assaulting a fellow inmate, was reversed on administrative appeal. Williams, slip op. at 7-8. Thus, as in Young and Williams, because Ryan's decision was ultimately reversed on administrative appeal, Sowell received all the due process protection required by law. Accord Harper, 938 F.2d at 105.
There is one facet of this case that arguably distinguishes it factually from Young. In Young the inmate plaintiff never served a day of the sentence imposed at the disciplinary hearing. Sowell, on the other hand, was confined to the SHU for almost five months while two administrative appeals were pending. However, the simple fact that Sowell was confined to the SHU during the pendency of his appeal is not dispositive, and does not command a contrary result. See Williams, slip op. at 8. But see Moore v. Scully, No. 90-3817 MEL, 1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16417, 1992 WL 322018 (S.D.N.Y. October 28, 1992) (disagreeing with Williams).
First of all, Sowell had pleaded guilty to one of the charges - refusing to obey a direct order - and he could have been confined based on that admission. New York State's Codes, Rules and Regulations ("N.Y.C.R.R.") provide that where an inmate admits to the charges at a Tier III hearing, the hearing officer may impose a penalty of confinement to SHU. 7 N.Y.C.R.R. § 254.7(a)(1)(iii).
Therefore, after the first hearing, Sowell's status differed from other inmates in that he had pleaded guilty to violating a prison rule.
But even if Sowell had not admitted guilt on one of the charges, I believe that the decision in Young bars plaintiff's action for damages.
In Young, the Court of Appeals held that an administrative reversal "cures" any procedural defect that may have occurred at the disciplinary hearing. Young, 970 F.2d at 1156. I understand "cures" to mean that even if a due process violation occurred at the hearing, there is no cause of action under section 1983 on the basis of that violation, because the inmate ultimately received the due process owed him under the law. The inmate was able to vindicate his hearing rights by means of the administrative appeal afforded to him. Whether the prisoner was confined during the appeal process is wholly irrelevant to this analysis. Therefore, Sowell has no cause of action for alleged due process violations that Ryan may have committed at the disciplinary hearing.
Confinement in SHU may constitute the alleged damage suffered by Sowell but before "damages" can be considered, there must be a finding that he suffered a due process violation. The extensive appellate procedure available to Sowell resulted in his vindication. He did not suffer from a denial of due process; rather the process afforded to him ultimately vindicated his rights and resulted in the charges being abandoned and dismissed.
The fact that it took some time to vindicate these rights while Sowell prosecuted his appeal and the fact that he remained confined during that process is unfortunate, but some delay caused by the litigation process is certainly not unique to prisoner litigation. Litigation is rarely resolved in a day.
In this case, plaintiff's appeals were handled within the time-frame established by regulation. Section 254.8 of Title 7 of the N.Y.C.R.R. provides that any "inmate shall have the right to appeal the disposition of any superintendent's hearing, to which he was a party, to the commissioner within 30 days of receipt of the disposition. The commissioner or his designee shall issue a decision within 60 days of receipt of the appeal." 7 N.Y.C.R.R. § 254.8. Both administrative reversals were rendered within 60 days of receipt of the appeal.
Furthermore, New York State has not created a liberty interest in remaining out of SHU following a determination of guilt pending completion of the administrative appeal process. In fact, applicable regulations provide the contrary. The N.Y.C.R.R. provides that an inmate may be admitted to the SHU after "disposition of Superintendent's (Tier III) Hearing for a designated period of time as specified by the hearing officer (7 N.Y.C.R.R. 254.7)," N.Y.C.R.R. § 301.2(a). Cf. 7 N.Y.C.R.R. § 301.3(a)(1) (inmate who is awaiting determination of a superintendent's hearing may be admitted to SHU under detention admission).
Sowell has offered no evidence to suggest that prison officials abused their discretion in confining him in the SHU during the hearing and appeal process. "'Prison administrators . . . should be accorded wide-ranging deference in the adoption and execution of policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security.'" Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 472, 74 L. Ed. 2d 675, 103 S. Ct. 864 (1983) (quoting Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 547, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861 (1979)) (alterations in original). Here, Sowell was charged with assault and inciting a riot, and he had already pleaded guilty to refusing to obey a direct order. As such, it was within the discretion of prison officials to believe that Sowell was a threat to the safety and security of the facility and to confine him in the SHU during the hearing and appeal process.
See Williams, slip op. at 8.
For the reasons set forth above, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied, defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted, and the action is dismissed.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DAVID G. LARIMER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: Rochester, New York
December 11, 1992.