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Administrative Law Court
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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Tommy Stuckey #231122 vs. DOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Tommy Stuckey #231122

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter is before the Administrative Law Court (ALC or Court) Footnote pursuant to the appeal of Tommy Stuckey, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections (Department). Stuckey was convicted of violating SCDC Disciplinary Code 2.09, Sexual Misconduct. As a result of his conviction, Stuckey lost ninety (90) days of “good-time” credit. Stuckey filed a grievance with the Department and received the Department’s final decision on March 17, 2004. On March 22, 2004, Stuckey filed this appeal.


On December 13, 2003, Sergeant Elie entered the family visiting center of Wateree Correction Institution and observed the Appellant’s visitor with her hands inside the Appellant’s pants stroking his penis. After the incident, Sergeant Elie completed an Incident Report charging the Appellant with violating SCDC Disciplinary Code 2.09, Sexual Misconduct. The Appellant received written notice of the charges on December 16, 2003.

On December 18, 2003, a Major Disciplinary Hearing was held before a Department Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) concerning the Sexual Misconduct charge. At the Appellant’s request, he was provided a counsel substitute. Additionally, at his request, Sergeant Elie was present at the hearing. During the hearing, the DHO read a narrative of Sergeant Elie’s Incident Report into the Record and received testimony from the Appellant, Captain Boggs and Sergeant Elie as evidence. At the conclusion of the hearing, the DHO found the Appellant guilty of Sexual Misconduct and sanctioned him with the loss of ninety (90) 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 appealing his conviction of violating SCDC Disciplinary Code 2.09. After reviewing his allegation, the Warden denied the Appellant’s grievance. He appealed the Warden’s decision asking that the Department reverse his loss of “good-time” credits. 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 that:

1.His due process rights were violated;

2.The DHO failed to order a polygraph test for the Appellant, his wife and Sergeant Elie;

3.He was not given sufficient time to confer with his counsel substitute;

4.His counsel substitute failed to request a continuance Footnote ; and

5.The DHO incorrectly evaluated the evidence.


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. Footnote

When reviewing the Department’s decisions in inmate grievance matters, the Court sits in an appellate capacity. Al-Shabazz 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) (1986 & Supp. 2002). 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); See also Marietta Garage, Inc. v. South Carolina Dept. of Public Safety, 337 S.C. 133, 522 S.E.2d 605 (1999); South Carolina Dept. of Labor, Licensing and Regulation v. Girgis, 332 S.C. 162, 503 S.E.2d 490 (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). Further, 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 tribunal adhere to a “hands off” approach to internal prison disciplinary policies and procedures when reviewing inmate appeals under the APA. Al-Shabazz 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).

In this case, the Appellant alleges that the Department should not have revoked his accrued 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 a “major disciplinary hearing” 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).


Due Process

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 twenty-four (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. Footnote In addition, although not constitutionally required, the Appellant was afforded a counsel substitute who assisted him in his defense. Footnote 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.

Substantial Evidence

I also find that there is substantial evidence to support the Appellant's conviction of violating SCDC Disciplinary Code 2.09, Sexual Misconduct. In evaluating the evidence presented at the hearing, “[t]he fact finder is imbued with broad discretion in determining credibility or believability of witnesses.” Small v. Pioneer Machinery, Inc., 329 S.C. 448, 465, 494 S.E.2d 835, 843 (1998). A Code 2.09 violation is: “Engaging in sexual acts with others, engaging in sexual acts or wilful exposure of private body parts in public, or soliciting sexual acts from other, or homosexual conduct involving physical contact (i.e., kissing).” Here, the Record clearly supports the facts recited in the “Background” portion of this Order. Those facts establish sufficient evidence that the Appellant was engaging in a sexual act. Consequently, the Record establishes substantial evidence that the Appellant violated Code 2.09.


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 3, 2004

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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