United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
JACKSON L. KISER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dwayne Baker, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this
petition for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254, challenging administrative decisions in March
and April of 2017 that reduced the rate at which he would
earn good-behavior credit against his state prison sentence.
The petition is presently before me on the respondent's
motion to dismiss and Baker's response thereto. For the
reasons set forth below, I will grant the motion to dismiss.
is in the custody of the Virginia Department of Corrections
("VDOC"), serving a six-year prison term for
aggravated involuntary manslaughter, imposed in December of
2014. In May of 2016, Baker was confined at
Coffeewood Correctional Center ("CWCC") and had
been assigned to Class Level 1 for purposes of accruing
"sentence credit" to reduce his term of
confinement. (Pet. 12, (ECF No. 1]). Baker's ability to
earn sentence credit is governed by Virginia's statutory
scheme titled "Earned Sentence Credits ["ESC"]
for persons Committed Upon Felony Offenses Committed on or
After January 1, 1995." See Va. Code Ann. §§
53.1-202.2 to 53.1-202.4. An ESC-eligible inmate can earn a
maximum of four and one-half "sentence credits" for
each thirty days of his prison sentence that he serves. By
statute, the Board of Corrections establishes "the
criteria upon which a person shall be deemed to have earned
sentence credits." Va. Code Ann. § 53.1-202.4.
According to Baker, VDOC Operating Procedure ("OP")
830.3 provides that an inmate assigned to ESC Class Level 1
is granted the maximum number of sentence credit days for
every thirty days served, while inmates in ESC Class Levels 2
and 3 are granted fewer sentence credit days during that
period, and an inmate in ESC Class Level 4 is granted no
sentence credit days. A "Legal Update" sheet dated
May 13, 2016, projected that if Baker "continued to earn
good time at the present earning level," his "Good
Time Release" date would be November 6, 2019. (Pet. Ex.
7, [ECF No. 1]).
and early 2017, however, Baker incurred nine disciplinary
infractions at CWCC.(Resp. 17, [ECF No. 15]). Baker alleges
that many of these disciplinary charges (and other charges
since) were based on conduct caused by symptoms of his
"Narcolepsy with Cataplexy," a disability, in
violation of the Eighth Amendment (Pet. 8, 22, [ECF No. 1]).
On April 20, 2017, Baker was transferred to Lawrenceville
Correctional Center ("LVCC"). On August 22, 2017,
he received two VDOC documents, dated March 7 and April 19,
2017, stating that institutional classification authority
("ICA") hearings had been conducted, and
recommendations to reduce Baker to ESC Class Level 4 had been
approved. £Pet. Ex. 9, [ECF No. 1]). His disciplinary
infractions in 2016 and early 2017 at CWCC were mentioned as
one reason for the ESC Class Level change. On August 22,
2017, Baker also received a VDOC "Legal Update,"
dated April 13, 2017, showing that he had been reduced to
Class Level 3 on November 28, 2016, and to Class Level 4 on
March 7, 2017. (Pet. Ex. 8, [ECF No. 1]). At ESC Class Level
4, Baker could not earn good conduct time.
April of 2018, Baker filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus in the Supreme Court of Virginia, contending that he
was denied due process during disciplinary proceedings on
many charges, including the nine infractions he incurred at
CWCC. (Mem. Supp. Mot. Dism. Ex. 1, [ECF No. 8-1]). Baker
referred to most of the charges as "false."
Id. In his petition, Baker also raised retaliation
claims and complained of later "false" disciplinary
charges and faulty hearings at LVCC. The Supreme Court of
Virginia dismissed his habeas petition in July of 2018 and
denied his petition for rehearing in October of 2018.
signed and dated his § 2254 petition on December 7,
2018. In it, he alleges these claims:
1. VDOC officials deprived Baker of his liberty interest in
ECS sentence credits without due process in March and April
of 2017 because (a) they failed to provide all required
procedural protections during disciplinary proceedings at
CWCC in 2016 and 2017, and (b) they relied on the wrongfully
obtained disciplinary convictions to reduce Baker to Class
Level 3 and 4;
2. VDOC officials have conspired to retaliate against Baker
for filing grievances and lawsuits by bringing more than
forty false disciplinary charges against him that either
caused the reduction of his Class Level or have since
prevented him from being reclassified to a more favorable
Class Level; and
3. VDOC officials discriminated against Baker, in violation
of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,
because he is a "disabled African-American
Prisoner" who filed grievances.
relief, Baker seeks "[restoration of Earned Sentence
Credits," invalidation of all disciplinary infractions,
and "immediate or speedier release" from
has filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Baker's
claims are untimely filed, without merit, or not cognizable
in a habeas corpus proceeding. Baker has responded, making
the matter ripe for disposition.
one-year period of limitation for filing a habeas petition
under § 2254 begins ...