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Mathis v. Doyle

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


November 12, 2010

BENNIE LEE MATHIS, PETITIONER,
v.
ROBERT DOYLE, RESPONDENT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Michael M. Anello United States District Judge

ORDER: (1) CONSTRUING ACTION PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §2254, (2) GRANTING APPLICATION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS and (3) DISMISSING CASE WITHOUT PREJUDICE

Presently before the Court is Bennie Lee Mathis' ("Petitioner") petition for writ of habeas corpus. Although Petitioner filed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, he is a state prisoner attacking the validity of a state court conviction and sentence imposed by the state of California. Therefore, Petitioner may not proceed under section 2241, but may only proceed with a habeas action in federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. White v. Lambert, 370 F.3d 1002, 1006-07 (9th Cir. 2004) (holding that section 2254 is the proper jurisdictional basis for a habeas petition brought by an individual "in custody pursuant to a state court judgment"). The Court therefore, will construe this action as one brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

APPLICATION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS

Petitioner has also filed a request to proceed in forma pauperis. Petitioner has $0.00 on account at the California correctional institution in which he is presently confined and cannot afford the $5.00 filing fee. Thus, the Court GRANTS Petitioner's application to proceed in forma pauperis, and allows Petitioner to prosecute the above-referenced action as a poor person without being required to prepay fees or costs and without being required to post security. The Clerk of the Court shall file the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus without prepayment of the filing fee.

FAILURE TO NAME PROPER RESPONDENT

The Petition must be dismissed, however, because review of the Petition reveals that Petitioner has failed to name a proper respondent. On federal habeas, a state prisoner must name the state officer having custody of him as the respondent. Ortiz-Sandoval v. Gomez, 81 F.3d 891, 894 (9th Cir. 1996) (citing Rule 2(a), 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254). Federal courts lack personal jurisdiction when a habeas petition fails to name a proper respondent. See id.

The warden is the typical respondent. However, "the rules following section 2254 do not specify the warden." Id. "[T]he 'state officer having custody' may be 'either the warden of the institution in which the petitioner is incarcerated... or the chief officer in charge of state penal institutions.'" Id. (quoting Rule 2(a), 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254 advisory committee's note). If "a petitioner is in custody due to the state action he is challenging, '[t]he named respondent shall be the state officer who has official custody of the petitioner (for example, the warden of the prison).'" Id. (quoting Rule 2, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254 advisory committee's note).

A long standing rule in the Ninth Circuit holds "that a petitioner may not seek [a writ of] habeas corpus against the State under... [whose] authority... the petitioner is in custody. The actual person who is [the] custodian [of the petitioner] must be the respondent." Ashley v. Washington, 394 F.2d 125, 126 (9th Cir. 1968). This requirement exists because a writ of habeas corpus acts upon the custodian of the state prisoner, the person who will produce "the body" if directed to do so by the Court. "Both the warden of a California prison and the Director of Corrections for California have the power to produce the prisoner." Ortiz-Sandoval, 81 F.3d at 895.

Here, Petitioner has incorrectly named "Robert Doyle," as Respondent. In order for this Court to entertain the Petition filed in this action, Petitioner must name the warden in charge of the state correctional facility in which Petitioner is presently confined or the Director of the California Department of Corrections. Brittingham v. United States, 982 F.2d 378, 379 (9th Cir. 1992) (per curiam).

FAILURE TO STATE GROUNDS FOR RELIEF IN PETITION

In addition, Rule 2(c) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases states that the petition "shall set forth in summary form the facts supporting each of the grounds... specified [in the petition]." Rule 2(c), 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254. See also Boehme v. Maxwell, 423 F.2d 1056, 1058 (9th Cir. 1970) (trial court's dismissal of federal habeas proceeding affirmed where petitioner made conclusory allegations instead of factual allegations showing that he was entitled to relief). Here, Petitioner has violated Rule 2(c). Although Petitioner does not fail to state generalized constitutional grounds for relief, he does fail to provide specific factual allegations in support of such grounds.

While courts should liberally interpret pro se pleadings with leniency and understanding, this should not place on the reviewing court the entire onus of ferreting out grounds for relief. Zichko v. Idaho, 247 F.3d 1015, 1020-21 (9th Cir. 2001). This Court would have to engage in a tenuous analysis in order to attempt to identify and make sense of the Petition and its numerous attachments. In order to satisfy Rule 2(c), Petitioner must point to a "real possibility of constitutional error." Cf. Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 75 n.7 (1977) (internal quotation marks omitted). Facts must be stated, in the petition, with sufficient detail to enable the Court to determine, from the face of the petition, whether further habeas corpus review is warranted. Adams v. Armontrout, 897 F.2d 332, 334 (8th Cir. 1990). Moreover, the allegations should be sufficiently specific to permit the respondent to assert appropriate objections and defenses. Harris v. Allen, 739 F. Supp. 564, 565 (W.D. Okla. 1989). Here, the lack of grounds for relief in the Petition prevents the Respondent from being able to assert appropriate objections and defenses.

Due to Petitioner's unsatisfactory showing, the Court dismisses the action without prejudice. Should Petitioner decide to file a new petition, he is advised to clearly and succinctly state all grounds for relief using the First Amended Petition form sent to Petitioner with this order.

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

Accordingly, the Court CONSTRUES the instant action as a habeas petition brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The Court GRANTS Petitioner's request to proceed in forma pauperis, and DISMISSES the case without prejudice. To have this case reopened, Petitioner must file an amended petition which cures the pleading deficiency discussed above no later than December 13, 2010.

The Clerk of Court is directed to send Petitioner a blank First Amended Petition form.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

20101112

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