(HC)Ram v. Warden

Filing 21

ORDER DENYING Petitioner's 15 Motion to Compel Discovery and 17 Motion for Deposition signed by Magistrate Judge Erica P. Grosjean on 9/16/2022. (Sant Agata, S)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 SANTOSH RAM, 11 Case No. 1:21-cv-01520-JLT-EPG-HC ORDER DENYING PETITIONER’S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY AND MOTION FOR DEPOSITION Petitioner, 12 v. 13 WARDEN, 14 (ECF Nos. 15, 17) Respondent. 15 16 Petitioner Santosh Ram is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of 17 18 habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 challenging a prison disciplinary proceeding. The undersigned previously issued findings and recommendation recommending that 19 20 Respondent’s motion to dismiss (based on exhaustion grounds) be denied and the petition be 21 denied on the merits. (ECF No. 12.) The Court received Petitioner’s objections to the findings 22 and recommendation, which indicated that Petitioner never received a copy of Respondent’s 1 23 response to the petition. (ECF No. 13 at 1.) Therefore, the Court vacated the findings and 24 recommendation and ordered Petitioner to file a response to Respondent’s motion to dismiss. 25 (ECF No. 14.) Petitioner now moves to compel discovery and for a deposition of an ex-disciplinary 26 27 hearing officer. (ECF Nos. 15, 17.) Respondent has filed an opposition. (ECF No. 20.) Petitioner 28 1 Page numbers refer to the ECF page numbers stamped at the top of the page. 1 1 has not filed a reply, and the time for doing so has passed. Although discovery is available 2 pursuant to Rule 6 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District 3 Courts,2 it is only granted at the Court’s discretion, and upon a showing of good cause. Bracy v. 4 Gramley, 520 U.S. 899, 904 (1997) (“A habeas petitioner . . . is not entitled to discovery as a 5 matter of ordinary course.”); McDaniel v. U.S. District Court (Jones), 127 F.3d 886, 888 (9th 6 Cir. 1997); Jones v. Wood, 114 F.3d 1002, 1009 (9th Cir. 1997); Habeas Rule 6(a). Good cause 7 is shown “where specific allegations before the court show reason to believe that the petitioner 8 may, if the facts are fully developed, be able to demonstrate that he is . . . entitled to relief.” 9 Bracy, 520 U.S. at 908–09 (citing Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S. 287 (1969)). If good cause is 10 shown, the extent and scope of discovery is within the Court’s discretion. See Habeas Rule 6(a). In the instant case, Petitioner challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding in which he was 11 12 found to have committed assault. The incident allegedly occurred when officers were escorting 13 Petitioner to a new cell. (ECF No. 1.) Petitioner requests production of CCTV video footage of 14 the incident and a deposition of an ex-disciplinary hearing officer who was originally assigned to 15 Petitioner’s disciplinary proceeding, allegedly postponed Petitioner’s hearing because he did not 16 want to find Petitioner guilty due to lack of evidence, and eventually was coerced to resign. (ECF 17 Nos. 15, 17.) Petitioner contends that the requested evidence will establish his innocence, the 18 bias of the disciplinary hearing officer, the unfairness of the proceedings, and the officers’ 19 retaliation and conspiracy. (ECF No. 17 at 2.) In the opposition, Respondent emphasizes that “[i]nmates are not entitled to the same 20 21 evidentiary standards in disciplinary hearings that are afforded to defendants in criminal 22 proceedings” and that “[i]n order to satisfy the requirements of due process, the record must only 23 include ‘some evidence’ which supports the prison’s disciplinary decision.” (ECF No. 20 at 3 24 (citing Serrano v. Francis, 345 F.3d 1071, 1077–78 (9th Cir. 2003); and Superintendent v. Hill, 25 472 U.S. 445 (1984)).) Respondent argues that “the video evidence was superfluous to the 26 victim-witness and the eye-witness accounts. To the extent it was even relied upon, DHO 27 2 The Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases may apply to § 2241 habeas petitions. See Rule 1(b), Rules Governing 28 Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (“Habeas Rules”), 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254. 2 1 Trimpey — very significantly in his detailed description of the content of the video3 — 2 recounted that the video evidence was consistent with other evidence, specifically crediting the 3 victim-witness (Firanski).” (ECF No. 20 at 5 (footnote added).) Respondent also indicates that 4 “BOP does not possess the video.”4 (Id. at 6.) The Supreme Court has held that “the requirements of due process are satisfied if some 5 6 evidence supports the decision by the prison disciplinary board to revoke good time credits.” 7 Hill, 472 U.S. at 455. “Ascertaining whether this standard is satisfied does not require 8 examination of the entire record, independent assessment of the credibility of witnesses, or 9 weighing of the evidence. Instead, the relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the 10 record that could support the conclusion . . . .” Id. at 455–56 (emphasis added). “This test is 11 ‘minimally stringent.’” Castro v. Terhune, 712 F.3d 1304, 1314 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Powell 12 v. Gomez, 33 F.3d 39, 40 (9th Cir. 1994)). Given the description of the video in the existing 13 record, and as the disciplinary hearing officer relied on other evidence in addition to the CCTV 14 video in his decision,5 (ECF No. 11-1 at 36), Petitioner has not established that if the facts are 15 fully developed, he may be able to demonstrate that he is entitled to relief. As good cause has not 16 been shown, Petitioner is not entitled to discovery. Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Petitioner’s motion to compel discovery 17 18 (ECF No. 15) and motion for deposition (ECF No. 17) are DENIED. IT IS SO ORDERED. 19 20 Dated: September 16, 2022 /s/ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 The DHO report stated in pertinent part that the DHO relied on, inter alia, “the review of CCTV showing [Petitioner] walking towards the BF Entry Door where [he] turn[s] around towards the escorting officers striking Sgt. Firanski in the chest.” (ECF No. 11-1 at 36.) 4 The incident occurred at Great Plains Correctional Facility, “which was then a privately owned and operated BOP contract facility.” (ECF No. 20 at 1 n.1.) On January 26, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order eliminating the use of privately operated criminal detention facilities, and Great Plains Correctional Facility was closed effective May 31, 2021. (Id.). 5 The DHO also relied on “the nine still photographs of the inmate and staff involved,” the incident report written by Firanski, and Petitioner’s statement that he did not intentionally assault the staff members but it may have been done accidentally in finding that Petitioner committed the acts as charged. (ECF No. 11-1 at 36.) 3 3

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