South Carolina              
Administrative Law Court
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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Barry Motts, #272041 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Barry Motts, #272041

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter is before the South Carolina Administrative Law Court (ALC or Court) pursuant to the Notice of Appeal filed, by Appellant (Inmate) above named, who is incarcerated with the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC).

Inmate appeals a denial of his Step 2 Grievance in which he asserted that his present custody status is incorrect because of an escape charge in 1973 in Rutherford County, N.C. which SCDC is classifying as a Class I Escape instead of the less serious Class II Escape (Walk Off).


The Court'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). The Court's appellate jurisdiction in inmate appeals is limited to state created liberty interests typically involving: (1) cases in which an inmate contends that prison officials have erroneously calculated his sentence, sentence-related credits, or custody status; and (2) cases in which an inmate has received punishment in a major disciplinary hearing as a result of a serious rule violation. Id.

When reviewing the Department's decisions in inmate grievance matters, the Court sits in an appellate capacity. Id., 527 S.E.2d at 756. Consequently, the 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 "as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact." S.C. Code Ann. § 1- 23-380(A)(6) (Supp. 2005). Furthermore, an Administrative Law Judge may not reverse or modify an agency's decision unless substantial rights of the Appellant have been prejudiced because the decision is clearly erroneous in view of the substantial evidence on the whole Record, arbitrary or affected by an error of law. See S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A)(6) (Supp. 2005); See also Marietta Garage, Inc. v. South Carolina Dep’t of Public Safety, 337 S.C. 133, 522 S.E.2d 605 (Ct. App. 1999); South Carolina Dep’t of Labor, Licensing and Regulation v. Girgis, 332 S.C. 162, 503 S.E.2d 490 (Ct. App. 1998).

"'Substantial evidence' is not a mere scintilla of evidence nor the evidence viewed blindly from one side of the case, but is evidence which, considering the Record as a whole, would allow reasonable minds to reach the conclusion that the administrative agency reached or must have reached in order to justify its action." Lark v. Bi-Lo, 276 S.C. 130, 135, 276 S.E.2d 304, 306 (1981). Accordingly, the possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent an administrative agency's finding from being supported by substantial evidence. Grant v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 319 S.C. 348, 461 S.E.2d 388 (1995).

Additionally, in Superintendent, Massachusetts Corr. Inst., Walpole v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 105 S. Ct. 2768 (1985), the U.S. Supreme Court held that "the relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board." Moreover, in Al-Shabazz, the Court underscored that since prison officials are in the best position to decide inmate disciplinary matters, the Courts and therefore this tribunal adhere to a "hands off" approach to internal prison disciplinary policies and procedures when reviewing inmate appeals under the APA. Al-Shabazz, 527 S.E.2d at 757; See also Pruitt v. State, 274 S.C. 565, 266 S.E.2d 779 (1980) (stating the traditional "hands off" approach of South Carolina courts regarding internal prison discipline and policy).


Judicial review must be available to determine whether the challenged degree of confinement is within the sentence imposed and is not otherwise violative of the Constitution, or whether prison officials have acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or from personal bias. Al-Shabazz, 527 S.E.2d at 756. The process due an inmate - as well as the level of judicial scrutiny - in a custody status case is further limited by the fact that this matter is not a protected liberty interest within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment. Al-Shabazz, 527 S.E.2d at 757.

There is nothing in the record to indicate that the restricted custody status complained of will affect the duration of Inmate Motts’ sentence or is beyond the sentence imposed; nor is there any indication of any decision of prison officials that is arbitrary, capricious, or resulting from personal bias or prejudice. I find nothing in the record to indicate that there has been an infringement that reaches Constitutional dimensions.

Inmate has been assigned a restrictive custody status at least in part because of an escape charge that is more than thirty years old and concerning which, evidence has evaporated. Moreover, by statute this Court cannot substitute its judgment for that of the Department as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact. See S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380 (A)(6) (Supp. 2005). It is obvious that SCDC chose not to believe Inmate’s self-serving affidavit. This is clearly a case in which the Court must adhere to the “hands off” policy enunciated by Pruitt.


Based on the foregoing,

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Department’s decision in this matter classifying Inmate Motts’ escape charge as a Class I Escape is AFFIRMED.



John D. McLeod

Administrative Law Judge

July 27, 2006

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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