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Hardney v. Sullivan

April 21, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John C. Coughenour United States District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner John Hardney's petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Dkt. No. 1); Respondent Warden William Sullivan's answer to the petition (Dkt. No. 10); and Petitioner's traverse to the answer (Dkt. No. 17). Having reviewed the relevant documents, the governing law, and the balance of the record, the Court declines to hold an evidentiary hearing, and DENIES the petition for the reasons that follow.


Petitioner is a state prisoner at California Medical Facility ("CMF") in Vacaville, California. (See Address Change (Dkt. No. 20).)*fn1 During the events giving rise to this petition, however, Petitioner was incarcerated at California State Penitentiary, Solano ("Solano"), also located in Vacaville. (See Violation Package (Dkt. No. 10-3).)*fn2 In 2004 at Solano, Petitioner was found "guilty" of "indecent exposure with priors" in a prison disciplinary proceeding. (Id.) He was punished with the loss of 90 days of worktime (also referred to as "good-time") credits.*fn3 (Id.) Petitioner now alleges that the procedure used by the prison in withdrawing his good-time credits violated his constitutional right to due process.

After the prison disciplinary hearing, Petitioner appealed, and the matter was reviewed on behalf of the Director of the California Department of Corrections. (Director Decision (Dkt. 10-4 at 2).) The Chief of the Inmate Appeals Branch, N. Grannis, reduced the rule violation from "indecent exposure with priors," a Division B offense, to "indecent exposure," a Division D offense, and reduced the credit forfeiture from 150 to 90 days. (Id.) Grannis rejected Petitioner's complaints regarding the adequacy of the proceedings. (Id.) Petitioner then filed for habeas relief in the Superior Court of California; in a written decision, that court denied the petition.*fn4 (Super. Ct. Order (Dkt. No. 10-5).) Both the California Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court summarily denied review. (Dkt. Nos. 10-6, 10-7.)*fn5

On March 26, 2007, Petitioner, filed this pro se habeas petition in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. (Pet. 2 (Dkt. No. 1 at 1).) He seeks, inter alia, to have the disciplinary sanctions reversed, his lost behavior credits restored, and all references to the discipline expunged from his record. Alternately, he requests an evidentiary hearing. (Id. at 11.)


A state prisoner may collaterally attack his detention in federal district court under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 if he is being held in violation of the Constitution or laws and treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Review of state court decisions, however, is sharply limited. A federal court may not grant a state prisoner's habeas petition unless the state court's adjudication (1) "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court"; or (2) "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceedings." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

Under the first prong of section 2254(d), a state court decision is "contrary to" federal law if the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law from Supreme Court precedent or decides the case differently from a Supreme Court case with materially indistinguishable facts. See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405--06 (2000). A state court decision is an "unreasonable application" of federal law if the state court correctly identifies the governing law but unreasonably applies the rule to the facts of petitioner's case. See id. at 413. An unreasonable application means more than that the district court, in its independent judgment, believes that the relevant state court decision applied the law incorrectly or clearly erroneously; rather, the application must be "objectively unreasonable." Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75--76 (2003) (citations omitted).

Under the second prong of section 2254(d), to show that the state courts unreasonably determined the facts, the petitioner must overcome a presumption that the state courts correctly determined factual issues. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), (e)(1). The petitioner carries the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. Id.

An evidentiary hearing may be held when (1) a petitioner alleges facts that, if true, would entitle him to relief, and (2) the petitioner shows that he did not receive a full and fair hearing in state court either at the trial or at the time of the proceeding. Gonzales v. Plier, 341 F.3d 897, 903 (9th Cir. 2003). The district court's ability to hold an evidentiary hearing is also limited by statute. If the applicant has failed to develop the factual basis of a claim in state court proceedings, the court may not hold an evidentiary hearing unless (1) the claim relies on a new rule of constitutional law or a factual predicate that could not have been previously discovered through the exercise of due diligence, or (2) the facts underlying the claim would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that, but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found the applicant guilty of the underlying offense. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2).

Pro se habeas petitions are to be construed liberally. Laws v. Lamarque, 351 F.3d 919, 924 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488, 493 (1989)). The petition and the traverse may be treated as affidavits. See id.


Petitioner presents three arguments to support his contention that the prison disciplinary proceeding violated his constitutional right to due process. First, Petitioner argues the prison denied him due process by failing to appoint him an investigative appointee to collect and present information and evidence for an adequate defense. (Pet. 16 (Dkt. No. 1 at 27).) Second, Petitioner argues that the prison denied him due process by excluding certain witnesses to corroborate his statement of defense. (Id. at 21.) Third, Petitioner argues that the officer who presided over his disciplinary proceeding was biased, and thus he was denied an impartial hearing in violation of his right to due process. ...

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