South Carolina              
Administrative Law Court
Edgar A. Brown building 1205 Pendleton St., Suite 224 Columbia, SC 29201 Voice: (803) 734-0550

SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

James E. McNeil #147700 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

James E. McNeil #147700

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division (ALJD or Division) pursuant to the appeal of James E. McNeil, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections (DOC or Department). McNeil was convicted of violating SCDC Disciplinary Code 2.13, entitled "Refusing or Failing to Obey Orders." As a result of his conviction, McNeil lost 60 days of "good-time" credit. McNeil filed a grievance with the Department and received the Department's final decision on November 17, 2000. On November, 30, 2000, McNeil filed this appeal.


On August 30, 2000, DOC employee Officer Canty placed the Appellant in handcuffs. After Officer Canty cuffed the Appellant, McNeil stated that he was "going to keep" the cuffs. The Appellant then removed the cuffs from one hand. At that point, Officer Canty gave the Appellant several orders to return the cuffs. The Appellant refused to obey Officer Canty's orders. After the incident, Officer Canty completed an Incident Report and submitted it to his supervisor. The Appellant was charged with violating SCDC Disciplinary Code 2.13, Refusing or Failing to Obey Orders. He received written notice of the charges on August 31, 2000.

On September 7, 2000, the Appellant was brought before a DOC Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) to face the "Refusing or Failing to Obey Orders" charge in a major disciplinary hearing. At the Appellant's request, he was represented by counsel substitute during the hearing. Additionally, at the Appellant's request, Officer Canty was present at the hearing. During the hearing, the DHO read a narrative of Officer Canty's Incident Report into the Record and received testimony from those involved in the incident as evidence. At the conclusion of the hearing, the DHO found the Appellant guilty of "Refusing or Failing to Obey Orders" and sanctioned him with the loss of 60 days of good-time credit. After the hearing, the DHO completed a Major Disciplinary Report and Hearing Record which documented the DHO's findings.

The Appellant filed a grievance on September 15, 2000, appealing his conviction of violating SCDC 2.13. After reviewing his allegation, the Warden denied the Appellant's grievance on September 26, 2000, finding that there were no procedural errors in the offense charged or his hearing. He appealed the warden's decision on September 30, 2000. The Department denied his grievance, stating that the evidence supported the conviction and that the sanction imposed was appropriate for the violation that the Appellant committed. This appeal followed.

In his Appeal Brief, the Appellant alleges the charging officer did not "write-up" or falsified the incident report in accordance with SCDC policy. (1)


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 McNeil v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 00-ALJ-04-00336-AP (September 5, 2001), the Division issued an En Banc Order interpreting the breadth of its jurisdiction pursuant to Al-Shabazz. The decision holds that the Division's appellate jurisdiction in inmate appeals is limited to two types of cases: (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 the Department has taken an inmate's created liberty interest as punishment in a major disciplinary hearing.

In this case, the Appellant alleges that the Department improperly revoked 60 days of good time. Inmates have a protected liberty interest in their earned statutory good-time credits under the Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore, when, as here, the Department revokes an inmate's good-time credits as punishment in "major disciplinary hearings" involving "more serious rule violations," prison officials must provide that inmate with "minimal due process." Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 370, 527 S.E.2d at 750. Consequently, specific administrative procedures must be followed before depriving an inmate of statutorily granted earned credit, 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).

In Al-Shabazz, the Court held that inmates may seek review before this Division to ensure that the Department's revocation of good-time credits as punishment in "major disciplinary hearings" involving "more serious rule violations" comport with "minimal due process." The ALJD inquiry into these matters is primarily concerned with ensuring that the Department has granted aggrieved inmates the process they are due when their constitutional rights are implicated. Id. When reviewing the Department's decisions in inmate grievance matters, the ALJD sits in an appellate capacity. Al-Shabazz Consequently, the review in these inmate grievance cases is limited to the record presented. Furthermore, an Administrative Law Judge may not substitute his judgment for that of an agency unless the agency's determination is arbitrary, 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. § 1-23-380(A)(6) (1986 & Supp. 2001); Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 380, 527 S.E.2d at 756. "'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, 276 S.E.2d 304 (1981). Furthermore, 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 Correctional Institution, 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 Division adhere to a "hands off" approach to internal prison disciplinary policies and procedures when reviewing inmate appeals under the APA. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 382, 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).

I find that the Appellant was afforded all process due him pursuant to Al-Shabazz. The Record indicates that the Appellant received written notice of the charges against him in excess of 24 hours prior to a hearing that was held before an impartial Disciplinary Hearing Officer. At the hearing, the Appellant was given the opportunity to offer evidence, call witnesses, and confront his accuser. In addition, although not constitutionally required, the Appellant was afforded a counsel substitute to assist him in his defense. After the DHO determined that the Appellant was guilty of the charged offense, he prepared a written report detailing the evidence he relied upon and the penalty assessed in finding the Appellant guilty of the disciplinary infraction. Finally, the Appellant was permitted to appeal the DHO's decision through the inmate grievance process.

Moreover, I find that there is substantial evidence to support the Appellant's conviction of violating SCDC Disciplinary Code 2.13, Refusing or Failing to Obey Orders. Code 2.13 sets forth: "Noncompliance with a legitimate order from an SCDC employee. . . ." The record clearly supports the facts recited in the "Background" portion of this Order. Those facts expressly establish the Appellant failed to comply with a legitimate order of an SCDC officer.


IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the appeal of the Appellant is DISMISSED and the Final Decision of the Department is AFFIRMED;



Ralph K. Anderson, III

Administrative Law Judge

September 26, 2002

Columbia, South Carolina

1. The Appellant contends that his hearing was not held before an impartial hearing officer. The Appellant also alleges this case was informally resolved by the supervisor on duty and therefore this case should not have proceeded to a disciplinary hearing. These arguments were not raised below. An inmate cannot sit silently during a hearing, raising no objections, and then raise issues such as these for the first time on appeal. See Kiawah Resort Associates v. South Carolina Tax Com'n, 318 S.C. 502, 458 S.E.2d 542 (1995) (In reviewing a final decision of an administrative agency, the Administrative Law Judge "has a limited scope of review, and cannot ordinarily consider issues that were not raised to and ruled on by the administrative agency."). Therefore, these arguments will not be considered. Morever, I find that he failed to establish that his hearing officer was not impartial or that he was improperly charged.

Brown Bldg.






Copyright © 2022 South Carolina Administrative Law Court