Ransom v. State of California et al

Filing 10

FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS recommending Dismissal of 1 Complaint with Leave to Amend for Some Claims; Objections, if any, Due within Twenty-One Days signed by Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Beck on 10/5/2010. Referred to Judge Anthony W. Ishii. Objections to F&R due by 11/1/2010. (Attachments: # 1 Amended Complaint Form)(Sant Agata, S)

Download PDF
(PC) Ransom v. State of California et al Doc. 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 LEONARD RANSOM, JR., 9 10 v. Plaintiff, CASE NO. 1:09-CV-01688-AWI-DLB PC FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING DISMISSAL OF COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND FOR SOME CLAIMS (DOC. 1) 12 13 / 14 15 16 I. 17 Background Plaintiff Leonard Ransom, Jr. ("Plaintiff") is a prisoner in the custody of the California Findings And Recommendations Defendants. OBJECTIONS, IF ANY, DUE WITHIN TWENTY-ONE DAYS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 11 STATE OF CALIFORNIA, et al., 18 Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"). Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in 19 forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983. Plaintiff initiated this 20 action by filing his complaint on September 24, 2009. 21 The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a 22 governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. 1915A(a). The 23 Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are 24 legally "frivolous or malicious," that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or 25 that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. 26 1915A(b)(1),(2). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been 27 paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or 28 appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. 1 Dockets.Justia.com 1 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). 2 A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the 3 pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not 4 required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere 5 conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing 6 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual 7 matter, accepted as true, to `state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 8 550 U.S. at 555). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. 9 II. 10 Summary of Complaint Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at California Correctional Institution. Plaintiff was 11 previously incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison ("KVSP") in Delano, California, where the 12 events giving rise to this action occurred. Plaintiff names as Defendants: the State of California, 13 former Secretary of CDCR James Tilton, and former warden of KVSP and current commissioner 14 on the Board of Parole Hearings ("BPH") Lea Ann Chrones. 15 Plaintiff alleges the following. On March 13, 1998, Plaintiff was convicted of the 16 habitual offender sentence enhancement, and he received a sentence of life with the possibility of 17 parole in twenty years. (Compl. 27.) At the time of Plaintiff's sentencing, persons convicted of 18 life offenses, other than murder offenses, could only be denied a parole hearing up to two years. 19 (Compl. 31.) Plaintiff received his latest parole hearing in June 9, 2009. (Compl. 49.) 20 Defendant Lea Ann Chrones served as a commissioner in the hearing. (Compl. 49.) During 21 the hearing, Plaintiff through his counsel objected to the application of Marsy's law, Proposition 22 9, which changed the next parole hearing dates for those with life sentences and eligibility for 23 parole. (Compl. 53.) Plaintiff objected to a lack of jurisdiction by the parole board. (Compl. 24 55.) Plaintiff also requested a postponement of the hearing because Plaintiff was suffering 25 deficient mental health care at the time. (Compl. 57.) All of Plaintiff's objections were denied. 26 At the conclusion of the hearing, Plaintiff was denied parole, with the next parole hearing 27 set for ten years later. (Compl. 59.) Defendant Chrones cited to a number of false reports in 28 Plaintiff's central file in support of the decision. (Compl. 60.) Defendant also applied the 2 1 harsher parole guidelines for suitability hearings under Marsy's law. (Compl. 61.) 2 Plaintiff alleges that he was denied parole in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause and 3 The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when the board applied Marsy's law to 4 his case. (Compl. 63.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Chrones used knowingly false 5 information as a basis for her decision-making process in violation of substantive due process. 6 (Compl. 64.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated due process when they conducted a 7 parole hearing without jurisdiction. (Compl. 65.) Plaintiff alleges that he was deprived of 8 equal protection when Defendant Chrones used Plaintiff's race and class as factors in the panel's 9 decision. (Compl. 66.) Plaintiff also alleges a violation of the separation of powers doctrine. 10 (Compl. 67.) 