Jose Urenda v. S. Hatton

Filing 18

ORDER OF DISMISSAL. Signed by Judge William H. Orrick on 05/30/2017. (Attachments: # 1 Certificate/Proof of Service) (jmdS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/30/2017)

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1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 JOSE URENDA, Petitioner, 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 Case No. 16-cv-02650-WHO (PR) ORDER OF DISMISSAL v. S. HATTON, Respondent. Dkt. No. 13 13 INTRODUCTION 14 15 Petitioner Jose Urenda seeks federal habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 16 from the state’s denial of parole in 2014. He claims that the California Board of Parole 17 Hearings (“Board”) violated his Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment (due process and 18 equal protection) rights when it used confidential information to deny him parole. Because 19 he had an opportunity to be heard during the hearing and the Board Commissioners 20 explained the basis of their denial of his parole, he received all of the process that the 21 United States Supreme Court has held that he is due. Swarthout v. Cooke, 131 S. Ct. 859, 22 862 (2011); Greenholtz v. Inmates of Nebraska Penal and Correctional Complex, 442 U.S. 23 1, 16 (1979). Accordingly, as urged by respondent in his motion to dismiss, the petition 24 will be dismissed. 25 BACKGROUND 26 Jose Urenda is incarcerated for second degree murder. (Pet. at 2.) The date of the 27 offense was September 19, 1992. (Mot. to Dismiss, Dkt. No. 13-1 at 52.) Urenda was 19 28 years old. (Id., Dkt. No. 13-3 at 18.) His first parole hearing occurred on April 10, 2014. 1 (Id., Dkt. No. 13-1 at 4.) The Commissioners questioned Urenda about the underlying 2 offense, his family background and his efforts at rehabilitation while in prison. He and his 3 counsel addressed the Commissioners in support of parole. (Id., Dkt. No. 13-3 at 9-14.) 4 After a hearing that lasted more than two hours, the Commissioners retired to deliberate 5 and ultimately returned and explained in detail why they were denying parole. (Id., Dkt. 6 No. 13-3 at 15-29.) 7 In the course of their explanation, the Commissioners referred to their review of and 8 reliance upon “the confidential portion of the Central File.” (Id., Dkt. No. 13-3 at 15-16.) 9 This confidential information was not shown to Urenda or his counsel. (Pet. at 15.) His 10 inability to see it and respond to whatever it contained is the basis of this writ. STANDARD OF REVIEW United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 Under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), 13 this Court may entertain a petition for writ of habeas corpus “in behalf of a person in 14 custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody 15 in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. 16 § 2254(a). The petition may not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated 17 on the merits in state court unless the state court’s adjudication of the claim: “(1) resulted 18 in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly 19 established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or 20 (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in 21 light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). 22 “Under the ‘contrary to’ clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state 23 court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question 24 of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the] Court has on a set of 25 materially indistinguishable facts.” Williams (Terry) v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412–13 26 (2000). 27 28 “Under the ‘unreasonable application’ clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the] Court’s 2 1 decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner’s case.” Id. at 2 413. “[A] federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes 3 in its independent judgment that the relevant state court decision applied clearly 4 established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be 5 unreasonable.” Id. at 411. A federal habeas court making the “unreasonable application” 6 inquiry should ask whether the state court’s application of clearly established federal law 7 was “objectively unreasonable.” Id. at 409. DISCUSSION 8 9 I. Due Process1 In the parole context, the due process protections owed to a prisoner are minimal: 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 an opportunity to be heard and a statement of reasons parole was denied. The Constitution 12 does not require more because the parole decision is highly discretionary and subjective. 13 The “parole-release decision . . . depends on an amalgam of elements, some of which are 14 factual but many of which are purely subjective appraisals by the Board members based 15 upon their experience with the difficult and sensitive task of evaluating the advisability of 16 parole release.” Greenholtz, 442 U.S. at 9-10. 17 Because the parole decision is largely discretionary, the elaborate procedural 18 safeguards afforded at trial, the “full panoply of due process required to convict and 19 confine,” are inapplicable. Id. at 14. A parole hearing is not, then, “a traditional adversary 20 hearing.” Id. at 4. It is not a determination of guilt or a testing of evidence. As such, a 21 prisoner is not allowed “to hear adverse testimony or to cross-examine witnesses who 22 present such evidence.” Id. at 5. 23 24 1 25 26 27 28 Urenda appears to allege that his due process rights under the Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments were violated. (Pet. at 5.) Urenda makes no allegations that distinguish one due process claim from another. The due process component of the Fifth Amendment applies only to the federal government, not to state or local ones. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 687 (9th Cir. 2001). Accordingly, I will treat this as a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. 