abrogated. Id. While due process is "flexible and calls for such procedural protections as the particular situation demands," Stono River Envtl. Protection Ass'n v. S.C. Dept. of Health and Envtl. Control, 305 S.C. 90, 94, 406 S.E.2d 30, 341 (1991), certain elements must be satisfied in order for procedural due process requirements to be met, including adequate advance notice of the charges, adequate opportunity for a hearing in which the inmate can present witnesses and documentary evidence, and an impartial hearing officer who prepares a written statement of all the evidence presented and the reasons for his decision. Al-Shabazz, 527 S.E.2d at 751, citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-72, 94 S. Ct. 2963, 2978-82 (1974).

As in all cases subject to appellate review by the Division, the standard of review in these inmate grievance cases is limited to the record presented. An Administrative Law Judge may not substitute his judgment for that of an agency unless the agency's determination is affected by error of law or is clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence in the whole record. S.C. Code Ann. ยง 1-23-380(A)(6) (Supp. 1999); Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 380, 527 S.E.2d at 756; Lark v. Bi-Lo, Inc., 276 S.C. 130, 276 S.E.2d 304 (1981). Moreover, to afford "meaningful judicial review," the Administrative Law Judge must "adequately explain" his decision by "documenting the findings of fact" and basing his decision on "reliable, probative, and substantial evidence on the whole record." Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 380, 527 S.E.2d at 756.

I find that Inmate Williams was afforded all process due him pursuant to Al-Shabazz. The Record indicates that Inmate Williams received written notice of the charge in excess of twenty-four hours prior to a hearing that was held before an impartial hearing officer and in which he was able, through counsel substitute, to offer evidence. Inmate Williams was afforded the opportunity to confront his accuser. The Hearing Record reflects that the DHO found Inmate Williams guilty of the charge based on the written and verbal statements of Officer Sinkler. After his conviction, Inmate Williams filed a grievance and received a prompt response from his warden, which Inmate Williams then appealed to the Department. In its denial of his appeal, the Department informed Inmate Williams that he had the right to appeal the Department's final decision under the Administrative Procedures Act.

Moreover, I find that there is substantial evidence to support Inmate Williams' conviction of Sexual Misconduct. Officer Sinkler prepared a written report detailing her observations. In addition, Officer Sinkler testified during the hearing. There is substantial evidence that Officer Sinkler observed Inmate Williams committing the offense. Therefore, I affirm the Department's final decision regarding Inmate Williams' conviction.



IV. ORDER

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Final Decision of the Department be AFFIRMED;

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the appeal of Inmate William's be DISMISSED.

AND IT IS SO ORDERED



________________________________

C. Dukes Scott

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE



November 8, 2001

Columbia, South Carolina