11 Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief. Plaintiff requests that Defendants be 12 permanently enjoined from taking any action as a result of the June 9, 2009 parole hearing, and 13 from applying Proposition 9 to any future parole hearing. Plaintiff requests a federal audit of his 14 central prison file. Plaintiff requests an immediate parole hearing pursuant to the rules and laws 15 in place when Plaintiff was sentenced. Plaintiff also requests a permanent injunction enjoining 16 Defendants from applying any laws or regulations adopted for the Board of Prison Terms, which 17 Plaintiff contends was independent, to the Board of Parole Hearings, which Plaintiff contends is 18 an arm of CDCR and not independent.1 19 III. 20 21 Analysis A. Favorable Termination Where the 1983 action would not necessarily imply the invalidity of the conviction or 22 sentence, it may proceed. See Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 82 (2005) (concluding that 23 1983 claims were cognizable because granting declaratory and injunctive relief that would render 24 invalid state procedures used to deny parole eligibility and suitability would "[not] necessarily 25 26 27 28 The Board of Prison Terms was replaced, effective July 1, 2005, by the Board of Parole Hearings ( " B P H " ) . See In re Olson, 149 Cal. App. 4th 790, 793 n.1 (Cal. Ct. App. 2007). The Board of Parole Hearings has th e same duties and functions with respect to adult term setting and parole release decisions as its predecessor. Id. ( c itin g Cal. Penal Code, 5075, 5075.1, 3041, Cal. Gov. Code, 12838, 12838.4, added or amended by ( S ta ts .2 0 0 5 , ch. 10 (Sen. Bill No. 737), 6, 29, 46, 47, pp. 1-21, eff. May 10, 2005, operative July 1, 2005)). 1 3 1 spell speedier release"). Here, success would at most result in a new parole hearing for Plaintiff. 2 Accordingly, this action is not barred by the doctrine of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). 3 4 B. Defendant State Of California The Eleventh Amendment bars suits against state agencies, as well as those where the 5 state itself is named as a defendant. Lucas v. Dep't Of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995) 6 (per curiam); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Here, Plaintiff names the State 7 of California, which has Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit. Plaintiff thus fails to state a 8 claim under 1983 against the State. 9 10 C. Ex Post Facto Clause The United States Constitution provides that "No State shall . . . pass any . . . ex post 11 facto Law." U.S. Const. art. I, 10. A law violates the Ex Post Facto Clause if it : (1) punishes 12 as criminal an act that was not criminal when it was committed; (2) makes a crime's punishment 13 greater than when the crime was committed; or (3) deprives a person of a defense available at the 14 time the crime was committed. See Cal. Dept. of Corr. v. Morales, 514 U.S. 499, 504 (1995); 15 Collins v. Youngblood, 497 U.S. 37, 42 (1990). "Retroactive changes in laws governing parole 16 of prisoners, in some instances, may be violative of this precept." Garner v. Jones, 529 U.S. 244, 17 250 (2000). 18 On November 4, 2008, California voters approved Proposition 9 (entitled Victims' 19 Rights in Parole Proceedings, or the Victims' Bill Of Rights Act of 2008: Marsy's Law), which 20 amends California Penal Code section 3041.5 to permit the board to defer subsequent parole 21 consideration hearings for longer periods than those provided in the former statute. Cal. Penal 22 Code 3041.5 (Deering 2010). 23 Prior to the passage of Proposition 9, in the event a prisoner was determined unsuitable 24 for parole, a subsequent parole hearing would be held annually thereafter. Cal Penal Code 25 3041.5(b)(2) (2008). If the parole board determined it was not reasonable to expect parole would 26 be granted within the next year, it could defer rehearing for two years. Id. If the prisoner was 27 convicted of murder and it was not reasonable to expect he/she would be granted parole within 28 the year, the board could select a rehearing term of up to five years. Id. Proposition 9 changed 4 1 the frequency of subsequent parole hearings as follows: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Cal. Penal Code 3041.5(b)(3). 13 Plaintiff challenges the application of Proposition 9 to his parole suitability hearing. At (B) Ten years after any hearing at which parole is denied, unless the board finds by clear and convincing evidence that . . . consideration of the public and victim's safety does not require a more lengthy period of incarceration for the prisoner than seven additional years. (C) Three years, five years, or seven years after any hearing at which parole is denied, because . . . consideration of the public and victim's safety requires a more lengthy period of incarceration for the prisoner, but does not require a more lengthy period of incarceration for the prisoner than seven additional years. (A) Fifteen years after any hearing at which parole is denied, unless the board finds by clear and convincing evidence that the criteria relevant to the setting of parole release dates enumerated in subdivision (a) of Section 3041 are such that consideration of the public and victim's safety does not require a more lengthy period of incarceration for the prisoner than 10 additional years. The board shall schedule the next hearing, after considering the views and interests of the victim, as follows: 14 the time of Plaintiff's sentencing, persons convicted of life offenses, other than murder offenses, 15 could only be denied a parole hearing up to two years. Plaintiff contends that Proposition 9 16 extends the minimum time he must serve before his next hearing. Here, the Court does not find 17 that Plaintiff states a cognizable Ex Post Facto Clause claim. 