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Johnson v. Walker

November 1, 2010

LACEDRIC W. JOHNSON, PETITIONER,
v.
JAMES WALKER, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Timothy J Bommer United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER, FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner, Lacedric W. Johnson, is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges the loss of 180 days worktime credit following a prison disciplinary proceeding where he was found guilty of distribution of a controlled substance. Petitioner raises several claims in his federal habeas petition; specifically: (1) his constitutional rights were violated when he was tortured and subject to excessive use of force when prison authorities used a four-point restraint against him ("Claim I"); (2) his due process rights were violated when the investigative employee assigned to his case refused to provide information on the four-point restraint procedure and failed to seek out a potential witness on his disciplinary charge ("Claim II"); (3) his due process rights were violated when he was denied the right to call witnesses and present documentary evidence at the disciplinary hearing ("Claim III"); and (4) his assigned investigative employee "failed to, investigate, prepare and explain the disciplinary process and represent Petitioner position at the rules violation hearing" (Pet'r's Pet. at p. 20.) ("Claim IV"). Petitioner also requests an order to show cause and the appointment of counsel. For the following reasons, Petitioner's requests are denied and it is recommended that his habeas petition be denied.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

According to the Rules Violation Report (RVR), after Petitioner used the toilet on July 29, 2006, an intensive observation officer (Marquez) searched Petitioner's feces and discovered latex bindles. The RVR explained that Johnson told the officer that "the bindles contained 'marijuana' 'crystal meth' and black tar 'heroin.'" (Resp't's Answer, Ex. 1 at p. 37.) The bindles were subsequently tested and determined to contain controlled substances including amphetamines, marijuana, cocaine and heroin. (See id. at p. 49.) Petitioner was assigned an investigative employee pursuant to CCR, Title 15, § 3315(d)(1)(A) and a staff assistant pursuant to CCR, Title 15, § 3315(d)(2)(A). (See id. at p. 39.)

Petitioner appeared before the senior hearing officer (SHO) at a disciplinary hearing on September 24, 2006. The SHO found Petitioner guilty of distribution of a controlled substance. The SHO cited the officer's finding of the latex bindles in Petitioner's feces as well as Petitioner's partial admissions of guilt to the officer. The SHO's determined that Petitioner would forfeit 180 days of worktime credits. (See id. at p. 41.)

Petitioner filed a state habeas petition in the California Superior Court, County of Solano in June 2008. That court denied the state habeas petition. Petitioner then filed a petition to the California Court of Appeal which summarily denied the petition without discussion. Subsequently, the California Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition on November 19, 2008 citing In re Swain, 34 Cal. 2d 300, 304 (1949), People v. Duvall, 9 Cal. 4th 464, 474 (1995) and In re Dexter, 25 Cal. 3d 921 (1979).

Petitioner filed this federal habeas in January 2009. Respondent moved to dismiss the petition arguing that Petitioner failed to exhaust his state court remedies. On January 21, 2010, Respondent's motion to dismiss was denied. Subsequently, Respondent answered the petition and Petitioner filed a traverse.

III. APPLICABLE LAW FOR FEDERAL HABEAS CORPUS

An application for writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody under judgment of a state court can only be granted for violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); see also Peltier v. Wright, 15 F.3d 860, 861 (9th Cir. 1993); Middleton v. Cupp, 768 F.2d 1083, 1085 (9th Cir. 1985) (citing Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 119 (1982)). Petitioner filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus after April 24, 1996, thus the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") applies. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326 (1997). Under AEDPA, federal habeas corpus relief is not available for any claim decided on the merits in the 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 state court. See 28 U.S.C. 2254(d).

If a state court's decision does not meet the criteria set forth in § 2254(d), a reviewing court must conduct a de novo review of a petitioner's habeas claims. See Delgadillo v. Woodford, 527 F.3d 919, 925 (9th Cir. 2008). As previously stated, it has already been determined by this Court that Petitioner exhausted his Claims. In denying Petitioner's state habeas petition, the California Supreme Court cited to In re Swain, 34 Cal. 2d 300, Duvall, 9 Cal. 4th 464, 474 and In re Dexter, 25 Cal. 3d 921. The holdings of these cases concern procedural grounds, thus, the California Supreme Court did not adjudicate Petitioner's Claims on the merits. See Lambert v. Blodgett, 393 F.3d 943, 969 (9th Cir. 2004) (holding that "a state has 'adjudicated' a petitioner's claims 'on the merits' for purposes of § 2254(d) when it has decided the petitioner's right to post conviction relief on the basis of the substance of the constitutional claim advanced, rather than denying the claim on the basis of a procedural or other rule precluding state court review of the merits"). As there was not a merits adjudication by the California Supreme Court,Petitioner's claims will be reviewed de novo. See Pirtle v. Morgan, 313 F.3d 1160, 1167 (9th Cir. 2002) ("[W]hen it is clear that a state court has not reached the merits of a properly raised issue, we must review it de novo.").

IV. PETITIONER'S CLAIMS FOR REVIEW

A. Claim I

In Claim I, Petitioner raises several arguments concerning the nature of the prison staff's investigation after it was determined that he was purportedly concealing "contraband in torso on 7/23/06." (Pet'r's Pet. at p. 11.) Most specifically, Petitioner objects to the prison staff's use of a "4-point restraint" against him during their investigation.

Challenges to the validity of any confinement or to particulars affecting its duration are the province of habeas corpus. See Hill v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 573, 579 (2006). "Traditionally, challenges to prison conditions have been cognizable only via § 1983, while challenges implicating the fact or duration of confinement must be brought through a habeas petition." Docken v. Chase, 393 F.3d 1024, 1026 (9th Cir. 2004); see also Badea v. Cox, 931 F.2d 573, 574 (9th Cir. 1991) (stating that habeas corpus proceedings are the proper method to challenge the legality or duration of confinement whereas a civil rights action is the proper method of challenging the conditions of confinement).

In Claim I, Petitioner challenges the conditions of his confinement during the prison's investigation. The proper method to pursue such a Claim by Petitioner is through a civil rights action, not through habeas. Therefore, ...


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