United States District Court, N.D. California
June 10, 2004.
ERNESTO G. LIRA, Petitioner,
DIRECTOR OF CORRECTIONS FOR THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA; PELICAN BAY STATE PRISON WARDEN, Respondents.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge
This action is dismissed because it is moot.
IT IS SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED. ORDER OF DISMISSAL
Ernesto G. Lira, a prisoner incarcerated at Pelican Bay State
Prison, has filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 challenging a disciplinary decision.
The court issued an order to show cause why the petition should
not be granted, respondent filed an answer and petitioner filed a
denial thereto. The petition is now ready for the court's
consideration on the merits. For the reasons discussed below, the
petition must be dismissed because it is moot.
Lira claimed in his petition that his due process rights were
violated during disciplinary proceedings on April 2, 2001. The
disciplinary proceedings stemmed from an incident on March 9,
2001 during which Lira presented a medical chrono to guards to
obtain a second pair of shoes. Lira was accused of altering the
document, apparently by deleting the word "denied" so that the chrono indicated his request was granted rather than denied by
the chief medical officer. Lira was found guilty at the April 2,
2001 disciplinary proceeding of falsification of a government
document and was assessed a 60-day credit forfeiture and had his
canteen privileges suspended for 90 days.
The 60-day credit forfeiture assessed was restored on September
13, 2001 upon Lira's completion of a disciplinary-free period.
Although Lira did not file a change of address notice in this
action, he did so in Lira v. Alameida, Case No. C04-977 SI,
stating that he was no longer in prison and as of May 3, 2004 was
living in Planada, California.
Article III, § 2, of the U.S. Constitution requires the
existence of a case or controversy through all stages of federal
judicial proceedings. This means that, throughout the litigation,
the petitioner/plaintiff "must have suffered, or be threatened
with, an actual injury traceable to the [respondent/defendant]
and likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision."
Lewis v. Continental Bank Corp., 494 U.S. 472, 477 (1990).
An incarcerated (or paroled) convict's challenge to the
validity of his conviction satisfies the case-or-controversy
requirement because the incarceration (or the restrictions
imposed by the terms of the parole) constitutes a concrete
injury, caused by the conviction and redressable by the
invalidation of the conviction. Spencer v. Kemna, 523 U.S. 1, 7
(1998). Once the convict's sentence has expired, however, some
concrete and continuing injury other than the now-ended
incarceration or parole some "collateral consequence" of the
conviction must exist if the suit is to be maintained and not
considered moot. Id. Courts may presume that a criminal
conviction has continuing collateral consequences. See id. at
8-12 (noting that Supreme Court has been willing to accept
hypothetical collateral consequences for criminal convictions);
Evitts v. Lucey, 469 U.S. 387, 391 n. 4 (1985) (accepting as
collateral consequence possibility that conviction may be used in
future criminal proceeding to enhance sentence). But this
presumption does not extend to other contexts. See Spencer,
523 U.S. at 13; Lane v. Williams 455 U.S. 624, 632-33 (1982). A petitioner who seeks to challenge
the revocation of his parole, for example, must demonstrate that
continuing collateral consequences exist if the underlying
sentence has expired, see Spencer, 523 U.S. at 14-18, or if
the term imposed for violating parole has been served, see Cox
v. McCarthy, 829 F.2d 800, 803 (9th Cir. 1987) (claim moot
because petitioner cannot be released from term imposed for
violating parole that he has already served). Claims of detriment
in a future parole or sentencing proceeding, impeachment in
future court proceedings, or use against him if he appears as a
defendant in a future criminal proceeding do not constitute
sufficient proof of collateral consequences. See Spencer, 523
U.S. at 14-16.
The presumption of collateral consequences that is applied to
criminal convictions also does not extend to prison disciplinary
proceedings. Wilson v. Terhune, 319 F.3d 477, 481 (9th Cir.
2003). A prisoner seeking to challenge prison disciplinary
proceedings in habeas must demonstrate that continuing collateral
consequences exist if the punishment imposed as a result of the
disciplinary action has expired. See id. Allegations that a
rules violation finding will affect classification, institutional
and housing assignments, privileges, and may result in a delay or
denial of parole, involve discretionary decisions too speculative
to constitute sufficient proof of collateral consequences. See
id. at 481-82
The rationale of Spencer v. Kemna applies to Lira's challenge
to the April 2, 2001 disciplinary decision. Specifically, because
Lira attacks the validity of a prison disciplinary decision but
no longer faces the actual injury of a lengthier stay in prison,
he must demonstrate that continuing collateral consequences
actually exist. Cf. United States v. Palomba, 182 F.3d 1121,
1122-23 (9th Cir. 1999) (rationale of Spencer v. Kemna applies
where petitioner seeks to challenge expired sentence rather than
underlying criminal conviction). Lira does not do so.
The 60-day credit forfeiture imposed as a result of the
disciplinary decision provided an actual injury redressable by a
favorable judicial decision, i.e., the court could have ordered
that a new disciplinary hearing be held or the credits would have
to be restored. But that actual injury no longer faces Lira
because the credits forfeited in the April 2, 2001 disciplinary
decision were later restored. Since Lira no longer faces an
actual injury, he must show he faces a continuing collateral
consequence of the disciplinary decision that could be redressed
by a favorable decision.
Lira tries to show a collateral consequence by arguing that the
existence of the April 2, 2001 disciplinary decision on his
record prevents him from applying for a restoration of credits
forfeited as a result of another disciplinary decision. In other
words, if Lira prevailed in this action, he thinks he could use
the favorable result here to help him erase the credit forfeiture
imposed for another unrelated disciplinary offense. This argument
completely loses its impact in light of Lira's subsequent release
from prison. Even if Lira obtained a ruling from this court that
a due process violation had occurred here, he could not use it to
have another disciplinary sentence reduced because he is no
longer in prison.
The possibility that the April 2, 2001 disciplinary decision
may be relevant if Lira finds himself in the criminal justice
system again in the future is not sufficient to demonstrate
collateral consequences under Spencer v. Kemna. Cf.
Spencer, 523 U.S. at 14-16 (claims of detriment in a future
parole or sentencing proceeding, impeachment in a future criminal
or civil proceeding, or use against him should he appear as a
defendant in a future criminal proceeding do not constitute
sufficient proof of collateral consequences).
Mootness deprives this court of its power to act, however the
mootness came to exist. See id. at 18. It matters not that
the case became moot for reasons unrelated to Lira's conduct. At
this point, no effective relief could be granted with regard to
the April 2, 2001 disciplinary decision or resulting credit
deprivation because Lira has been released from prison. The
petition must be dismissed.
The petition is DISMISSED as moot. The clerk shall close the
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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