18 The Supreme Court found that a California statue did not violate ex post facto because 19 the retroactive application of the change in California law did not create "a sufficient risk of 20 increasing the measure of punishment attached to the covered crimes." Morales, 514 U.S. at 21 509; see Garner v. Jones, 529 U.S. 244, 250 (2000). That law "did not modify the statutory 22 punishment for any particular offenses," it did not "alter the standards for determining either the 23 initial date of parole eligibility or an inmate's suitability for parole," and it "did not change the 24 basic structure of California's parole law." Garner, 529 U.S. at 250 (citing Morales, 514 U.S. at 25 507-08.) In this case, Proposition 9 does not modify the punishment for Plaintiff's offense, did 26 not alter his initial parole eligibility date, and did not change the basic structure of California 27 parole law. The board must consider the same factors in determining parole suitability as before 28 the adoption of Proposition 9. See Cal. Penal Code 3041(b); Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, 2402(b). 5 1 Furthermore, in Garner, the Supreme Court determined that an amendment to Georgia's 2 parole law did not violate ex post facto even when the frequency of reconsideration hearings was 3 changed from every three years to every eight years. Garner, 529 U.S. at 256. The change in 4 Georgia law did not lengthen the prisoner's time of actual imprisonment because Georgia law 5 vested broad discretion with the parole board to set a prisoner's date of rehearing. Id. at 254-56. 6 The Court found it significant that the parole board's own policies allowed "expedited parole 7 reviews in the event of a change in [a prisoner's] circumstance or where the Board receives new 8 information that would warrant a sooner review." Id. at 254. 9 Here, the California parole board is still vested with broad discretion in selecting a date of 10 rehearing from three years to fifteen years. The parole board retains the discretion to advance a 11 hearing at any time should there be a change in circumstances. The board 12 13 14 may in its discretion, after considering the views and interests of the victim, advance a hearing set pursuant to paragraph (3) to an earlier date, when a change in circumstances or new information establishes a reasonable likelihood that consideration of the public and victim's safety does not require the additional period of incarceration of the prisoner provided in paragraph (3). 15 Cal. Penal Code 3041.5(b)(4). Proposition 9 does not create more than a "`speculative and 16 attenuated possibility of producing the prohibited effect of increasing the measure of punishment 17 for covered crimes.'" Garner, 529 U.S. at 251 (quoting Morales, 514 U.S. at 509). Accordingly, 18 Plaintiff's ex post facto claim fails as a matter of law. The Court recommends denying leave to 19 amend as to this claim, as there are no set of facts that can be alleged which would state a viable 20 ex post facto claim. 21 22 D. Reliance On False Information Plaintiff alleges a violation of the Due Process Clause when Defendant Chrones 23 knowingly relied on false information in finding Plaintiff unsuitable for parole. Plaintiff fails to 24 state a cognizable 1983 claim. 25 "[S]tate created rights may give rise to liberty interests that may be enforced as a matter of 26 federal law." Pearson v. Muntz, 606 F.3d 606, 609 (9th Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (citing Wilkinson 27 v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221 (2005)). The Ninth Circuit has concluded that "California has 28 created a parole system that independently requires the enforcement of certain procedural and 6 1 substantive rights, including the right to parole absent `some evidence' of current dangerousness." 2 Id. at 611 (citing Hayward v. Marshall, 603 F.3d 546, 562 (9th Cir. 2010) (en banc)); see also 3 Cooke v. Solis, 606 F.3d 1206, 1213 (9th Cir. 2010) (noting that "California's `some evidence' 4 requirement is a component of the liberty interest created by the parole system of that state").2 5 California's parole scheme thus creates a due process right enforceable under federal law. 6 Plaintiff has not plead what false information was relied upon by Defendant Chrones to 7 find Plaintiff unsuitable for parole. Additionally, even reliance upon some false information is not 8 sufficient to state a violation of Due Process, if other relevant evidence exists to support the 9 denial. Plaintiff alleges that only some of the relevant evidence relied upon was false. Thus, there 10 existed relevant evidence which was not false, which was relied upon by the parole board and 11 Defendant Chrones to find Plaintiff currently dangerous and thus unsuitable for parole. Plaintiff 12 fails to state a cognizable claim for violation of Due Process. The Court will recommend granting 13 leave to amend as to this claim. 