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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Bernard Taylor, #256602 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Bernard Taylor, #256602

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division ("Division") pursuant to the appeal of Bernard Taylor, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections ("Department"). On January 10, 2001, Taylor was convicted of violating SCDC Disciplinary Code 1.04, Threatening to Inflict Harm on an Employee and/or Members of the Public. As a result of his conviction, Taylor lost 90 days of "good-time" credit and received 30 days cube confinement, confiscation of his television and radio and canteen restriction. Taylor filed a grievance with the Department and received the Department's final decision on April 11, 2001. On April 13, 2001, Taylor filed this appeal.


On December 31, 2000, Officer Trinadell Stroman was assigned to Birch Unit 2. Taylor entered her office and asked to speak with another inmate. Office Stroman informed Taylor to hold on and she would get him. Taylor used profane and vulgar language. Officer Stroman requested Taylor's identification badge. Taylor approached Office Stroman in a threatening manner and stated that he would harm her if he saw her on the street.

After the incident, Office Smith completed an Incident Report and submitted it to her supervisor. Taylor was charged with violating SCDC Disciplinary Code 1.04, Threatening to Inflict Harm on an Employee and/or Members of the Public. Taylor received written notice of the charges on January 8, 2001. The hearing was held on January 10, 2001, before a Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO"). Taylor's accuser was present at the hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, the DHO informed Taylor that he had been found guilty of the charges and would be sanctioned with the lost 90 days of "good-time" credit and 30 days cube confinement, confiscation of his television, and radio, and canteen restriction. After the hearing, the DHO completed a Major Disciplinary Report and Hearing Record ("Hearing Record"), which documented the DHO's findings based on the officer's Report and the statements in the hearing that he did threaten her. Finally, the Hearing Record reflects that Taylor lost 90 days of "good-time" credit and received 30 days cube confinement, confiscation of property and canteen restriction as a result of the conviction.

Taylor filed a grievance on January 16, 2001, appealing his conviction. On March 7, 2001, the Warden denied his grievance, finding credible evidence of Taylor's guilt. On March 20, 2001, Taylor 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). On September 5, 2001, the Division issued an En Banc Order in McNeil v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 00-ALJ-04-00336-AP (September 5, 2001), 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, Inmate Taylor lost 90 days of good time after he was convicted of a prison disciplinary infraction. As such, I find that this tribunal has jurisdiction to hear Inmate Taylor's appeal.

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. § 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 Taylor was afforded all process due him pursuant to Al-Shabazz. The Record indicates that Taylor was given written notice of the charges in excess of 24 hours prior to his hearing before an impartial hearing officer. In addition, although not constitutionally required, Taylor was afforded counsel substitute to assist him in his defense. Further, Taylor was given the opportunity to offer evidence and witnesses. Taylor's accuser was present at hearing and testified that Taylor had threatened her. The DHO prepared a written report detailing the evidence he relied upon and the penalty assessed in finding Taylor guilty of the disciplinary infraction. Finally, Taylor was permitted to appeal the DHO's decision through the inmate grievance process. Taylor alleges that the Department's employee violated procedures by failing, inter alia, to attempt to resolve the matter informally, verbal reprimand, instructions, or directives. However, Taylor failed to raise these issues during his hearing. Moreover, Taylor must accept that every failure of the Department to follow its own policies and procedures, whether deliberate or inadvertent, is not a violation of due process. Only if the Department's failure adversely affects an inmate's life, liberty, or property right is an inmate's right of due process implicated. Taylor failed to offer any evidence that the Department's alleged failure to follow the procedures adversely affected his liberty interests. Taylor also alleges that Officer Stroman failed to tell the truth in her testimony. However, the credibility of the witnesses is best left to the judgment of the hearing officer who is in a position to observe the witness and the witness's demeanor. Finally, in the conclusion of his Brief, Taylor asserts if he did or said anything wrong, it was because he was under a lot of mental stress. However, I cannot find that such stress as may existed warrants reversal of the Department's's decision. Accordingly, the Department's final decision is affirmed.


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





November 26, 2001

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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