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LIRA v. DIRECTOR OF CORRECTIONS FOR STATE OF CALIFORNIA

United States District Court, N.D. California


June 10, 2004.

ERNESTO G. LIRA, Petitioner,
v.
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

JUDGMENT

This action is dismissed because it is moot.

IT IS SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED. ORDER OF DISMISSAL

  INTRODUCTION

  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.

  BACKGROUND

  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.

  DISCUSSION

  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.

  CONCLUSION

  The petition is DISMISSED as moot. The clerk shall close the file.

  IT IS SO ORDERED.

20040610

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