14 15 E. Lack Of Jurisdiction Plaintiff alleges the Board of Parole Hearings lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate his parole 16 hearing in violation of due process. Plaintiff cites to no case law or other authority in support of 17 his argument. This claim is thus denied. 18 19 F. Equal Protection Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Chrones relied on Plaintiff's race as a factor in denying 20 Plaintiff parole.3 The Equal Protection Clause requires that persons who are similarly situated be 21 treated alike. City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc., 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985). An 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Under California law, "the paramount consideration for both the Board and the Governor" must be " w h e th e r the inmate currently poses a threat to public safety and thus may not be released on parole,"[citation], and " th e facts relied upon by the Board or the Governor [must] support the ultimate decision that the inmate remains a th r e a t to public safety. Cooke v. Solis, 606 F.3d 1206, 1214 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting In re Lawrence, 44 Cal. 4th 1 1 8 1 ,1 2 1 0 , 1213(2008)); see also Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, 2402(a) ("[I]f in the judgment of the panel the prisoner w ill pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society if released from prison," the prisoner must be found unsuitable a n d denied parole). Plaintiff contends discrimination on the basis of "race and class." (Compl. 66.) It is unclear what P la in tiff means by class. The Court thus construes this as a claim of discrimination on the basis of the suspect class o f race. 3 2 7 1 equal protection claim may be established by showing that the defendant intentionally 2 discriminated against the plaintiff based on the plaintiff's membership in a protected class, 3 Serrano v. Francis, 345 F.3d 1071, 1082 (9th Cir. 2003), or that similarly situated individuals 4 were intentionally treated differently without a rational relationship to a legitimate state purpose, 5 Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564 (2000); Lazy Y Ranch Ltd. v. Behrens, 546 6 F.3d 580, 592 (9th Cir. 2008); North Pacifica LLC v. City of Pacifica, 526 F.3d 478, 486 (9th Cir. 7 2008). A plaintiff must allege sufficient facts either showing intentional unlawful discrimination 8 or "that are at least susceptible of an inference of discriminatory intent." Byrd v. Maricopa 9 County Sheriff's Dep't, 565 F.3d 1205, 1212 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotations and citation 10 omitted); see Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-50. 11 Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Chrones used her connections with "Aryan friends and co- 12 workers" to become a commissioner on the BPH. This allegation, by itself, is not plausible on its 13 face. It is the Governor of California who nominates a BPH commissioner, and the nominee is 14 subject to state senate confirmation. Cal. Penal Code 5075(b). The allegation is also not 15 indicative of Defendant Chrones's alleged racism for purposes of denying Plaintiff parole. Thus, 16 this does not support a claim of an Equal Protection violation. 17 Plaintiff alleges he has first-hand knowledge of Defendant Chrones's racism because of 18 the disparate treatment that black inmates receive from white and Hispanic correctional officers. 19 (Compl. 48.) However, the actions of one's subordinates do not support a claim of supervisory 20 liability, or demonstrate discriminatory purpose for an equal protection claim. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 21 1948-49. Plaintiff also alleges that when Defendant Chrones was warden, over 400 minority 22 prisoners were held over their lawful release dates. (Compl. 48.) Even assuming this is true, 23 Defendant Chrones as warden would have no authority to deny parole for any inmates, as that 24 authority lies with the parole board. 25 Plaintiff has not shown a discriminatory intent by Defendant Chrones on the basis of race. 26 Plaintiff thus fails to state an Equal Protection claim. The Court will recommend granting leave 27 for Plaintiff to amend this claim. 28 /// 8 1 2 G. California Separation of Powers Doctrine Plaintiff contends that the Board of Parole Hearings operates in violation of the separation 3 of powers doctrine in Article III, section 3 of the California Constitution. It is unclear what 4 Plaintiff contends here. However, because Plaintiff fails to state any cognizable federal claims, 5 the Court recommends declining supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims. See 6 28 U.S.C. 1367(c)(3).4 7 8 H. Supervisory Liability Plaintiff names Defendant Tilton as a Defendant because he was the Secretary of CDCR at 9 the time Plaintiff's parole was denied and is responsible for the administration of all policies of 10 the CDCR. Plaintiff appears to allege supervisory liability against Defendant Tilton. Plaintiff 11 fails to state a cognizable claim against him. Under 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each 12 defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 13 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002) (emphasis added). The Supreme Court recently emphasized that the term 14 "supervisory liability," loosely and commonly used by both courts and litigants alike, is a 15 misnomer. