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

Chris Blackwood, #213015 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Chris Blackwood, #213015

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division ("Division") pursuant to the appeal of Chris Blackwood, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections ("Department"). On February 1, 2001, Blackwood was convicted of Damage, Loss, Destruction or Defacing of Property With a Value of $50.00 or More (2.07). As a result of his conviction, Blackwood lost 30 days of good-time credit. Blackwood filed a grievance with the Department on February 5, 2001, and received the Department's final decision on March 23, 2001. After receiving the Department's final decision, Blackwood filed his appeal on April 19, 2001.

In his Brief, Blackwood asserts that his disciplinary hearing did not comport with the requirements of due process; the Designated Hearing Officer (DHO) was not impartial; he was denied the right to call witnesses and present documentary evidence; the DHO failed to follow and abide by the rules and regulations established in the SCDC Policy OP22.14; the DHO abused his powers and discretion; and the accuser gave false, erroneous and perjured testimony with wilful intent to arbitrarily and capriciously cause Blackwood malicious harm through the inmate disciplinary board.

The Department in its brief (1) has failed to adequately address the issues raised by Blackwood. Blackwood alleges that the DHO could not have been impartial because he brutally beat Blackwood in the past and was subsequently suspended without pay as a result of a grievance filed by Blackwood. Because its brief was filed with the Record, the Department did not respond in its brief to this serious allegation. In addition, in his brief Blackwood alleges a litany of other procedural errors that have elicited no response from the Department. Further, although the Department refers to a Major Disciplinary Report and Hearing Record in its brief, it did not include one in the record filed by it. (2) Further, the Department has provided no Department reports, investigations, or other documents generated as a result of the incident resulting in the charges being filed against Blackwood. The Department's Record consists only of a transcript of Blackwood's disciplinary hearing, Blackwood's Step 1 and Step 2 grievance forms with attachments, and a copy of SCDC Policy 22.14, Inmate Disciplinary System dated February 15, 2000.II. 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.

Blackwood lost 30 days of good time after he was convicted of the prison disciplinary infraction. As such, I find that this tribunal has jurisdiction to hear Blackwood'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).

In this case, there is not sufficient information upon which this tribunal can rely to find that Blackwood was afforded due process before the Department sanctioned him with the loss of 30 days of good time. The Record as filed by the Department is incomplete. There are allegations contained in Blackwood's Brief that raise serious issues, including the DHO's lack of impartiality, which have not been responded to by the Department. (3) Based on the lack of an adequate response by the Department, the manner and substance of the questioning of the accusing officer by the DHO, and the failure to furnish a complete Record, this case is REMANDED to the Department to conduct a contested case hearing pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act, in which the Department shall provide Blackwood with at least 24 hours' notice of the charges against him; shall afford Blackwood counsel substitute if necessary; shall afford Blackwood the opportunity to present witnesses and evidence on his own behalf; and shall prepare a written record of the hearing detailing the charges, the evidence that an impartial hearing officer relied upon in making a decision, and the imposed sanction and its justification.


IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Department must conduct a contested case hearing on the charges stemming from Blackwood's alleged destruction of property pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act.





December 4, 2001

Columbia, South Carolina

1. The Department filed its brief before Blackwood, thereby making it difficult, if not impossible, for the Department to adequately respond to the issues raised by Blackwood.

2. Blackwood attached a copy of the Report to his brief.

3. There is support in the transcript for Blackwood's allegation of lack of impartiality on the part of the DHO. For example, on page 7 and 8, the DHO asked the accusing officer leading questions going to the very essence of the charges against Blackwood. In one such question, the DHO actually told the officer what his testimony was, stating "it is your testimony that he destroyed the camera?" Based on the transcript therefore, it appears that the DHO took on the role of prosecutor as well as adjudicator.

Brown Bldg.






Copyright © 2022 South Carolina Administrative Law Court