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Leiter v. Nickrenz

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 12, 2016

DOUGLAS EARL LEITER, also known as William Jackson, Petitioner,
CHRISTOPHER NICKRENZ, Warden, FPC-Duluth, [1]Respondent.


          JOAN N. ERICKSEN United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) issued by the Honorable Becky R. Thorson, United States Magistrate Judge, on October 26, 2016. (Docket No. 30.) The R&R recommends, among other things, that Petitioner Douglas Earl Leiter's petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (the “Petition”) and request for injunctive relief (Dkt. No. 1) be denied. Leiter objected to the R&R on several grounds. (See Dkt. No. 31.) Respondents[2] responded to Leiter's objections by stating their support for the R&R's recommended disposition. (See Dkt. No. 33.)

         The Court has conducted a de novo review of the record. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(3). Based on that review, the Court accepts the R&R's recommended disposition with respect to substitution of the named Respondents in this matter, denial of the Petition, denial of injunctive relief, and dismissal of the action with prejudice. The Court also accepts the recommendation to unseal Docket Nos. 1, 13, 14, and 15 (and their attachments), except with respect to attachment 1 to Docket No. 1. The Court concurs in the R&R's reasoning to the extent that this Order does not address such reasoning.


         Leiter objects to the R&R's finding that there was sufficient evidence in the disciplinary record to support the determination that he violated Federal Bureau of Prisons Disciplinary Code 196(A), Attempted Use of the Mail for Illegal Purposes. See 28 C.F.R. § 541.3, Table 1 (2011). He challenges the sanction he received-revocation of 41 days of good-time credits-primarily on this ground. (See Dkt. No. 31 at 5, 8.)

         When the disciplinary sanction imposed on an inmate is revocation of good-time credits, due process requires, among other things, that “the findings of the prison disciplinary board are supported by some evidence in the record.” Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst., Walpole v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985). The Court need not examine the entire record, independently assess the credibility of witnesses, or weigh evidence when reviewing a disciplinary decision. Id. at 455. Instead, the requirements of due process are satisfied if there is “any evidence in the record” to support the decision. Id. at 455-56.

         The R&R reasoned that some evidence supported Leiter's sanction. Specifically, the R&R stated that Discipline Hearing Officer (“DHO”) Kevin Nikes “reviewed Petitioner's mailing and determined, based on his correctional knowledge, that it was consistent with the ideology and practices of the Sovereign Citizens.” (Dkt. No. 30 at 7.) The R&R concluded that this was enough evidence to uphold the discipline. (See id.) Leiter argues, however, that DHO Nikes's written discipline report did not list this knowledge and experience as a basis for the disciplinary decision, as required by Supreme Court precedent and the Federal Bureau of Prisons's Inmate Discipline Program. (See Dkt. No. 31 at 5, 8 (citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974), Hill, 472 U.S. 445, and 28 C.F.R. § 541.8(h) (2011)).) Therefore, Leiter argues, DHO Nikes's correctional knowledge and experience cannot be some evidence in the record to support the disciplinary decision. (See id.) Leiter also points out that the words “Sovereign Citizen” do not appear in the written report. (See id.)

         DHO Nikes's written report did not list reliance on his correctional knowledge and experience concerning Sovereign Citizens as a reason for the disciplinary decision. (See Dkt. No. 11-1 at 77-80.) Rather, DHO Nikes's Declaration, filed in response to Leiter's Petition, states that this reliance was a basis for the decision. (See Dkt. No. 11 ¶¶ 15-19.) As such, DHO Nikes's correctional knowledge and experience are not explicitly part of the disciplinary record.

         Setting aside whether this knowledge and experience can constitute “some evidence” despite not being in the disciplinary record, [3] the Court finds that there is other evidence in the record to support the decision. For example, the correspondence Leiter attempted to send to Eric Thorson, Office of the Inspector General, United States Treasury, included a letter[4] asserting that Thorson (or the Treasury Department) was responsible for Leiter's debt per a fiduciary relationship Leiter created by previously mailing an Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) Form 56. (See Dkt. No. 11-1 at 78-79.) The correspondence also included a copy of the Form 56, [5] in addition to a bill from a debt collection agency. (See id.) DHO Nikes reviewed these and other documents submitted by Leiter, which Leiter has also filed with the Court. (See Id. at 79; see also Dkt. No. 1-1 at 69-75, 77, 81.) Leiter contends that the documents he submitted to DHO Nikes and the Court prove the existence of the fiduciary relationship and exonerate him. (See Dkt. No. 31 at 2, 10.)

         The Court need not review and weigh all the evidence in the record, though; the disciplinary decision need only be supported by some evidence in the record. Hill, 472 U.S. at 455. The content of the letter to Thorson and enclosed Form 56 are evidence to support DHO Nikes's conclusion that Leiter “used the mail in an attempt to make Eric Thorson, or his office, the United States Treasury responsible for [Leiter's] debts.” (Dkt. No. 11-1 at 80.) Therefore, the disciplinary decision was supported by sufficient evidence.


         In Leiter's objections, he stated that a hearing for the gathering of witness testimony would aid his Petition in multiple ways and that the Court should dismiss the R&R and “move to an evidentiary hearing.” (Dkt. No. 31 at 4, 11-12.) The R&R did not address whether an evidentiary hearing is required or should be held. In response to the Petition, Respondents argued that a hearing is not required because the issues can be resolved on the record alone. (See Dkt. No. 10 at 19-20.)

         A petitioner is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing if the petitioner's allegations are frivolous, where the allegations (even if true) fail to state a cognizable constitutional claim, where the relevant facts are not in dispute, or where the dispute can be resolved on the basis of the record. Wallace v. Lockhart, 701 F.2d 719, 729-30 (8th Cir. 1983).

         Insofar as Leiter requests the Court to hold an evidentiary hearing, the Court finds that none is required because the dispute can be resolved on the basis of the record. As explained above, the evidence in the record pertaining to the correspondence at issue is sufficient to show that DHO Nikes's decision was supported by some evidence. See supra Part I. Therefore, there is no need for an evidentiary hearing on that issue. See Riley v. Lockhart, 726 F.2d 421, 423 (8th Cir. 1984) (affirming denial of an evidentiary hearing when the record was “sufficient to form the basis for the district court's summary dismissal” of the petition); Sweesy v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, No. 08-CV-323 (PAM/JJK), 2009 WL 1244047, at *1 (D. Minn. May 4, 2009) (finding an evidentiary hearing unnecessary when evidence in the record was sufficient to meet the requirement that some ...

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