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. "Government officials may not be held liable for the 16 unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory of respondeat superior." Id. at 17 1948. Rather, each government official, regardless of his or her title, is only liable for his or her 18 own misconduct. 19 When the named defendant holds a supervisorial position, the causal link between the 20 defendant and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. 21 Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978). 22 To state a claim for relief under 1983 for supervisory liability, plaintiff must allege some facts 23 indicating that the defendant either: personally participated in the alleged deprivation of 24 constitutional rights; knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them; or promulgated or 25 "implemented a policy so deficient that the policy `itself is a repudiation of constitutional rights' 26 27 28 A claim that it violates the federal constitution is not cognizable because federal doctrine of separation of p o w e r s does not extend to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment. Hughes v. Superior Court, 339 U.S. 460, 4 6 7 (1950). 4 9 1 and is `the moving force of the constitutional violation.'" Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 2 (9th Cir. 1989) (internal citations omitted); Taylor, 880 F.2d at 1045. 3 Here, Plaintiff alleges no facts which indicate Defendant Tilton personally participated in 4 the deprivation of constitutional rights, knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them, or 5 promulgated a policy so deficient that itself is a repudiation of constitutional rights. As stated 6 previously, the Court does not find an ex post facto or any other cognizable claim. 7 IV. 8 Conclusion And Recommendation Plaintiff fails to state any cognizable claims. The Court recommends that Plaintiff's ex 9 post facto claim be dismissed without leave to amend, as Plaintiff can allege no set of facts that 10 will cure the deficiencies of that claim. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000) 11 (en banc). The Court recommends granting Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint as to 12 Plaintiff's other claims within thirty days from the date of the order resolving these Findings and 13 Recommendations. 14 If Plaintiff opts to amend, Plaintiff's amended complaint should be brief, Fed. R. Civ. P. 15 8(a), but must state what each named defendant did that led to the deprivation of Plaintiff's 16 constitutional or other federal rights. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. Although accepted as true, the 17 "[f]actual allegations must be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." 18 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. 19 Plaintiff is further advised that an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint, 20 Forsyth v. Humana, Inc., 114 F.3d 1467, 1474 (9th Cir. 1997); King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 21 (9th Cir. 1987), and must be "complete in itself without reference to the prior or superseded 22 pleading," Local Rule 220. Plaintiff is warned that "[a]ll causes of action alleged in an original 23 complaint which are not alleged in an amended complaint are waived." King, 814 F.2d at 567 24 (citing to London v. Coopers & Lybrand, 644 F.2d 811, 814 (9th Cir. 1981)); accord Forsyth, 114 25 F.3d at 1474. 26 /// 27 /// 28 /// 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY RECOMMENDED that: 1. 2. 3. 4. The Clerk of Court send Plaintiff a civil rights complaint form; Plaintiff's complaint be dismissed; Plaintiff's ex post facto claim be dismissed without leave to amend; and Plaintiff be granted leave to amend as to his other claims within thirty days from the date of the order resolving these Findings and Recommendations. These Findings and Recommendations will be submitted to the United States District 8 Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1). Within twenty9 one (21) days after being served with these Findings and Recommendations, the plaintiff may file 10 written objections with the Court. The document should be captioned "Objections to Magistrate 11 Judge's Findings and Recommendations." Plaintiff is advised that failure to file objections within 12 the specified time may waive the right to appeal the District Court's order. Martinez v. Ylst, 951 13 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991). 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 11 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: 3b142a October 5, 2010 /s/ Dennis L. Beck UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.


Why Is My Information Online?