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Johnson v. Yates

December 17, 2009

OSHAY L. JOHNSON, PETITIONER,
v.
JAMES YATES, WARDEN RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION REGARDING RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS PETITION [Doc. 15]

Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

Petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus on March 19, 2009. (Court Doc. 1.) Petitioner does not challenge his underlying conviction and sentence; rather, he contends that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") has misinterpreted his prison sentence, thereby extending his prison term and delaying his initial parole consideration hearing, and the probation officer's report contained in his central file contains erroneous information.

On October 9, 2009, Respondent filed a motion to dismiss the petition because it is duplicative and untimely under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). (Court Doc. 15.) Petitioner did not file an opposition.

DISCUSSION

A. Procedural Grounds for Motion to Dismiss

Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases allows a district court to dismiss a petition if it "plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court . . . ." Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases.

The Ninth Circuit has allowed respondents to file a motion to dismiss in lieu of an answer if the motion attacks the pleadings for failing to exhaust state remedies or being in violation of the state's procedural rules. See e.g. O'Bremski v. Maass, 915 F.2d 418, 420 (9th Cir. 1990) (using Rule 4 to evaluate motion to dismiss petition for failure to exhaust state remedies); White v. Lewis, 874 F.2d 599, 602-03 (9th Cir. 1989) (using Rule 4 as procedural grounds to review motion to dismiss for state procedural default); Hillery v. Pulley, 533 F.Supp. 1189, 1194 & n.12 (E.D. Cal. 1982) (same). Thus, a Respondent can file a motion to dismiss after the court orders a response, and the Court should use Rule 4 standards to review the motion. See Hillery, 533 F. Supp. at 1194 & n. 12.

In this case, Respondent's motion to dismiss is based on a violation of 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(3)(A). Because Respondent's motion to dismiss is similar in procedural standing to a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust state remedies or for state procedural default and Respondent has not yet filed a formal answer, the Court will review Respondent's motion to dismiss pursuant to its authority under Rule 4.

B. Duplicative Petition

"After weighing the equities of the case, the district court may exercise its discretion to dismiss a duplicative later-filed action, to stay that action pending resolution of the previously filed action, to enjoin the parties from proceeding with it, or to consolidate both actions." Adams v. California Dept. of Health Services, 487 F.3d 684, 688 (9th Cir. 2007). "Plaintiffs generally have 'no right to maintain two separate actions involving the same subject matter at the same time in the same court and against the same defendant.'" Adams, 487 F.3d at 688 (quoting Walton v. Eaton Corp., 563 F.2d 66, 70 (3d Cir. 1977) (en banc)).

In assessing whether a second action is duplicative of the first, the court examines whether the causes of action and relief sought, as well as the parties or privies to the action, are the same. Adams, 487 F.3d at 689. First, the court must examine whether the causes of action in the two suits are identical pursuant to the transaction test, developed in the context of claim preclusion. Id. Second, the court determines whether the defendants are the same or in privity. Privity includes an array of relationships which fit under the title of "virtual representation." Kourtis v. Cameron, 419 F.3d 989, 996 (9th Cir. 2005). "The necessary elements of virtual representation are an identity of interests and adequate representation." Adams, 487 F.3d at 691 (citing Kourtis, 419 F.3d at 996). "Additional features of a virtual representation relationship include a close relationship, substantial participation, and tactical maneuvering." Adams, 487 F.3d at 691 (quoting Kourtis, 419 F.3d at 996).

A plaintiff is required to bring at one time all of the claims against a party or privies relating to the same transaction or event. Adams, 487 F.3d at 693. The court has discretion to dismiss a duplicative complaint with prejudice to prevent a plaintiff from "fragmenting a single cause of action and litigating piecemeal the issues which could have been resolved in one action." Adams, 487 F.3d at 694 (quoting Flynn v. State Bd. of Chiropractic Exam'rs, 418 F.2d 668, 668 (9th Cir.1969) (per curiam)).

Respondent argues that the instant case is duplicative of case number 2:08-cv-0496 MCE KJM, filed in the Sacramento Division of this Court on March 5, 2008. The Court has reviewed the petition in that case and finds that the claims raised in the instant petition are not identical to those raised in the prior petition. The first petition in case number 2:08-cv-0496-MCE KJM raised several challenges to his underlying conviction which included a claim that the trial court erred in ordering that he serve fifteen calendar years before being considered for parole. In the instant petition, Petitioner challenges the fact that the CDCR and Board of Parole have misinterpreted the trial court's sentence and improperly denied an initial parole hearing until 2015. The instant petition challenges the ...


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