Martinez v. Grounds

Filing 10

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS ; DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY. Signed by Judge Claudia Wilken on 1/6/2012. (Attachments: # 1 Certificate/Proof of Service)(ndr, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/6/2012)

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1 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 3 LAWRENCE MARTINEZ, No. C 10-05829 CW (PR) 4 ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS; DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY Petitioner, 5 v. 6 7 RANDY GROUNDS, Warden, 8 (Docket no. 5) Respondent. / 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 INTRODUCTION 11 Petitioner, a state prisoner incarcerated at the Correctional 12 Training Facility (CTF), filed this pro se petition for a writ of 13 habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging as a 14 violation of his constitutional rights a decision by the CTF Unit 15 Classification Committee (UCC) to change his prison custody status 16 from "Medium A" to the more restrictive "Close B." 17 Respondent has filed a motion to dismiss the petition on the 18 grounds that it fails to state a cognizable claim for habeas corpus 19 relief, or, alternatively, the claims are without merit. 20 has filed an opposition to the motion and Respondent has filed a 21 reply. 22 granted. For the reasons discussed below, Respondent's motion is 23 24 25 Petitioner DISCUSSION I. Petitioner's Claims In 1989, Petitioner was convicted of kidnap for robbery and 26 sentenced to seven years to life in state prison with the 27 possibility of parole. 28 the UCC at CTF, at which time the UCC changed Petitioner's custody In August 2009, Petitioner appeared before 1 status from "Medium A" to the more restrictive "Close B" status, 2 based on Petitioner's adjudication for an attempted escape from the 3 California Youth Authority in 1982, when Petitioner was a minor. 4 Petitioner claims the UCC's decision violated his federal 5 constitutional rights to due process and equal protection because 6 (1) it relies upon a juvenile adjudication, which is not the same as 7 a criminal conviction, to increase his custody status, and 8 (2) it was not based on "some evidence" that he is a threat to 9 prison security. Petitioner unsuccessfully challenged the UCC's United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 decision through the prison's administrative grievance process and 11 the California state courts. 12 II. Motion to Dismiss 13 A. 14 Respondent first argues that Petitioner's claims are not 15 cognizable in federal habeas corpus because Petitioner is not 16 seeking relief that will affect the fact or duration of his 17 confinement. 18 Proper Remedy California Code of Regulations title 15, section 3377.1, 19 identifies seven inmate custody designations used “to establish 20 where an inmate shall be housed and assigned, and the level of staff 21 supervision required to ensure institutional security and public 22 safety." 23 most to least restrictive, those custody designations are: Maximum, 24 Close A, Close B, Medium A, Medium B, Minimum A and Minimum B. 25 The UCC reviews each inmate's case at least annually to consider the 26 accuracy of the inmate's classification score, custody designation, 27 program, work and privilege group, and facility placement. 28 § 3376((d)(2)(A). Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3377.1(a). 2 Listed in order of Id. Id. 1 As noted, Petitioner seeks a determination from this Court that 2 the UCC violated his federal constitutional rights when it changed 3 his custody status from "Medium A" to "Close B." 4 opens two main avenues to relief on complaints related to 5 imprisonment: a petition for habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and a 6 complaint under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Rev. Stat. § 1979, as 7 amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 8 confinement or to particulars affecting its duration are the 9 province of habeas corpus.'" “'Federal law Challenges to the lawfulness of Hill v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 573, 579 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 (2006) (quoting Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750 (2004)). 11 inmate's challenge to the circumstances of his confinement, however, 12 may be brought under § 1983." 13 “An Id. Although the Supreme Court has declined to decide whether 14 conditions of confinement claims can provide grounds for federal 15 habeas corpus relief, see Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 526 n.6 16 (1979), the Ninth Circuit, whose decisions are binding on this 17 Court, has concluded that they cannot. 18 F.3d 850, 859 (9th Cir. 2003) (holding that "habeas jurisdiction is 19 absent, and a § 1983 action proper, where a successful challenge to 20 a prison condition will not necessarily shorten the prisoner's 21 sentence"); Badea v. Cox, 931 F.2d 573, 574 (9th Cir. 1991) (holding 22 habeas corpus action is proper mechanism for challenging “legality 23 or duration" of confinement, while civil rights action is proper 24 method for challenging conditions of confinement); Crawford v. Bell, 25 599 F.2d 890, 891-92 & n.1 (9th Cir. 1979) (affirming dismissal of 26 habeas petition on basis that challenges to terms and conditions of 27 confinement must be brought in civil rights complaint). 28 // 3 See Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 1 Here, Petitioner presents only a conditions of confinement 2 claim; specifically, he claims that he was wrongly classified for 3 “Close B" custody status rather than the less restrictive status to 4 which he believes state law entitles him. 5 alleges no facts that lead this Court to conclude that a change in 6 his custody status “necessarily" would affect the duration of his 7 sentence. 8 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 Petitioner, however, See Ramirez, 334 F.3d at 859. Accordingly, because Petitioner's claim does not implicate the fact or duration of his confinement, the petition fails to state a cognizable basis for federal habeas corpus relief. 