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Jimmy Edward Booker v. Kathleen Dickenson

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


June 23, 2011

JIMMY EDWARD BOOKER, PETITIONER,
v.
KATHLEEN DICKENSON, RESPONDENT

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER & FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Petitioner, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges the 2009 decision by the California Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) finding him unsuitable for parole.

On January 24, 2011, the United States Supreme Court in a per curiam decision found that the Ninth Circuit erred in commanding a federal review of the state's application of state law in applying the "some evidence" standard in the parole eligibility habeas context. Swarthout v. Cooke, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S. Ct. 859, 861 (2011). Quoting, inter alia, Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67 (1991), the Supreme Court re-affirmed that "'federal habeas corpus relief does not lie for errors of state law.'" Id. While the high court found that the Ninth Circuit's holding that California law does create a liberty interest in parole was "a reasonable application of our cases" (while explicitly not reviewing that holding),*fn1 the Supreme Court stated:

When, however, a State creates a liberty interest, the Due Process Clause requires fair procedures for its vindication-and federal courts will review the application of those constitutionally required procedures. In the context of parole, we have held that the procedures required are minimal.

Swarthout v. Cooke, at 862.

Citing Greenholtz,*fn2 the Supreme Court noted it had found under another state's similar parole statute that a prisoner had "received adequate process" when "allowed an opportunity to be heard" and "provided a statement of the reasons why parole was denied." Swarthout v. Cooke, at 862. Noting their holding therein that "[t]he Constitution [] does not require more," the justices in the instances before them, found the prisoners had "received at least this amount of process: They were allowed to speak at their parole hearings and to contest the evidence against them, were afforded access to their records in advance, and were notified as to the reasons why parole was denied." Id.

The Supreme Court was emphatic in asserting "[t]hat should have been the beginning and the end of the federal habeas courts' inquiry...." Swarthout v. Cooke, at 862. "It will not do to pronounce California's 'some evidence' rule to be 'a component' of the liberty interest...." Id., at 863. "No opinion of ours supports converting California's "some evidence" rule into a substantive federal requirement." Id., at 862. The Ninth Circuit recently noted that in light of Swarthout v. Cooke, certain Ninth Circuit jurisprudence had been reversed and "there is no substantive due process right created by California's parole scheme." Roberts v. Hartley, ___ F.3d ____, 2011 WL 1365811, at *3 (9th Cir. Apr.12, 2011). Thus, there is no federal due process requirement for a "some evidence" review and federal courts are precluded from review of the state court's application of its "some evidence" standard.*fn3

In the instant case, petitioner also alleges that the BPH violated his rights as they found certain factors to be true to deny parole, but these factors were not found true by a jury and therefore violated Cunningham v. California, 549 U.S. 270 (2007). In Cunningham, the United States Supreme Court held that a California judge's imposition of an upper term sentence based on facts found by the judge (other than the fact of a prior conviction) violated the constitutional principles set forth in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000) and Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004). Cunningham is applicable to sentencing.

However, petitioner was sentenced by the trial court to the statutory maximum, which in petitioner's case is life.*fn4 No additional facts need to be found in order for petitioner to be kept in prison for the rest of his life. The BPH does not "sentence," and nothing the BPH did has caused petitioner's sentence to extend beyond the life maximum to which he was sentenced and for which he may be imprisoned based on the murder conviction. He has no right to jury trial before an administrative agency in connection with any decision whether to release him before the expiration of his life maximum term. For all these reasons, this case should be dismissed.

Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that a district judge be assigned to this case.

IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that this petition be dismissed.

If petitioner files objections, he shall also address if a certificate of appealability should issue and, if so, as to which issues. A certificate of appealability may issue under 28 U.S.C. § 2253 "only if the applicant has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right." 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). The certificate of appealability must "indicate which specific issue or issues satisfy" the requirement. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(3).

These findings and recommendations are submitted to the United States District Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within fourteen days after being served with these findings and recommendations, petitioner may file written objections with the court. Such a document should be captioned "Objections to Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendations." Petitioner is advised that failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to appeal the District Court's order. Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991).


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