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In re Jenkins

June 25, 2009

IN RE HARVEY ZANE JENKINS, ON HABEAS CORPUS.


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Lassen County, Dawson Arnold, Court Commissioner. Reversed. (Super. Ct. No. CHW2321).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robie, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Because of a transfer from Centinela State Prison to High Desert State Prison and a later transfer between facilities within High Desert, inmate Harvey Zane Jenkins spent more than half a year unassigned to a work, school, or vocational program. As a result, at his next annual classification review, he received only two of the four favorable classification points available for average or above-average performance in such a program.*fn1

By way of a habeas corpus petition, Jenkins sought to compel the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (the department) to award him the other two work/school performance points because the interruption in his work assignment was the result of a nonadverse transfer.*fn2 Following In re Player (2007) 146 Cal.App.4th 813, the superior court granted Jenkins relief based on the conclusion that because Jenkins was entitled to "S" time -- i.e., "excused work time for purposes of calculating credit off of [his] sentence" (id. at pp. 827-828) -- for the time he was not assigned to a work program, he was also entitled to favorable classification points for average or above-average performance in a work, school, or vocational program for his unassigned time as well.

On the prison warden‟s appeal, we conclude -- first of all -- that the notice of appeal was timely filed under rule 8.308(a) of the California Rules of Court.*fn3 As we will explain, under rule 8.308(a), "a notice of appeal . . . must be filed within 60 days after the rendition of judgment or the making of the order being appealed." Where, as here, the order being appealed was not pronounced in open court, but instead was embodied solely in a writing that was prepared, signed, and filed outside the presence of the parties, we conclude "the making of the order" does not occur until the court undertakes to communicate the substance of its order to the parties in some reasonable manner. That occurred here when the court mailed copies of the written order to the parties four days after the order was signed and filed. Because the warden filed his notice of appeal within 60 days of the date of that mailing, the appeal is timely.

Second, we conclude the superior court erred in determining Jenkins was entitled to the additional two work/school performance points for the time he did not actually participate in any work, school, or vocational program. A governing department regulation specifies that "[f]avorable points shall not be granted for average or above average performance for inmates who are not assigned to a program." (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 3375.4, subd. (a)(3)(B).) Because the department‟s interpretation and application of that regulation here to deny Jenkins the additional work/school performance points he sought was not arbitrary, capricious, or irrational, the department‟s decision must be upheld. Accordingly, we will reverse the superior court‟s order granting Jenkins relief on his habeas petition and direct the court to enter a new order denying relief.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Jenkins is in the custody of the department as a result of his conviction for second degree murder in 1993.

On December 21, 2005, Jenkins was transferred from Centinela State Prison to High Desert. Jenkins was not assigned to a work program at High Desert until January 12, 2006. From January 12 until March 9, he was assigned as "Facility C housing porter." On March 9, he was transferred to facility B, where he spent 172 days without a work assignment. He was subsequently assigned to an educational program.

On October 24, 2006, the annual review of Jenkins‟s classification score was conducted, covering the period from October 1, 2005, through September 30, 2006. Jenkins received a four-point reduction in his score for having no serious disciplinary actions and a two-point reduction for average or above-average performance in a work, school, or vocational program. It was later explained that Jenkins was denied the additional two work/school performance points that were available for the annual review period because he "was unassigned to a program for roughly half of the total review period."*fn4

Jenkins appealed, contending that because his transfer to High Desert was not adverse, he was entitled to a four-point reduction for average or above-average performance in a work, school, or vocational program. His appeal was denied at all administrative levels. On July 25, 2007, he filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in Lassen County Superior Court. Following In re Player, supra, 146 Cal.App.4th at page 813, the superior court determined that because Jenkins‟s work-qualifying status was disrupted based on circumstances and department conduct beyond his control, Jenkins was entitled to "not only "S‟ time, but the accompanying favorable work/behavior points."*fn5

In an order signed and filed April 25, 2008, the court granted Jenkins‟s petition and directed the department "to reduce [his] classification score by two points and to thereupon make whatever adjustments to [his] custody designation, program and institution placement as may appear."

The superior court served its order on the parties by mail on April 29, 2008. On June 27, 2008, Tom Felker, the warden of High Desert, filed a notice of appeal pursuant to Penal Code*fn6 section 1507 and rule 8.388(a).

DISCUSSION

I. Timeliness Of Appeal

We begin by addressing whether the notice of appeal was timely. Rule 8.388(a) provides that, with exceptions not applicable here, "rules 8.304-8.368 [the rules for appeals in non-capital criminal cases] . . . govern appeals under Penal Code section 1506 or 1507 from orders granting all or part of the relief sought in a petition for writ of habeas corpus." Rule 8.308(a), in turn, provides in relevant part that "[e]xcept . . . as otherwise provided by law, a notice of appeal . . . must be filed within 60 days after the rendition of judgment or the making of the order being appealed."

Here, if the 60-day period is calculated from the date the superior court mailed the order (April 29), then the notice of appeal was timely filed. If, on the other hand, the 60-day period is calculated from the date the superior court signed and filed the order (April 25), then the notice of appeal was filed three days too late.

Relying on Conservatorship of Ben C. (2006) 137 Cal.App.4th 689 (Ben C.), the warden contends (and Jenkins agrees) the notice of appeal was timely filed because the order granting Jenkins relief was not "made" until April 29, when the court served the order on the parties by mail, and therefore the notice of appeal was filed "within 60 days after . . . the making of the order being appealed." Although, as will be seen, we do not entirely agree with the warden‟s reasoning, we do agree with his conclusion -- "the making of the order," for purposes of rule 8.308(a), occurred on April 29, when the court undertook to communicate its decision on Jenkins‟s habeas petition to the parties, and because the warden filed his notice of appeal within 60 days of that date, the appeal is timely.

Because the warden relies primarily on the decision in Ben C., we begin our analysis with that case. In Ben C., a number of conservatees filed petitions for reimbursement of expert costs concerning conservatorship proceedings under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act.*fn7 (Ben C., supra, 137 Cal.App.4th at p. 691.) The court took the petitions under submission at a hearing in August 2004. (Id. at p. 694.) On September 22, 2004, the court filed a written decision denying the petitions; however, the court did not mail its decision to or serve its decision on anyone. (Id. at pp. 694, 695.)

In October, the conservatees filed another round of petitions seeking to recover the expert costs, and those petitions were heard in December. (Ben C., supra, 137 Cal.App.4th at p. 694.) At that hearing, the court denied the second set of petitions, "stating [that the court] had previously issued a ruling denying the petitions in September 2004 and that the ruling was in the court file." (Ibid.)

In January 2005, some of the conservatees filed notices of appeal from the September 2004 order denying costs. (Ben C., supra, 137 Cal.App.4th at p. 695.) In determining the notices of appeal were timely, the Court of Appeal first observed that appeals in conservatorship proceedings are governed by the rules applicable to non-capital criminal cases. (Ibid., citing former rule 39(a) [now rule 8.480(a)].) Thus, the critical question was "whether the Conservatees timely filed their notices of appeal within the allotted time [60 days] after the "making of the order‟ being appealed." (Ben C., at pp. 695, 696.) Relying on this court‟s decision in In re Markaus V. (1989) 211 Cal.App.3d ...


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