IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA THIRD APPELLATE DISTRICT (Lassen)
April 28, 2011
FREDERICK JONES, SR., PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
K. LUTHER ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.
(Super. Ct. No. 47541)
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nicholson, J.
Jones v. Luther
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.
This appeal arises from the trial court's dismissal of a civil complaint filed by plaintiff Frederick Jones, Sr., in which he sought a change of his prison inmate custody classification to delete the "R" suffix that denotes convicted sex offenders. We conclude that the trial court correctly dismissed the case because habeas corpus constitutes the appropriate legal vehicle by which to challenge a condition of confinement such as an inmate custody classification. Consequently, we affirm the judgment.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
In setting forth the background of this case, we are hampered by the skeletal nature of the record, which even lacks the complaint filed by Jones.
From what we can glean, it appears that Jones is currently incarcerated in the High Desert State Prison located in Susanville, California. In August 2008, Jones appears to have filed a civil complaint seeking relief from his prison classification by defendants K. Luther, T. Perez, and other unidentified defendants -- all of whom seem to be employees of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The gravamen of Jones's complaint is that he sought to compel defendants to remove the "R" designation from his inmate custody classification because he was not convicted of a sex offense.
In October 2009, defendants demurred to the complaint on grounds that Jones had not exhausted his administrative remedies prior to filing the civil action in superior court. The trial court granted defendants' demurrer without leave to amend, explaining that "the action is not ripe in that plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Beyond the fact that the action was initiated while plaintiff was awaiting a decision on the third level of his administrative appeal, the issue raised by plaintiff is properly remedied through Petition for Habeas Corpus, the same being a matter of condition of confinement."
Jones timely filed a notice of appeal from the judgment of dismissal.
Jones contends the trial court erred in ruling that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing his civil action. In his opening brief, Jones acknowledges that the trial court's ruling notes his proper vehicle for relief is by petition for writ of habeas corpus. However, Jones fails to show why this alternative reason by the trial court does not independently justify the dismissal of his action. As we shall explain, the trial court properly concluded that the issues raised by Jones are properly addressed in a petition for habeas corpus.
As the California Supreme Court has noted about habeas corpus, "the purpose is to compel a state or local officer to comply with duties imposed on him by regulation, statute, or constitutional provision." (In re Head (1986) 42 Cal.3d 223, 230.) Thus, "[a] petition for writ of habeas corpus is an appropriate vehicle for persons lawfully in custody who seek to vindicate rights to which they are entitled while in confinement." (In re Alcala (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 345, 352, fn. 4, citing In re Head, supra, at p. 228.)
Habeas corpus has previously been used to secure this court's review of the same sort of contention advanced by Jones, namely that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation erred "by affixing an 'R' suffix to [an] inmate's custody designation." (In re Farley (2003) 109 Cal.App.4th 1356, 1358.) In Farley, this court noted that "[j]udicial review of a CDC [California Department of Corrections] custody determination is limited to determining whether the classification decision is arbitrary, capricious, irrational, or an abuse of the discretion granted those given the responsibility for operating prisons. [Citation.]" (In re Farley, supra, 109 Cal.App.4th at p. 1361.) In short, a petition for habeas corpus represents the preferred legal vehicle for Jones to seek correction of any error in his inmate custody classification.
The trial court did not err in dismissing Jones's civil suit under these circumstances.
The judgment is affirmed. Respondents are entitled to recover costs on appeal. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.278(a)(1) & (2).)
We concur: RAYE , P. J. MAURO , J.
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