11 B. 12 Respondent's second argument for dismissal of the petition is 13 that, even if Petitioner's claims are cognizable in habeas corpus, 14 the petition must be dismissed because Petitioner has presented no 15 meritorious grounds for relief. 16 17 Non-meritorious Claims for Habeas Corpus Relief 1. Juvenile Adjudication As noted, Petitioner maintains that the UCC violated his 18 federal constitutional rights to due process and equal protection by 19 relying on an attempted escape adjudication by the California Youth 20 Authority in 1982, when Petitioner was a minor, to assign Petitioner 21 a “Close B" custody status. 22 Petitioner fails to state a cognizable claim for habeas corpus 23 relief, however, because such relief is not available for violations 24 of state law. 25 a petition for a writ of habeas corpus “in behalf of a person in 26 custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground 27 that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or 28 treaties of the United States." Specifically, a federal district court may entertain 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). 4 1 Here, Petitioner challenges the UCC's application of the 2 California Code of Regulations, which provides that the UCC, when 3 determining a prisoner's classification score, may consider 4 “administrative determinants" that include a “sustained juvenile 5 adjudication," which is defined as “a guilty determination or ruling 6 rendered in a juvenile judicial proceeding." 7 15, § 3375.2(25)(A). 8 constitutional provision that requires prison officials to limit the 9 factors they may consider to determine the proper custody status for Petitioner, however, has identified no federal 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California Cal. Code Regs. tit. an inmate. 11 alleged erroneous application of state law. 12 Rather, Petitioner's claim implicates only the UCC's Accordingly, this claim fails to state a cognizable ground for 13 habeas corpus relief. 14 2. 15 Some Evidence Petitioner claims that the UCC's determination violated his 16 federal constitutional rights because it was not supported by “some 17 evidence" that Petitioner poses a threat to prison security. 18 Under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act 19 of 1996 (AEDPA), a federal court may not grant a writ of habeas 20 corpus unless the state court's adjudication of the Petitioner's 21 claim was either: (1) “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable 22 application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by 23 the Supreme Court of the United States," or (2) “based on an 24 unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence 25 presented at the State Court proceeding." 26 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). “Section 2254(d)(1) restricts the source of clearly established 27 law to [the Supreme] Court's jurisprudence." 28 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000). Williams v. Taylor, In particular, “clearly established 5 1 Federal law" consists of those Supreme Court holdings governing at 2 the time of the state court's adjudication, Carey v. Musladin, 549 3 U.S. 70, 74 (2006), that “squarely address" the issue presented. 4 Wright v. Van Patten, 552 U.S. 120, 125 (2008). 5 may not overrule a state court for simply holding a view different 6 from its own, when the precedent from [the Supreme Court] is, at 7 best, ambiguous." 8 9 “A federal court Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 17 (2003). Petitioner cites Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445 (1985), for the proposition that federal constitutional mandates of due United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 process and the right to equal protection require the UCC to rely on 11 “some evidence" to justify a change in a prisoner's custody 12 designation. 13 evidence prison officials must rely upon to make classification 14 decisions; rather, Hill holds that “some evidence" is the modicum of 15 evidence required to support a disciplinary finding of guilt that 16 has resulted in the revocation of a prisoner's good time credits. 17 See id. at 454-55. 18 established Supreme Court authority that equates the procedural 19 requirements for the latter finding, which directly affects the 20 duration of a prisoner's incarceration, with the former, which 21 affects only a prisoner's custody status. 22 concludes that Petitioner has not shown that clearly established 23 federal law required that the UCC's decision to move Petitioner to 24 “Close B" custody status be supported by “some evidence." Hill, however, does not address the quantum of As such, Petitioner has presented no clearly Consequently, the Court 25 Accordingly, Petitioner's claim is without merit. 26 C. 27 Based on the above, Respondent's motion to dismiss the petition 28 on the ground that Petitioner has failed to state a cognizable claim Summary 6 1 for federal habeas corpus relief, or, 2 presented meritorious claims for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, is 3 GRANTED. 4 III. 5 alternatively, has not Certificate of Appealability A certificate of appealability will be denied with respect to 6 Petitioner's claim. 7 Habeas Corpus Cases Under § 2254, Rule 11 (requiring district court 8 to issue or deny certificate of appealability when entering final 9 order adverse to petitioner). See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)(a); Rules Governing Specifically, Petitioner has failed United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 to make a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional 11 right, as he has not demonstrated that reasonable jurists would find 12 the Court's assessment of the constitutional claims debatable or 13 wrong. Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000). 14 CONCLUSION 15 For the foregoing reasons, the Court orders as follows: 16 1. Respondent's motion to dismiss the petition is GRANTED. 17 2. A certificate of appealability is DENIED. 18 The Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment in favor of 19 Respondent, terminate all pending motions, and close the file. 20 This Order terminates Docket no. 5. 21 IT IS SO ORDERED. 22 Dated: 1/6/2012 23 CLAUDIA WILKEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 24 25 26 27 28 7

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