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Matty v. Maine Department of Corrections

Superior Court of Maine, Kennebec

November 3, 2016

DANIEL E. MUTTY, Petitioner
v.
MAINE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Respondent

          DECISION AND ORDER

          William R. Stokes Justice.

         The matter before the court is an appeal by Daniel Mutty, an inmate at the Maine State Prison, from a disciplinary proceeding (MSP-2015-1423) that resulted in the imposition of sanctions against him. This appeal has been brought in accordance with 5 M.R.S. §11001-11008 (Administrative Procedure Act) and M.R.Civ.P. 80C.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In a disciplinary incident report dated September 14, 2015, Ofc. Staples charged the Petitioner with the following violations of the prison's disciplinary policy: (1) "Disturbance" (Class B);[1] (2) "Order, Refusing To Obey" (Class C);[2] (3) "Provocation" (Class C), [3] and; (4) "Tattooing" (Class A).[4] See Policy 20, 1, Section VI, Procedure E. See also page 22 of Policy 20.1 (all violations "include the planning of, attempt of, and/or participation as an accessory in the violation.")- The alleged violations related to an incident that occurred between Ofc. Staples and the Petitioner on the date the report was prepared while the officer addressed the Petitioner in the Close B dayroom. The report described the encounter as follows:

On the above date and time inmate Mutty was asked if both tattoo's on his shinns [sic] were new or If they were on his books.[5] Inmate stated "You go fucking find out, " I told inmate to stand up as he was sitting in the dayroom during a Facility search. I took custody of Inmate Mutty's left arm and he continued to push against me fighting against the escort. I changed my escort to a transportation escort and escorted prisoner Mutty along with additional SOG Operators to Close-C pod. Prisoner has been placed on BOS for his behavior and actions.

         The incident report contained a notation of September 15, 2015 that Ofc. Parsons documented the existence of physical evidence consisting of: "Photos of I/M Mutty and undocumented tattoos.'1 On September 17, 2015 the Petitioner made the following written statement is response to the write-up:

No conduct in write up alleging tattooing, the statement I have been alleged to have made I did not, I said: "I don't know you tell me, " No evidence in write up supporting Disturbance or Order, Refusing to Obey, or Provocation, officer never signed write-up.

         On September 18, 2015 the Petitioner was notified that his disciplinary hearing would be held on September 23, 2015. The Petitioner indicated that he wished to call Ofc. Staples and "other CO who EOS, " presumably a reference to the other correctional officer(s) who assisted in escorting the Petitioner to EOS (Emergency Status Observation), The hearing was actually held on October 6, 2015, Sometime prior to the hearing the Petitioner wrote to the Deputy Warden asking that a hearing officer other than Capt Abbott be assigned to his hearing, The Petitioner was instructed to address his request to the hearing officer at the time of the hearing. From the administrative record provided to the court, it appears that the Petitioner did renew his request, which was denied,

         The Petitioner submitted a 3-page handwritten statement at the hearing, in which he repeated his earlier claims that the charges against him were unsupported by any evidence. He also requested that Ofc. Staples be called as a witness, as well as the other SOG members as "it's the prisoner's belief their testimony will corroborate the facts presented here by the prisoner." The Petitioner also requested "that the recording which documented the entire alleged situation be reviewed, and that Officer Staples be called who wore a camera on his shoulder that captured the incident, which will evidence the statement the reporting officer alleges 'You go fucking find out' is a false statement by this officer."

         In the Summary of Hearing the hearing officer documented the following as the Petitioner's statement: "I am requesting a different chairman because I have several lawsuits against you, I am not guilty. i did not push back on the staff and I did not make the statements that are in the record." Ofc. Staples apparently testified by telephone and his testimony was summarized as follows; "Ofc, Staples said that this prisoner did make statements that had profanity in it and did push hack on his and the other staff while escorting this prisoner." The hearing officer made no reference to any other witness or any video recording. The Petitioner was found guilty of all offenses "based on the staff report and the photo of the tattoos." The hearing officer recommended a variety of dispositions for each violation, but the net effect of the proposed discipline was: 60 days of disciplinary restriction, 50 days loss of good time and a $100 monetary sanction.

         The Petitioner filed a timely appeal, which was denied by the designee of the Chief Administrative Officer on October 19, 2015, The Petition for Judicial Review of Final Agency Action was filed in this court on November 4, 2015,

         DISCUSSION

         The Law Court has frequently reaffirmed the principle that judicial review of administrative agency decisions is "deferential and limited." Passadamkeag Mountain Friends v, Bd. of Envti Prot, 2014 ME 116, ¶ 12, 102 A, 3d 1181 (quoting Friends of Lincoln Lakes v. Bd of Envtl Prot, 2010 ME 18, ¶ 12, 989 A, 2d 1128). The court is not permitted to overturn an agency's decision "unless it: violates the Constitution or statutes; exceeds the agency's authority; is procedurally unlawful; is arbitrary or capricious; constitutes an abuse of discretion; is affected by bias or error of law; or is unsupported by the evidence in the record." Kroger v Departmental of Environmental Protection* 2005 ME. 50, ¶ 7, 870 A.2d 566. The party seeking to vacate a state agency decision has the burden of persuasion on appeal, Anderson v Maine Public Employees Retirement System, 2009 ME. 134, ¶ 3, 985 A, 2d 501. In particular, a party seeking to overturn an agency's decision bears the burden of showing that "no competent evidence" supports it. Stein v, Me, Crim. Justice Academy, 2014 ME 82, ¶ 11, 95 A.3d 612,

         This court must examine "the entire record to determine whether, on the basis of all the testimony and exhibits before it, the agency could fairly and reasonably find the facts as it did." Friends of Lincoln Lake v Board of Environmental. Protection,2001 ME. 18 ¶13, 989 A.2d 1128. The court may not substitute its judgment for that of the agency's on questions of fact, 5 M.R.S. § 11007(3), Determinations of the believability or credibility of the witnesses and evidence, supported by substantial evidence in the record, should not be disturbed by this court. Cotton v Maine Employment Security Commission,431 A.2d 637, 640 (Me. 1981). The issue is not whether the court would have reached the same result the agency did, but whether the "record contains competent and substantial evidence that supports the result ...


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