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Nelson v. Haviland

November 10, 2010

PATRICK OTIS NELSON, PETITIONER,
v.
JOHN W. HAVILAND, WARDEN, RESPONDENT.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Petitioner, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges a prison disciplinary conviction that resulted from a rules violation report issued against him for failure to report for work on January 8, 2008, while he was imprisoned at the California State Prison, Solano. Petitioner seeks relief on due process grounds, claiming that (1) his disciplinary hearing was not in compliance with the California Code of Regulations, (2) he was not allowed to call a witness to testify on his behalf, (3) the evidence against him was falsified and forged, (4) there was insufficient evidence to convict him of refusing to report to work; and (5) the hearing officer destroyed evidence. Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, the undersigned will recommend that petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief be denied.

BACKGROUND*fn1

On January 18, 2008, petitioner was issued a Rules Violation Report, alleging that he violated California Code of Regulations, Title 15, § 3041(b) by refusing to report to work on January 8, 2008. (Doc. No. 1-"Pet." at 60.)*fn2 Petitioner appeared before a Senior Hearing Officer ("SHO") on January 30, 2008 and pled not guilty to the alleged rules violation. (Id. at 60-61.) At the conclusion of the hearing the SHO found petitioner guilty of the disciplinary charge and assessed him, in part, a loss of thirty days of work-time credits. (Id. at 62.)

On January 16, 2009, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Solano County Superior Court. (Doc. No. 16-"Answer," Ex. 1.) On March 12, 2009, that court denied that petition in a brief but reasoned opinion. (Answer, Ex. 2.) On April 1, 2009, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District. (Answer, Ex. 3.) That petition was summarily denied on April 7, 2009. (Answer, Ex. 4.) On April 29, 2009, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court. (Answer, Ex. 5.) That petition was summarily denied on June 17, 2009. (Answer, Ex. 6.)

On July 28, 2009, petitioner filed the federal habeas petition now before this court. (Doc. No. 1- "Pet.") Respondent filed an answer on February 22, 2010. (Doc. No. 16-"Answer.") Petitioner then filed a traverse on March 23, 2010. (Doc. No. 17-"Traverse.")

ANALYSIS

I. Standards of Review Applicable to Habeas Corpus Claims

A writ of habeas corpus is available under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 only on the basis of some transgression of federal law binding on the state courts. See 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)). A federal writ is not available for alleged error in the interpretation or application of state law. See Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991); Park v. California, 202 F.3d 1146, 1149 (9th Cir. 2000); Middleton, 768 F.2d at 1085. Habeas corpus cannot be utilized to try state issues de novo. Milton v. Wainwright, 407 U.S. 371, 377 (1972).

This action is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336 (1997); Clark v. Murphy, 331 F.3d 1062, 1067 (9th Cir. 2003). Section 2254(d) sets forth the following standards for granting habeas corpus relief:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the 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.

See also Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 792-93 (2001); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000); Lockhart v. Terhune, 250 F.3d 1223, 1229 (9th Cir. 2001). If the 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 habeas petitioner's claims. Delgadillo v. Woodford, 527 F.3d 919, 925 (9th Cir. 2008). See also Frantz v. Hazey, 513 F.3d 1002, 1013 (9th Cir. 2008) (en banc) ("[I]t is now clear both that we may not grant habeas relief simply because of § 2254(d)(1) error and that, if there is such error, we must decide the habeas petition by considering de novo the constitutional issues raised.").

The court looks to the last reasoned state court decision as the basis for the state court judgment. Robinson v. Ignacio, 360 F.3d 1044, 1055 (9th Cir. 2004). "Where there has been one reasoned state judgment rejecting a federal claim, later unexplained orders upholding that judgment or rejecting the same claim rest upon the same ground." Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803 (1991). See also Shackleford v. Hubbard, 234 F.3d 1072, 1079 n. 2 (9th Cir. 2000) (when reviewing a state court's summary denial of a claim, the court "looks through" the summary disposition to the last reasoned decision.)

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). Himes v. Thompson, 336 F.3d 848, 853 (9th Cir. 2003); Pirtle v. Morgan, 313 F.3d 1160, 1167 (9th Cir. 2002). When it is clear that a state court has not reached the merits of a petitioner's claim, or has denied the claim on procedural grounds, the AEDPA's deferential ...


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