3 Because the due process protections are limited, the Constitution does not require 1 2 the Board “to specify the particular ‘evidence’ in the inmate’s file . . . on which it rests the 3 discretionary determination.” Greenholtz, 442 U.S. at 15.2 Nor does due process require 4 an inquiry into whether California’s procedures produced the result the evidence required. 5 Cooke, 131 S. Ct. at 862. In sum, a prisoner receives constitutionally adequate process when “he was 6 7 allowed an opportunity to be heard and was provided a statement of the reasons” parole 8 was denied. Cooke, 131 S. Ct. at 862. “The Constitution does not require more.” 9 Greenholtz, 442 U.S. at 16. The record shows that Urenda received at least the required amount of process. 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Greenholtz makes clear that the Board need not specify or share the evidence it has used to 12 make its determination, and so Urenda’s claims regarding the Board’s use of confidential 13 information lack merit.3 Due process does not require that the state’s procedures produce 14 the result the evidence required, nor that the Board disclose what information on which it 15 relied. Rather, due process requires only that Urenda had an opportunity to be heard and 16 that he was provided with a statement of reasons parole was denied. He received the 17 opportunity to be heard during a hearing that lasted more than two hours and received a 18 statement of the reasons parole was denied that lasted almost twenty minutes. The Court’s 19 due process inquiry ends there. The state court’s rejection of the due process claim was reasonable and is entitled to 20 21 AEDPA deference. Urenda’s due process claim is DENIED. 22 23 “To require the parole authority to provide a summary of the evidence would tend to convert the process into an adversary proceeding and to equate the Board’s parole-release determination with a guilt determination . . . the parole-release decision is, as we noted earlier, essentially an experienced prediction based on a host of variables.” Greenholtz, 442 U.S. at 15-16. 2 24 25 26 3 27 28 Urenda also alleges the Board did not follow the requirements of the parole statute, which, according to petitioner, establishes a presumption in favor of parole. However, violations of state law are not remediable on federal habeas review, even if state law were erroneously applied or interpreted. Cooke, 131 S. Ct. at 861-62. 4 1 II. Equal Protection 2 “The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment commands that no 3 State shall ‘deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,’ 4 which is essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike.” 5 City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985) (quoting Plyler v. 6 Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 216 (1982)). Urenda’s equal protection claim also is based on the 7 Commissioners’ use of confidential information. Urenda attempts to link (1) the CDCR’s use of confidential information when they 8 9 make housing decisions for gang members to (2) the Board’s use of confidential information to deny him parole. (Pet. at 13-15.) The argument unfolds as follows. The 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 CDCR has discontinued the use of confidential information in making housing decisions 12 for gang members. The Board, however, continues to use confidential information in 13 making parole decisions. Urenda contends that it violates the Equal Protection Clause to 14 reject the use of confidential information against one class of inmates, yet continue to use 15 it against another. Habeas relief is not warranted here. The Equal Protection Clause protects similarly 16 17 situated classes from suffering disparate treatment. Neither element has been established 18 by Urenda’s petition. First, the classes, if that is what the two groups are, are not similar. 19 A person being considered for parole is not similarly situated to a validated prison gang 20 member undergoing a housing determination. The liberty interests at play in each situation 21 implicate different laws and legal standards. Second, because these two types of prisoners 22 are not similarly situated, the law does not require that each should receive similar 23 treatment. One seeks release from custody, the other seeks less restrictive prison housing. The state court’s rejection of the equal protection claim was reasonable and is 24 25 entitled to AEDPA deference. This claim is DENIED. 26 III. 27 28 Sixth Amendment Urenda claims the Board violated his Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel when it would not let his attorney review the confidential 5 1 information. (Pet. at 15.) The Sixth Amendment right to counsel applies only in criminal 2 prosecutions. U.S. Const. amend. VI. Parole hearings are not criminal prosecutions. 3 There is no basis for a Sixth Amendment claim. 4 The state court’s rejection of the Sixth Amendment claim was reasonable and is 5 entitled to AEDPA deference. This claim is DENIED. 6 CONCLUSION 7 Respondent’s motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 13) is GRANTED. The petition is 8 DISMISSED. Leave to amend will not be granted because the petition rests on the 9 Board’s use of the confidential information in the parole hearing, which as explained 10 above does not provide a plausible basis for a claim for relief. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 A certificate of appealability will not issue. Urenda has not shown “that jurists of 12 reason would find it debatable whether the petition states a valid claim of the denial of a 13 constitutional right and that jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the district 14 court was correct in its procedural ruling.” Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000). 15 He may seek a certificate of appealability from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. 16 17 18 19 The Clerk shall terminate Dkt. No. 13, enter judgment in favor of respondent, and close the file. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: May 30, 2017 _________________________ WILLIAM H. ORRICK United States District Judge 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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