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Baptiste v. Edge

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

May 30, 2019

WAYNE BAPTISTE, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN EDGE, Respondent.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Petitioner Wayne Baptiste (“Baptiste”), who is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Jesup, Georgia, filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2241 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. Doc. 1. Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss, and Baptiste filed a Response. Docs. 8, 11. For the reasons which follow, I RECOMMEND the Court GRANT Respondent's Motion to Dismiss, DENY Baptiste's Petition, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal and CLOSE this case, and DENY Baptiste in forma pauperis status on appeal.

         BACKGROUND

         On June 6, 2000, Baptiste was convicted in the Southern District of Florida of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. Doc. 8-1 at 7. Baptiste was sentenced to 360 months' imprisonment. Id. On October 25, 2017, Baptiste was also convicted in the Eastern District of Arkansas of possession of a prohibited object in prison, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1791(a)(2), and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Id. at 7-8. He has a projected release date of August 16, 2026 via good conduct time release. Id. at 7.

         As a result of disciplinary hearing proceedings based on a Bureau of Prisons' (“BOP”) Code 113 charge for possession of narcotics during his incarceration, Baptiste was sanctioned with the loss of 41 days' good-conduct time, 15 days' disciplinary segregation, and loss of visitation privileges for 180 days. Doc. 1 at 2; Doc. 8-2 at 13-14. Through his Petition, Baptiste challenges the BOP's disciplinary proceedings and resulting sanctions stemming from the Code 113 charge, doc. 1, which are separate from the above-described criminal prosecutions and sentences.

         DISCUSSION

         In his Petition, Baptiste contends his due process rights were violated during the disciplinary proceedings relating to the Code 113 charge in three ways. First, Baptiste asserts he did not receive a copy of the incident report within 24 hours of the charged incident. Doc. 1 at 6-7. Second, Baptiste avers his right to call witnesses for the disciplinary hearing was hindered because he was transferred from the institution where the violation occurred. Baptiste asserts he was told at his new institution-mistakenly-that his witnesses needed to be at the same institution where he was located. Id. at 7. Third, he was required “by rule” to receive a copy of the disciplinary hearing officer's (“DHO”) report within 15 days, yet he did not receive a copy of the DHO report until 4 months later.[1] Id. Baptiste maintains this “intentional lapse” between the issuance of the DHO report and his receipt adversely affected his ability to obtain witness statements and legal counsel for his appeal. Id. As relief, Baptists asks the Court to order the BOP to expunge his incident report and restore his lost good-conduct time. Id. at 8.

         Respondent avers Baptiste failed to exhaust his administrative remedies regarding his contentions he was not allowed to call witnesses and that he did not receive the DHO report on time. Doc. 8 at 3. Additionally, Respondent contends all of Baptiste's due process requirements were met as a result of the disciplinary proceedings. Id. at 5. The Court addresses Respondent's arguments in turn.

         I. Whether Baptiste Exhausted His Administrative Remedies

         A. Legal Requirements for Exhaustion

         The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a § 2241 petitioner's failure to exhaust administrative remedies is not a jurisdictional defect. Santiago-Lugo v. Warden, 785 F.3d 467, 474 (11th Cir. 2015); see also Fleming v. Warden of FCI Tallahassee, 631 Fed.Appx. 840, 842 (11th Cir. 2015) (“[Section] 2241's exhaustion requirement was judicially imposed, not congressionally mandated, and . . . nothing in the statute itself support[s] the conclusion that the requirement [is] jurisdictional.”). Nevertheless, the Eleventh Circuit has noted “that the exhaustion requirement is still a requirement and that courts cannot ‘disregard a failure to exhaust . . . if the respondent properly asserts the defense.'” Fleming, 631 Fed.Appx. at 842 (citing Santiago-Lugo, 785 F.3d at 475). Failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense, and inmates are not required to specially plead or demonstrate exhaustion in their complaint. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007). Additionally, the United States Supreme Court has “held that the PLRA's [“Prison Litigation Reform Act's”] text suggests no limits on an inmate's obligation to exhaust-irrespective of any ‘special circumstances.' And that mandatory language means a court may not excuse a failure to exhaust, even to take such circumstances into account.” Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1856 (2016).

         The requirement that the exhaustion of remedies occur “first in an agency setting allows ‘the agency [to] develop the necessary factual background upon which decisions should be based' and giv[es] ‘the agency a chance to discover and correct its own errors.'” Green v. Sec'y for Dep't of Corr., 212 Fed.Appx. 869, 871 (11th Cir. 2006) (quoting Alexander v. Hawk, 159 F.3d 1321, 1327 (11th Cir. 1998) (first alteration in original)). Furthermore, requiring exhaustion in the prison setting “eliminate[s] unwarranted federal-court interference with the administration of prisons” and allows “corrections officials time and opportunity to address complaints internally before allowing the initiation of a federal case.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 93 (2006).[2]

         The Supreme Court has noted exhaustion must be “proper.” Id. at 92. “Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules because no adjudicative system can function effectively without imposing some orderly structure on the course of its proceedings.” Id. at 90-91. As a result, an institution's requirements define what is considered exhaustion. Jones, 549 U.S. at 218. It is not the role of the court to consider the adequacy or futility of the administrative remedies afforded to the inmate. Higginbottom v. Carter, 223 F.3d 1259, 1261 (11th Cir. 2000). The court's focus should be on what remedies are available and whether the inmate pursued these remedies prior to filing suit. Id.

         Thus, under the law, prisoners must do more than simply initiate grievances; they must also appeal any denial of relief through all levels of review that comprise the agency's administrative grievance process. Bryant v. Rich, 530 F.3d 1368, 1378 (11th Cir. 2008) (“To exhaust administrative remedies in accordance with the PLRA, prisoners must ‘properly take each step within the administrative process.'” (quoting Johnson v. Meadows, 418 F.3d 1152, 1157 (11th Cir. 2005))); Sewell v. Ramsey, No. CV406-159, 2007 WL 201269 (S.D. Ga. Jan. 27, 2007) (finding that a plaintiff who is still awaiting a response from the warden regarding his grievance is still in the process of exhausting his administrative remedies).

         B. Standard of Review for Exhaustion

         “Even though a failure-to-exhaust defense is non-jurisdictional, it is like” a jurisdictional defense because such a determination “ordinarily does not deal with the merits” of a particular cause of action. Bryant, 530 F.3d at 1374 (internal punctuation and citation omitted). Further, a judge “may resolve factual questions” in instances where exhaustion of administrative remedies is a defense before the court. Id. In these instances, “it is proper for a judge to consider facts outside of the pleadings and to resolve ...


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