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Antoine Williams v. Gary Swarthout

May 3, 2011

ANTOINE WILLIAMS, PETITIONER,
v.
GARY SWARTHOUT, RESPONDENT.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Petitioner, a state prisoner proceeding with counsel, has filed an amended petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the September 22, 2008 decision of the California Board of Parole Hearings ("Board") to deny him parole. On July 12, 2010, the undersigned ordered respondent to file and serve a response to the petition. On September 10, 2010, respondent filed the pending motion to dismiss, arguing that petitioner's federal habeas petition is time-barred. Petitioner has filed an opposition to the motion, and respondent has filed a reply.

BACKGROUND

On September 22, 2008, the Board conducted a parole hearing and found petitioner unsuitable for release on parole. The Board's decision became final on January 20, 2009. In his amended petition, petitioner asserts only two closely related claims:

I. Because the panel failed to set forth any applicable evidence demonstrating that Mr. Williams' parole currently poses "an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety" . . . the decision fails the "some evidence" standard of review and should be set aside.

II. The Board's decision denied due process because it failed to articulate a rational nexus by which its findings - if applicable -would drastically elevate petitioner's forensically determined "very low" to "low" parole risk to the "unreasonable risk of danger" level required to deny parole.

(Am. Pet. 14-19.)

As noted above, respondent has filed a motion to dismiss the pending habeas petition on the grounds that it was filed after the one-year statute of limitations for seeking federal habeas relief had expired. However, in light of a recent change in the legal landscape with respect to the scope of federal habeas review of decisions denying parole in California, the court will recommend that the pending habeas petition be summarily dismissed and that respondent's motion be denied as having been rendered moot.

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, 533 F.3d 724, 735 (9th Cir. 2008) (en banc) ("[I]t is now clear both that we may not grant habeas relief simply because of ยง ...


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