De Cambra v. Sakai
ORDER DISMISSING ACTION WITHOUT PREJUDICE AND DENYING IN FORMA PAUPERIS APPLICATION. Signed by JUDGE DERRICK K. WATSON on 3/18/2014. ~ (1) The Petition and action are DISMISSED without prejudice. Petitioner may reassert his claims i n a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in Arizona where venue apparently lies, after he has had the opportunity to consider the Courts discussion in this Order. (2) Petitioners in forma pauperis application is DENIED as incomplete. </fo nt< (ecs, )CERTIFICATE OF SERVICEParticipants registered to receive electronic notifications received this document electronically at the e-mail address listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF). Participants not registered to receive electronic notifications were served by first class mail on the date of this docket entry
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF HAWAII
DIRECTOR TED SAKAI, DEP’T )
OF PUBLIC SAFETY, STATE OF )
CIV. NO. 14-00122 DKW/RLP
ORDER DISMISSING ACTION
WITHOUT PREJUDICE AND
DENYING IN FORMA PAUPERIS
ORDER DISMISSING ACTION WITHOUT PREJUDICE
AND DENYING IN FORMA PAUPERIS APPLICATION
Petitioner John DeCambra is a Hawaii state prisoner incarcerated at
the Saguaro Correctional Center (“SCC”), located in Eloy, Arizona. Petitioner
submitted this action as a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 with a request to proceed in forma pauperis.
Although Petitioner names Hawaii Department of Public Safety
Director Ted Sakai as respondent,1 he claims that SCC prison officials in Arizona
have denied him medical care in violation of the United States Constitution.
The court recognizes that Petitioner named Sakai as respondent, as the person with
custody over him, not as the individual who Petitioner believes is responsible for committing the
wrongs that he alleges.
Petitioner seeks an order directing prison officials to provide him with the medical
care and treatment he allegedly requires. See generally, Petition, Doc. No. 1.
Petitioner complains that SCC prison physician Dr. Baird diagnosed
him with Hepatitis C on or about July 16, 2013, yet refuses to treat him for this
condition. Dr. Baird allegedly told Petitioner that “Hawaii’s insurance won’t cover
his treatment,” and that Petitioner has insufficient time remaining in custody to
begin treatment. Pet., Doc. No. 1 at PageID #2. Petitioner alleges that he became
depressed and anxious for several days after receiving this news, and fearing that
he might harm himself or others, requested medical supervision. Id. Petitioner has
since repeatedly requested treatment for his Hepatitis C and access to his medical
files, but has been denied both by SCC medical unit personnel. He concedes that
SCC medical personnel explained that the Hepatitis C treatment protocol requires
twenty-four uninterrupted weeks of treatment and causes side effects that may be
dangerous given Petitioner’s past mental health issues. Id., PageID #3.
Petitioner filed grievances concerning these claims and pursued
habeas relief in the Hawaii state court on or about November 25, 2013. He states
his grievances were denied and the Hawaii court has not responded. Id., PageID
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases in the United States
District Courts (Habeas Rules) requires the district court to make a preliminary
review of each petition for writ of habeas corpus. The court must summarily
dismiss a petition "[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits
that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court. . . .” Habeas Rule 4;
O’Bremski v. Maass, 915 F.2d 418, 420 (9th Cir. 1990); see also Hendricks v.
Vasquez, 908 F.2d 490 (9th Cir. 1990). The Advisory Notes to Rule 8 indicate that
the court may dismiss a petition for writ of habeas corpus at several stages of a
case, including “summary dismissal under Rule 4; a dismissal pursuant to a motion
by the respondent; a dismissal after the answer and petition are considered; or a
dismissal after consideration of the pleadings and an expanded record.”
“‘Federal law opens two main avenues to relief on complaints related
to imprisonment: a petition for habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and a complaint
under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Rev. Stat. § 1979, as amended, 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Challenges to the lawfulness of confinement or to particulars affecting its
duration are the province of habeas corpus.’” Hill v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 574,
579 (2006) (quoting Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750 (2004)). “An
inmate’s challenge to the circumstances of his confinement, however, may be
brought under § 1983.” Id.
Thus, as a general rule, a prisoner’s challenge of the fact or duration
of a confinement should be addressed by filing a habeas corpus petition, while a
challenge to the conditions of confinement should be addressed by filing a civil
rights action. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 554 (1974); Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 499-500 (1973); Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850,
858-859 (9th Cir. 2003) (explaining that “habeas jurisdiction is absent, and a
§ 1983 action proper, where a successful challenge to a prison condition would not
necessarily shorten the prisoner’s sentence”).
Petitioner Does Not Challenge His Conviction or Sentence
Petitioner does not challenge his conviction or sentence—he
challenges the alleged denial of medical care by prison medical officials in
Arizona. A favorable judgment would alter the conditions under which Petitioner
is confined, but would not result in his release or effect the duration of his
sentence. Because Petitioner’s claims are properly construed as challenging the
conditions of his confinement, they are cognizable, if at all, in a civil rights action,
and not in a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
Moreover, Petitioner concedes he has an ongoing petition in the
Hawaii state courts raising the same claims he presents here. Although Petitioner
may have been unaware when he mailed this pleading to the court, the Hawaii
Supreme Court has since directed the Hawaii Department of the Attorney General
to answer Petitioner’s claims within twenty days of February 21, 2014. See
DeCambra v. Sakai, No. SCPW-13-0005657, 2014 WL 715543, *1 (Haw. 2014).
