James v. Jones et al
ORDER dismissing this action, and denying leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal, by Judge Lewis T. Babcock on 3/31/16. No certificate of appealability will issue. (dkals, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Civil Action No. 16-cv-00706-GPG
JOHN H. JAMES,
WARDEN SUSAN JONES, and
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF COLORADO,
ORDER OF DISMSISAL
Applicant John H. James, has filed pro se an Application for a Writ of Habeas
Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ' 2254, ECF No. 1, challenging the disposition of Case No.
2011CV214 in Colorado state court. Applicant asserts that the state court case is a civil
action and does not involve a sentence imposed against him. He is seeking damages
and reversal of the state district court order, and subsequent appeals, in Case No.
The Court must construe the Application liberally because Applicant is not
represented by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Hall v.
Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). However, the Court should not act as an
advocate for a pro se litigant. See Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. For the reasons stated
below, the action will be dismissed for failure to state proper § 2254 claims and for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.
First, in a federal district court, A[t]he essence of habeas corpus is an attack by a
person in custody upon the legality of that custody, and . . . the traditional function of the
writ is to secure release from illegal custody.@ See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475,
484 (1973). Furthermore, A[i]t is well-settled law that prisoners who wish to challenge
only the conditions of their confinement, as opposed to its fact or duration, must do so
through civil rights lawsuits filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ' 1983 . . . .@ See Standifer v.
Ledezma, 653 F.3d 1276, 1280 (10th Cir. 2011).
The claims Applicant asserted in Case No. 2011CV214 clearly involve the
conditions of his confinement and not the validity of his conviction or sentence. Applicant
attached to the Application the Colorado Court of Appeals’ (CCA) order that affirmed the
state district court=s order dismissing Case No. 2011CV214. See ECF No. 1-1 at 1-13.
The CCA described Applicant’s claims in its order that affirmed the state district court’s
dismissal of Case No. 2011CV214. The CCA stated that Applicant’s claims addressed
the denial of his noon meal, which he claims created a medical problem because he is
diabetic. Id. at 2. The CCA also stated that Applicant claimed his diabetic snacks were
removed from his cell, his scheduled medical appointments were cancelled because he
allegedly had refused medical treatment and therapy, and he was denied food in
retaliation for filing a grievance. Id. Finally, the CCA stated that Applicant sought
money damages and amendment of the DOC food service policies. Id.
Although Applicant does not specifically address in this action the conditions of
confinement claims he raises in Case No. 2011CV214, the relief he requests in this case
is the same relief he requested in Case No. 2011CV214. See ECF No. at 8-16. Money
damages and an amendment of the DOC food service policies is not available in a
§ 2254 action. Because Applicant is seeking relief in this ' 2254 action from a judgment
in state court that involved conditions of confinement claims and not constitutional
violations in his state criminal proceedings, this ' 2254 action will be dismissed.
Second, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3), the Court must dismiss an action if it
lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They
possess only that power authorized by Constitution and
statute, which is not to be expanded by judicial decree. It is
to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited
jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing the contrary rests
upon the party asserting jurisdiction.
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citations omitted).
The issue of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised sua sponte by a court at any
time during the course of the proceedings. See McAlester v. United Air Lines, Inc., 851
F.2d 1249, 1252 (10th Cir. 1988). Furthermore, statutes conferring jurisdiction on
federal courts must be strictly construed. See United States v. Pethick, 513 F.3d 1200,
1202 (10th Cir. 2008).
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes Acases brought by state-court losers
complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court
proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those
judgments.@ Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005);
see also Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1005-06 (1994) (stating that the losing
party in a state court proceeding generally Ais barred from seeking what in substance
would be appellate review of the state court judgment in a United States district court,
based on the losing party=s claim that the state judgment itself violates the loser=s federal
rights.@). Review of the state court judgment must proceed to the state=s highest court
and then to the United States Supreme Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ' 1257. See Facio
v. Jones, 929 F.2d 541, 543 (10th Cir. 1991).
Even if Applicant were to raise his claims in a prisoner complaint in this Court, the
Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to review the claims. Because this Court would
have to review and reject the state court findings in Case No. 2011CV214 to grant
Applicant=s relief, the claims are clearly within the scope of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
See Mann v. Boatright, 477 F.3d 1140, 1147 (10th Cir. 2007). Dismissal of this action,
therefore, is proper for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Finally, the Court notes that Applicant is subject to filing restrictions pursuant to 28
U.S.C. ' 1915(g). In relevant part, ' 1915 provides:
In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a judgment in a civil
action or proceeding under this section if the prisoner has, on 3 or more
prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an
action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the
grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of
serious physical injury.
28 U.S.C. ' 1915(g). Applicant, on three or more prior occasions, has brought an action
in this Court that was dismissed on the grounds that it was legally frivolous. See James
v. Pittman, No. 97-cv-01394-WYD (D. Colo. Dec. 11, 1997); James v. Filer, No.
94-cv-02427-DBS (D. Colo. Jan. 26, 1995); James v. Neal, et al., No. 94-cv-02396-DBS
(D. Colo. Dec. 20, 1994), aff=d, No. 95-1040 (10th Cir. May 8, 1995). The Court=s
' 1915(g) determination in each of the above-noted cases complies with Hafed v. Fed.
Bureau of Prisons, et al., 635 F.3d 1172 (10th Cir. 2011).
Applicant is warned that he may not circumvent filing restrictions under 28 U.S.C.
' 1915(g) by filing conditions of confinement claims in a habeas corpus action.
For the reasons stated above, this action will be dismissed for failure to assert
proper claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ' 2254 and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
The Court also certifies pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ' 1915(a)(3) that any appeal from
this Order would not be taken in good faith and therefore in forma pauperis status will be
denied for the purpose of appeal. See Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438 (1962).
If Applicant files a notice of appeal he also must pay the full $505 appellate filing fee or file
a motion to proceed in forma pauperis in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth
Circuit within thirty days in accordance with Fed. R. App. P. 24. Accordingly, it is
ORDERED that the Application is denied and the action dismissed with prejudice
for failure to assert proper claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 and for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that no certificate of appealability will issue because
Applicant has not made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right or that
this Court was incorrect in its procedural ruling. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal is
denied. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that all pending motions are denied as moot.
DATED March 31, 2016, at Denver, Colorado.
BY THE COURT:
s/Lewis T. Babcock
LEWIS T. BABCOCK, Senior Judge
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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?