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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Wiley G. Ouzts vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Wiley G. Ouzts

South Carolina Department of Corrections



Grievance No. Lieber-0373-00

I. Introduction

In this Motion to Dismiss, South Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC) asserts that the appeal by Wiley G. Ouzts (Ouzts) must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction since Ouzts seeks a review of a DOC decision on an issue for which no grievance is available. The motion is granted.

II. Analysis

Appellate jurisdiction is available in the ALJD when an inmate seeks a review of a DOC "final decision in an administrative matter (1) under the APA." Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. 354, 369, 527 S.E.2d 742, 750 (2000). Thus, to obtain an ALJD review, the inmate must establish that DOC made a final decision and that the decision is one "under the APA." Here, no review is available since the DOC decision is not one "under the APA."

An agency decision is "under the APA" if the decision results from a contested case proceeding. SeeTriska v. Dep't of Health and Environmental Control, 292 S.C. 190, 355 S.E.2d 531 (1987) (where the APA did not apply since the lack of a requirement for a hearing prohibited the existence of a contested case). Thus, a contested case proceeding arises only from a proceeding in which the legal rights, duties, or privileges of a party are required by law to be determined by an agency after an opportunity for hearing (emphasis added). Id.; S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-310(3).

Here, the inmate's challenge is to his housing assignment. For such challenges, no hearing is "required by law." For instance, no law in the form of a regulation or statute requires DOC to grant a hearing. Likewise, no "law" within DOC grants a hearing since DOC's administrative policy designates such challenges as non-grievable. See GA-1.12 (room or housing assignments are non-grievable). Finally, no due process right entitles Ouzts to a hearing within the meaning of a contested case.

Certainly, as to due process, some doubt exists on whether the federal constitutional requirements or the requirements of Art. 1, § 22 , S.C. Constitution, can supply the hearing "required by law" for a contested case. See Ogburn-Matthews v. Loblolly Partners, 332 S.C. 551, 505 S.E.2d 598 (Ct. App. 1998) (there the issue was unanswered on whether a party's due process rights to notice and the opportunity to be heard can create a hearing required by law so as to make the process a contested case). However, that issue need not be answered since no due process right to a hearing exists here.

A due process, constitutional right to a hearing is grounded upon a showing that an inmate's liberty interest has been impacted. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974). A liberty interest is impacted if the complained of action "imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995). Here, Ouzts complains of his housing assignment. Such a challenge does not demonstrate that DOC has imposed atypical and significant hardship on Ouzts. Rather, such is a normal part of prison life.

Accordingly, Ouzts is not entitled to a hearing and no contested case decision was rendered by DOC. Thus, no ALJD appellate review can be made.

III. Order

The motion is GRANTED and this matter is ended.




Administrative Law Judge

Dated: April 3, 2001

Columbia, South Carolina

1. While the unrestricted phrase "administrative matter" could lead one to conclude an appeal is available in all administrative matters, such is not the case. Rather, Al-Shabazz v. State specifically limits appeals to those matters in which the inmate "challenges a disciplinary outcome, calculation of sentence-related credits, custody status, or other condition of imprisonment." Al-Shabazz v. State at 338 S.C. at 375 and 376.

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