BRIGGS (LEONDRUS) VS. DOOM (NANCY), JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY CABINET; ROBERT HENNING, JUSTICE & PUBLIC SAFETY CABINETAnnotate this Case
RENDERED: FEBRUARY 13, 2009; 2:00 P.M.
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
Commonwealth of Kentucky
Court of Appeals
APPEAL FROM MUHLENBERG CIRCUIT COURT
HONORABLE DAVID H. JERNIGAN, JUDGE
ACTION NO. 07-CI-00717
NANCY DOOM, JUSTICE & PUBLIC SAFETY
CABINET; ROBERT HENNING, JUSTICE &
PUBLIC SAFETY CABINET
** ** ** ** **
BEFORE: CLAYTON, LAMBERT, AND WINE, JUDGES.
WINE, JUDGE: Leondrus Briggs is an inmate at Green River Correctional
Complex (GRCC). Following a search of his cell, Briggs was charged with
“concealing an item that punctures or penetrates the skin of an employee
conducting a search,” in violation of the institutional rules of the facility. The
matter was submitted to a disciplinary adjustment hearing on July 17, 2007.
Briggs admits that he received notice of the hearing and the charge, and that he
was provided with an inmate legal aide to assist his defense.
After being advised of his right not to testify, Briggs declined to give
a statement to the hearing officer. The hearing officer then considered the
evidence, which consisted of four items. First, there was the report of Officer
Joshua Bidwell, who conducted the search of Briggs’ cell. In the report, Officer
While searching the left desk locker which belongs to
Inmate Briggs I run my hand around the top lid and felt
what seemed to be a prick on my right index finger. I
looked closer and observed two altered batteries and two
pieces of burnt wire[.] I finished the cell search[,] went
to the Officer’s desk and took off my latex gloves[,] I
noticed a small cut on my finger.
The hearing officer also considered a photograph of Officer Bidwell’s
cut finger, a photograph of the batteries and wire which caused the cut, and a letter
from Briggs to another inmate in which he admitted that the batteries and wire
were his. Based on this evidence, the hearing officer found Briggs guilty of the
violation. As punishment for the offense, the hearing officer imposed one year of
disciplinary segregation and the loss of four years of non-restorable good time
Briggs appealed the hearing officer’s decision to GRCC Warden
Nancy Doom, who denied the appeal on August 14, 2007. Briggs then filed a
declaratory judgment action in the Muhlenberg Circuit Court challenging the
adjudication of guilt and the penalty. After considering Briggs’ petition and the
warden’s response, the circuit court denied the request for declaratory relief. This
A prison disciplinary hearing where an inmate's good time credit is at
risk must comply with procedural due process of law. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418
U.S. 539, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 2975, 41 L.Ed.2d 935 (1974). However, “[p]rison
disciplinary proceedings are not part of a criminal prosecution, and the full panoply
of rights due a defendant in such proceedings does not apply.” Stanford v. Parker,
949 S.W.2d 616, 617 (Ky. App. 1996), quoting Wolff, at 556, 94 S.Ct. at 2975. At
a minimum, the prisoner is entitled to written notice of the charges, the opportunity
to present evidence in his defense, and a report by the committee of its reasoning
and conclusions. Wolff, at 564-66, 94 S.Ct. at 2978-80. Furthermore, due process
requires that the committee's decision be supported by some evidence in the record.
Smith v. O'Dea, 939 S.W.2d 353, 356 (Ky. App. 1997), citing Superintendent,
Massachusetts Correctional Institution, Walpole v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454, 105
S.Ct. 2768, 2773, 86 L.Ed.2d 356 (1985).
Briggs challenges the prison disciplinary proceeding on three grounds.
First, he argues that the photographs introduced at his hearing were not
authenticated. But while the photographs were not formally authenticated, they
were corroborated by Officer Bidwell’s report. Moreover, even discounting the
photographs, the other evidence of record was sufficient to support the hearing
officer’s finding. Thus, Briggs suffered no prejudice even if the photographs were
not sufficiently authenticated.
Second, Briggs argues that he was deprived of an opportunity to
present a defense at the hearing, and Briggs contends that the hearing officer
refused to allow his inmate legal aide to present a defense after he exercised his
right to remain silent. However, Briggs does not claim that he had any evidence or
witnesses that he was not permitted to present at the hearing. Thus, he cannot
show that he was prejudiced as a result of the hearing officer’s decision.
Finally, Briggs asserts that he was deprived of his right to adequate
assistance by an inmate legal aide on the appeal to the warden. He correctly notes
that he was entitled to the assistance of an inmate legal aide under Corrections
Policy and Procedure (CPP) § 15.6. Briggs contends that the inmate legal aide
assigned to him for the institutional appeal failed to preserve his objections to the
introduction of the photographs or to the conduct of the adjustment hearing.
We find that Briggs has failed to identify a due process violation. Due
process does not require the appointment of counsel in the prison disciplinary
context. Wolff, at 569-71, 94 S.Ct. 2981-82. Thus, any right to assistance by an
inmate legal aide arises under the CPP. Briggs admits that he was assisted by legal
aides at the adjustment hearing and on the institutional appeal. While Briggs
complains about the assistance he received from the legal aides, we have already
found that the hearing officer’s decision was supported by some evidence of record
and that Briggs received all the due process to which he was entitled.
Consequently, we can find no due process violation arising from the assistance
which Briggs received from the inmate legal aides.
Accordingly, the order of the Muhlenberg Circuit Court denying
Briggs’ request for declaratory relief is affirmed.
BRIEF FOR APPELLANT:
BRIEF FOR APPELLEE:
Leondrus Briggs, pro se
Kentucky State Penitentiary
Brenn O. Combs
Kentucky Justice & Public Safety