Miguel Angel Seda v. Danny Samuel
Order Summarily Dismissing Petition for Lack of Jurisdiction by Judge Virginia A. Phillips, The Petition is DISMISSED without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction. A certificate of appealability will not issue because there has not been a showing t hat "reasonable jurists could debate whether (or, for that matter, agree that) the petition should have been resolved in a different manner or that the issues presented were adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further." Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000). (es)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
MIGUEL ANGEL SEDA,
Case No. CV 22-01440-VAP (DFM)
Order Summarily Dismissing Petition
for Lack of Jurisdiction
In February 2022, Petitioner Miguel Angel Seda, a state prisoner, filed a
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See Dkt. 1. He
alleges that he is a nonviolent offender who has been wrongly denied the early
parole consideration required under California’s Proposition 57. See id. at 4-5.
In 2002, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury convicted Petitioner
of three counts of first-degree residential burglary, one count of attempted
second-degree burglary, and one count of assault with a deadly weapon by
force likely to produce great bodily injury on a peace officer. See id. at 2. The
trial court sentenced Petitioner under California’s Three Strikes Law to a total
term of 110 years to life. See id.
In 2016, California voters passed Proposition 57, which amended the
California Constitution to provide, “Any person convicted of a nonviolent
felony offense and sentenced to state prison shall be eligible for parole
consideration after completing the full term for his or her primary offense.”
Cal. Const. art. 1, § 32(a)(1). It defined the full term for a primary offense as
“the longest term of imprisonment imposed by the court for any offense,
excluding . . . an enhancement, consecutive sentence, or alternative sentence.”
Id. § 32(a)(1)(A). A nonviolent offender’s parole eligibility date must therefore
be calculated “as if the Three Strikes . . . alternative sentencing scheme had not
existed at the time of . . . sentencing.” In re Edwards, 26 Cal. App. 5th 1181,
Following the enactment of Proposition 57, Petitioner filed a state
habeas petition in the California Court of Appeal; he argued that he was a
nonviolent offender and that his sentence had not been reduced as he claimed
was required by Proposition 57. See Petition at 4. However, the state petition
was denied by both the California Court of Appeal and the California Supreme
Court. See id. at 4-5. In February 2022, Petitioner filed the current Petition.
See id. at 1. In March 2022, the assigned magistrate judge issued an order to
show cause. See Dkt. 4 (“OSC”). The OSC gave Petitioner an opportunity to
address the issue that claims concerning Proposition 57 appeared not
cognizable on federal habeas review. See id. at 2. In April 2022, Petitioner filed
a response. See Dkt. 5 (“Response”).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
This court may entertain a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf
of a person “in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the
ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties
of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Rule 4 of the Rules Governing
Section 2254 Cases provides: “If it plainly appears from the petition and any
attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court,
the judge must dismiss the petition.”
The Petition must be dismissed because Petitioner’s claim is not
cognizable in a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus. His filings do not
reveal why state prison officials and courts decided that he was ineligible for
parole consideration under Proposition 57. But even if the state officials
reached that decision in error, the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly
held that the federal writ of habeas corpus is unavailable for alleged error in the
interpretation or application of state law. See Swarthout v. Cooke, 562 U.S.
216, 219 (2011); Wilson v. Corcoran, 562 U.S. 1, 5 (2010). It is also
unavailable for alleged violations of a state constitution. See Hinman v.
McCarthy, 676 F.2d 343, 349 (9th Cir. 1982). The district courts that have
been presented with federal habeas claims based on Proposition 57 have
concluded that they are not cognizable. See, e.g., Jordan v. Holbrook, No. 191883, 2020 WL 4336277, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 18, 2020); Johnson v. Fed. Ct.
Judges, No. 20-1134, 2020 WL 2114931, at *5 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 20, 2020);
Alexander v. Gastelo, No. 18-788, 2019 WL 1104616, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 29,
2019), report and recommendation adopted, 2019 WL 1099980 (C.D. Cal.
Mar. 8, 2019). Petitioner has had an opportunity to address these decisions and
does not argue that they are incorrectly decided or that the claims presented in
those cases are distinguishable from his claim. See OSC at 2; Response at 2-3.
Although Petitioner contends that his 110-year total sentence violates his
rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment
to the U.S. Constitution, see Response at 2, he may not “transform a state-law
issue into a federal one merely by asserting a violation of due process,”
Langford v. Day, 110 F.3d 1380, 1389 (9th Cir. 1996). He does not direct the
Court to any federal decision construing a claim for erroneous denial of
Proposition 57 relief as a cognizable Fourteenth Amendment claim, and the
Court is not aware of any.
Petitioner’s passing reference to ineffective assistance of trial counsel is
unavailing. See Response at 2. Petitioner was convicted in 2002 and previously
raised ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims that were rejected by state courts
in 2003 and 2009. See Petition at 2-4. Any properly exhausted habeas claim for
ineffective assistance of trial counsel would long ago have been barred by the
1-year limitations period of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
of 1996. See 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1).
Further, even if Petitioner had identified a violation of his federal rights,
the Petition would still be subject to dismissal because any claim to enforce
rights under Proposition 57 must be brought in a civil rights action under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, if it may be brought in federal court at all. Habeas is the
“exclusive remedy” for the prisoner who seeks “immediate or speedier release
from confinement.” Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 525 (2011) (citation
omitted). If a claim “does not lie at the core of habeas corpus, it may not be
brought in habeas” but “if at all, under § 1983.” Nettles v. Grounds, 830 F.3d
922, 931 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc) (citation omitted); see also Ramirez v.
Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 859 (9th Cir. 2003) (“[H]abeas jurisdiction is absent,
and a § 1983 action proper, where a successful challenge to a prison condition
will not necessarily shorten the prisoner’s sentence.”). Here, habeas
jurisdiction is absent because success on Petitioner’s claim would not
necessarily shorten his sentence. He would still need to show himself suitable
for parole under state regulations before he could be released from prison. See
Jordan, 2020 WL 4336277, at *3 (“Proposition 57 . . . does not require a
A district court may construe a habeas petition by a prisoner attacking
the conditions of his confinement as a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. See Wilwording v. Swenson, 404 U.S. 249, 251 (1971). However, the
Court does not find it appropriate to do so here. See Jordan, 2020 WL
4336277, at *5; Johnson, 2020 WL 2114931, at *6; Alexander, 2019 WL
1104616, at *3. The difficulty with construing a habeas petition as a civil rights
complaint is that the forms used by most prisoners ask for different information
and much of what is necessary for a civil rights complaint is not asked for on
the form habeas petition. Examples of potential problems include different
filing fees, potential omission of intended defendants, potential failure to link
each defendant to the claims, and a potentially inadequate prayer for relief.1
The Petition is DISMISSED without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction. A
certificate of appealability will not issue because there has not been a showing
that “reasonable jurists could debate whether (or, for that matter, agree that)
the petition should have been resolved in a different manner or that the issues
presented were ‘adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further.” Slack
v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000).
Date: July 28, 2022
VIRGINIA A. PHILLIPS
United States District Judge
DOUGLAS F. MCCORMICK
United States Magistrate Judge
The Court has not determined that Petitioner’s claim would succeed if
brought in a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court only decides
that a habeas petition is the wrong vehicle for Petitioner to vindicate any
federal rights that may or may not exist in the proper application of
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