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b), habeas relief may not be granted unless a petitioner
has exhausted the remedies available in state court. Exhaustion requires the
petitioner to fairly present all claims to the state courts before commencing a
federal action. Ybarra v. McDaniel, 656 F.3d 984, 991 (9th Cir. 2011), cert.
denied, ––– U.S. ––––, 133 S.Ct. 424 (2012). As a matter of comity, a federal
court will not entertain a habeas petition unless the petitioner has exhausted the
available state judicial remedies on every ground presented in the petition. See
Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518 (1982). Fully unexhausted petitions must be
dismissed and are not subject to a stay-and-abey procedure. Raspberry v. Garcia,
448 F.3d 1150, 1154 (9th Cir. 2006).
Petitioner does not state a claim for habeas relief, and even if he did,
his claims are admittedly unexhausted because he has a pending petition in the
Hawaii state courts. The Petition is subject to dismissal without prejudice.
The Court Will Not Construe This Action as Brought Pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983
A federal court has discretion to construe a mislabeled habeas corpus
petition as a civil rights action. See Wilwording v. Swenson, 404 U.S. 249, 251
(1971) (per curiam) (holding that state prisoners’ habeas petitions could be read to
plead § 1983 claims which the prisoners were entitled to have heard without
exhaustion of state remedies). The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995
(“PLRA”) may make it inappropriate to do so, however. In particular, § 1983
cases filed by prisoners are subject to a $350.00 filing fee, rather than the $5.00
dollar filing fee for habeas cases, see 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a), and the fee must be
paid, even if in forma pauperis status is granted, through deductions from the
prisoner’s trust account until the $350.00 fee is paid in full. See 28 U.S.C.
Prisoner civil rights cases must also be administratively exhausted
through the prison grievance system before a complaint may be pursued in federal
court. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Due to the PLRA’s filing fee requirements,
provisions requiring sua sponte review of complaints, and limits on the number of
actions a prisoner may be permitted to file in forma pauperis, a prisoner should not
be obligated to proceed with a civil rights action unless it is clear that he or she
wishes to do so. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e; Bunn v. Conley, 309
F.3d 1002, 1007 (7th Cir. 2002) (stating that courts should not recharacterize the
nature of a prisoner’s claim because the PLRA and the Antiterrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act of 1996 created “pitfalls of different kinds for prisoners using
the wrong vehicle”); cf. Blueford v. Prunty, 108 F.3d 251, 255 (9th Cir. 1997)
(stating that a court should not convert a civil rights action into habeas petition due
to the implications of the abuse of the writ doctrine); Trimble v. City of Santa Rosa,
49 F.3d 583, 586 (9th Cir. 1995) (same).
It is uncertain whether Petitioner is willing to pay the civil filing fee
of $350.00 rather than the $5.00 habeas filing fee to pursue his claims. Further,
although he names the Hawaii Director of Public Safety, Petitioner’s claims are
alleged against SCC prison officials and he challenges events that admittedly
occurred in Arizona. Were this action construed as a civil rights action, Petitioner
would be required to amend his pleading using court forms, name the individuals
allegedly responsible for his claims, provide certification of his prison account
funds and certification that those funds may be deducted, and the action would
nonetheless likely be transferred to Arizona. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) (stating
venue lies in the judicial district where a substantial part of the events or omissions
giving rise to the claim occurred); 28 U.S.C. § 1404 (allowing the court to transfer
venue for the convenience of parties and witnesses in the interests of justice).
As noted above, Petitioner has an ongoing petition in the Hawaii state
courts raising the same claims he presents here. Under principles of comity and
federalism, a federal court generally should not interfere with ongoing state
proceedings by granting injunctive or declaratory relief in a federal civil rights
action except under special circumstances. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37,
43-54 (1971); see also Middlesex Cnty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass’n,
457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982) (applying the Younger abstention rationale to
noncriminal judicial proceedings); Dubinka v. Judges of the Superior Court, 23
F.3d 218, 223 (9th Cir. 1994). Although the Court makes no determination on
whether Younger abstention applies here, it is another factor weighing against
construing this habeas action as a civil rights action.
For these reasons, Petitioner might not seek to have the instant action
treated as a § 1983 case, and the court will not construe it as such. Accordingly,
the Petition is dismissed without prejudice.
(1) The Petition and action are DISMISSED without prejudice. Petitioner
may reassert his claims in a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in Arizona
where venue apparently lies, after he has had the opportunity to consider the
Court’s discussion in this Order.
Petitioner’s in forma pauperis application is DENIED as incomplete.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: Honolulu, Hawaii, March 18, 2014.
DECAMBRA v. SAKAI; CV. 14-00122 DKW-RLP; ORDER DISMISSING
ACTION WITHOUT PREJUDICE AND DENYING IN FORMA PAUPERIS
DeCambra v. Sakai, 1:14-cv-00122 DKW/RLP; psa 2014 habeas; J:\Denise's Draft Orders\DKW\DeCambra 14-122 DKW (dsm
hab not constue as 1983).FINAL.wpd
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