The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court
ORDER DISMISSING PETITIONER'S 18 U.S.C. § 2254 PETITION WITH PREJUDICE (Doc. No. 1)
Presently before the Court is Patrick James Carrizosa, Jr.'s ("Petitioner's") amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus ("Petition") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner claims the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") wrongfully denied his request for conduct credits (a/k/a "behavioral credits") and limited Petitioner to worktime credit equal to 15% of his sentence.
The matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Leo S. Papas, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). Magistrate Judge Papas issued a Report and Recommendation ("Report"), concluding this Court should dismiss the petition on the merits. After considering the Report and Petitioner's objections, this Court adopted Magistrate Judge Papas's Report with respect to Petitioner's due process and estoppel claims and denied Petitioner's Petition with respect to these claims with prejudice. With respect to the remaining equal protection claim, the Court requested supplemental briefing. (Doc. No. 40.)
After receiving supplemental briefing from the parties, the Court, unsatisfied with Respondent's cursory explanation for apparent disparities in credit earnings as to similarly situated inmates, ordered Respondent to show cause why the Petition should not be granted and requested specific explanations regarding apparent inequities in the awarding of worktime credit amongst similarly situated inmates.
Having received Respondent's answer to the Order to Show Cause and Petitioner's reply, the Court DISMISSES the Petition.
Petitioner's equal protection claim is based upon an allegation that CDCR is arbitrarily issuing credits at different amounts to similarly situated inmates participating in the facility's inmate work program. Specifically, Petitioner claims that persons convicted of violent felonies are being issued conduct/behavioral credits despite CDCR's claim that these inmates are only entitled to worktime credits subject to 15 percent cap imposed by Cal. Penal Code § 2933.1. In support, Petitioner has provided the Legal Status Summary ("LSS") forms of several inmates which show the accumulation and loss of credit.
In this Court's order following the magistrate judge's report, the Court observed that if the CDCR is allowing violent felons to obtain credits in excess of the 15 percent cap imposed by section 2933.1 became effective, then Petitioner may be able show that he is treated differently. This Court identified several LSS forms which apparently demonstrated such treatment. Specifically, the Court identified LSS forms belonging to Thomas Joseph Lynch, Charles Clemans, and Richard Woerner, all violent felons who had apparently been awarded release credits in excess of the 15 percent cap. The Court requested supplemental briefing to allow Respondent to address the LSS sheets.
In response to the Court's request for supplemental briefing, Respondent argued that the LSS forms establish that: (1) Petitioner is not similarly situated to former inmate Lynch since Lynch's felonies were not enumerated in Cal. Penal Code § 667.4(c) as violent felonies at the time of Lynch's offense conduct in 1995; and that (2) neither Clemans nor Woerner would receive more than a maximum of 15% credit towards their sentences as demonstrated by the minimum adjusted release dates calculated on forms submitted to the Court.
The Court found Respondent's supplemental briefing failed to adequately address the Court's observation in its September 28, 2007 Order that the LSS forms of both Woerner and Clemans indicate the two inmates were issued release credits in excess of 15% of their sentences. Specifically, the Court failed to find an explanation as to why the "Assess" columns on the LSS forms for inmates Woerner and Clemans summed to a value greater than 15% of each inmate's sentence. Accordingly, the Court ordered Respondent to show cause why the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus should not be granted and asked Respondent for further explanation regarding the LSS forms for inmates Woerner and Clemens.
Respondent's response to the Order to Show Cause has clarified this crucial point, explaining the "Assess" column on the LSS forms in the Court's record does not reflect credits earned, but rather credits which have been deducted from an inmate. Respondent's explanation is supported by the calculation worksheets submitted with respect to the Court's September 27, 2007 order (see Doc. No. 43, Respondent's Reply to Petitioner's Objections to Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, Ex. F., pg. 9, where "Assess" column entries are placed in section c of the work sheet for "credit losses.") and the Chronological History Report lodged in connection with Respondent's response to the Order to Show Cause (see Doc. No. 53, Respondent's Response to Order to Show Cause, Ex. J.).
Petitioner's reply does not challenge Respondent's claim that Thomas Lynch is not similarly situated to petitioner nor Respondent's definitions or calculations with respect to the LSS forms of inmates Woerner or Clemans.
Rather, Petitioner reiterates the argument he has made in several previous filings, which is that regardless of the 15% limitation on the accrual of worktime credits contained in § 2933.1(a), Respondent has been issuing, taking, and returning behavioral conduct credits to inmates similarly situated to Petitioner while denying those credits to the Petitioner such that those inmates are effectively earning credits which total to more than 15% of those inmates' sentences.
The LSS forms for similarly situated inmates Woerner and Clemans-upon the unchallenged clarifications offered by the Respondent-simply provide no basis for Petitioner's claim that he is being inequitably denied the ability to earn credits beyond the 15% statutory limitation. The forms indicate both Woerner and Clemans have been restricted to earning credits equal to 15% of their sentence and no more. Further, as the Court has previously explained, section 2933.1 does not allow an inmate to accumulate behavioral credits after placement in custody of the Department of Corrections. Section 2933.1 eliminated good behavior credits for defendants committing ...