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May 14, 2003


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan Illston, United States District Judge


The petition for writ of habeas corpus is denied on the merits.



This matter is now before the court for consideration of the merits of the pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus filed by Bruce Joel Hall. For the reasons discussed below, the court will deny the petition on the merits. The court also will lift the stay that had been imposed pending the decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in Lockyer v. Andrade, 123 S.Ct. 1166 (2003).


Bruce Joel Hall was observed using a stolen credit card in two Mervyn's stores on one day in April 1997. The credit card belonged to Lois Dubois, who had discovered that several of her credit cards had been stolen after a construction crew had been in her home doing a remodeling job. Hall was one of the workers on that construction crew. When Hall was arrested at Mervyn's, the police retrieved from Hall several credit cards belonging to Dubois.

Hall pled no contest in the San Mateo County Superior Court to a charge of petty theft with a prior burglary conviction, see Cal. Penal Code § 666, and admitted that he had suffered three prior serious felony "strike" convictions and four prior prison term enhancements. See Cal. Penal Code §§ 667.5(b), 1170.12. The sentencing court struck one of the "strike" conviction allegations and all of the prior prison term allegations and, on April 3, 1998, sentenced Hall to imprisonment for 25 years to life.

He appealed. The California Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of conviction and the California Supreme Court denied Hall's petition for writ of habeas corpus.

Hall then filed this action. Hall's federal habeas petition contains nine grounds for relief. In grounds 1-7, Hall contends that the sentence imposed on him under California's Three Strikes law violates his rights under the Double Jeopardy Clause, the Due Process Clause, the Eighth Amendment and the Ex Post Facto Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In grounds 8 and 9, he contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in the 1998 proceeding (i.e., the one in which the current conviction occurred) in that counsel did not move to dismiss the prior conviction allegation concerning a 1987 conviction on the ground that the guilty plea in the 1987 case was not knowing and voluntary. After the parties briefed the merits of the petition, two decisions from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals were issued that impacted the Eighth Amendment analysis. The court ordered further briefing in light of those cases, but later stayed the case pending a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on a key Eighth Amendment sentencing case. That case was decided several weeks ago, so the stay is no longer necessary. The parties filed supplemental briefs addressing the two recent Supreme Court cases on the Eighth Amendment issue. The case is now ready for the court's consideration.


This court has subject matter jurisdiction over this habeas action for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. This action is in the proper venue because the challenged conviction occurred in San Mateo County, California, within this judicial district. 28 U.S.C. § 84, 2241(d).


Prisoners in state custody who wish to challenge collaterally in federal habeas proceedings either the fact or length of their confinement are required first to exhaust state judicial remedies, either on direct appeal or through collateral proceedings, by presenting the highest state court available with a fair opportunity to rule on the merits of each and every claim they seek to raise in federal court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (b), (c). The parties do not dispute that state court remedies were exhausted for the claims asserted by Hall.


This court may entertain a petition for writ of habeas corpus "in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254 (a). The petition may not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the state court's adjudication of the claim: "(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a ...

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