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Hunt v. Campbell

March 12, 2009

STONEY LYNN HUNT, PETITIONER,
v.
ROSANNE CAMPBELL, WARDEN, RESPONDENT.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner claims that his federal constitutional right to due process of law was violated by a 2003 decision of the California Board of Parole Hearings (Board) to deny him parole.

ANALYSIS

I. Standards for a Writ of Habeas Corpus

Federal habeas corpus relief is not available for any claim decided on the merits in state court proceedings 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 decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

Under section 2254(d)(1), a state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established United States Supreme Court precedents if it applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in Supreme Court cases, or if it confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of the Supreme Court and nevertheless arrives at different result. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 7 (2002) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-406 (2000)).

Under the "unreasonable application" clause of section 2254(d)(1), a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from the Supreme Court's decisions, but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case. Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. A federal habeas court "may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable." Id. at 412; see also Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003) (it is "not enough that a federal habeas court, in its independent review of the legal question, is left with a 'firm conviction' that the state court was 'erroneous.'") (internal citations omitted).

The court looks to the last reasoned state court decision as the basis for the state court judgment. Avila v. Galaza, 297 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 2002). Where the state court reaches a decision on the merits but provides no reasoning to support its conclusion, a federal habeas court independently reviews the record to determine whether habeas corpus relief is available under section 2254(d). Delgado v. Lewis, 223 F.3d 976, 982 (9th Cir. 2000).

II. Petitioner's Claims

Petitioner raises two claims in his petition. First, he contends that the Board's decision to deny parole violated his right to due process because the decision "was not based on any evidence, was arbitrary, capricious, and an unreasonable view of the facts." Second, petitioner contends that the Board's reliance on unchanging factors, including his commitment offense and pre-incarceration conduct, violated his right to due process. The last reasoned state court rejection of petitioner's claims is the decision of the Fresno County Superior Court, which denied petitioner's petition for writ of habeas corpus on the ground that "sufficient evidence exists to support the findings of the Board of Prison Terms." Ex. 2 to Petitioner's Traverse, filed October 13, 2006.

California Penal Code section 3041 vests . . . all . . . California prisoners whose sentences provide for the possibility of parole with a constitutionally protected liberty interest in the receipt of a parole release date, a liberty interest that is protected by the procedural safeguards of the Due Process Clause. Sass [v. California Board of Prison Terms], 461 F.3d [1123] at 1128 [(9th Cir. 2006)]; Biggs [v. Terhune], 334 F.3d [910] at 914 [(9th Cir. 2003)]; McQuillion v. Duncan, 306 F.3d 895, 903 (9th Cir.2002); see also Bd. of Pardons v. Allen, 482 U.S. 369, 377-78, 107 S.Ct. 2415, 96 L.Ed.2d 303 (1987) (quoting Greenholtz v. Inmates of Neb. Penal & Corr. Complex, 442 U.S. 1, 12, 99 S.Ct. 2100, 60 L.Ed.2d 668 (1979)).

Irons v. Carey, 505 F.3d 846, 850-51 (9th Cir. 2007). At all times relevant to this action, it has been clearly established precedent of the United States Supreme Court that "a parole board's decision deprives a prisoner of due process with respect to this interest if the board's decision is not supported by 'some evidence in the record,' Sass, 461 F.3d at 1128-29 (citing Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 457, 105 S.Ct. 2768, 86 L.Ed.2d 356 (1985)); see also Biggs, 334 F.3d at 915 (citing ...


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