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Manuel Guadalupe Sanchez, Jr. v. J. Walker

August 1, 2011

MANUEL GUADALUPE SANCHEZ, JR. PETITIONER,
v.
J. WALKER, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Timothy J Bommer United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER, FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner, Manuel Guadalupe Sanchez, Jr., is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges the loss of 181 days of credit following a prison disciplinary proceeding where he was found guilty of possession of a weapon. Petitioner raises four claims in his habeas petition; specifically: (1) Petitioner's due process rights were violated when Respondent failed to properly search his cell prior to his arrival at that cell ("Claim I"); (2) Petitioner's due process rights were violated when he was not given a fair and impartial disciplinary hearing ("Claim II"); (3) Petitioner's due process rights were violated because there was insufficient evidence to show that he knowingly possessed a weapon ("Claim III"); and (4) Petitioner's due process rights were violated when his appeals were improperly heard ("Claim IV"). For the following reasons, the habeas petition should be denied.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

According to the Rules Violation Report (RVR), Petitioner's cell was searched by Officer Dreager on December 22, 2007. Petitioner's mattress was searched and an object was found wrapped with layers of plastic wrap surrounding the object. Upon opening the item, a razorblade, a piece of silver metal, a sewing needle, sandpaper, fine wire and an inmate manufactured hypodermic needle were found. (See Resp't's Answer Ex. 1 at p. 34.)

Petitioner appeared before a senior hearing officer (SHO) on January 21, 2008. The RVR indicates that Petitioner did not request any witnesses besides Officer Dreager. (See id. at p. 35.) Ultimately, Petitioner was found guilty of possession of a weapon by the SHO.

After exhausting his administrative appeals, Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento on December 26, 2008. Petitioner raised the issues he raises in his federal habeas petition. The Superior Court denied the state habeas petition in a written decision dated February 18, 2009. (See id. Ex. 2.) Petitioner's petitions to the California Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court were summarily denied.

On March 15, 2010, Petitioner filed the instant federal habeas petition. Respondent answered the petition on July 9, 2010 admitting that Petitioner had exhausted his claims. Petitioner filed a traverse on October 13, 2010. On July 7, 2011, the matter was reassigned to the undersigned.

III. APPLICABLE LAW FOR FEDERAL HABEAS CORPUS

An application for writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody under judgment of a state court can only be granted for violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); see also Peltier v. Wright, 15 F.3d 860, 861 (9th Cir. 1994); Middleton v. Cupp, 768 F.2d 1083, 1085 (9th Cir. 1985) (citing Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 119 (1982)).

Petitioner filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus after April 24, 1996, thus the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") applies. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326 (1997). Under AEDPA, federal habeas corpus relief is not available for any claim decided on the merits in the state court proceedings unless the state court's 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 state court. See 28 U.S.C. 2254(d).

As a threshold matter, this Court must "first decide what constitutes 'clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.'" Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71 (2003) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)). "'[C]learly established federal law' under § 2254(d)(1) is the governing legal principle or principles set forth by the Supreme Court at the time the state court renders its decision.'" Id. (citations omitted). Under the unreasonable application clause, a federal habeas court making the unreasonable application inquiry should ask whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law was "objectively unreasonable." See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 409 (2000). Thus, "a federal court may not issue the writ simply because the court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable." Id. at 411. Although only Supreme Court law is binding on the states, Ninth Circuit precedent remains relevant persuasive authority in determining whether a state court decision is an objectively unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. See Clark v. Murphy, 331 F.3d 1062, 1070 (9th Cir. 2003) ("While only the Supreme Court's precedents are binding . . . and only those precedents need be reasonably applied, we may look for guidance to circuit precedents."). In this case, the last reasoned court decision was from the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento on Petitioner's state habeas petition.

IV. ANALYSIS OF PETITIONER'S CLAIMS

The Superior Court provided the last reasoned decision on Petitioner's claims and stated the following in denying Petitioner's state habeas petition:

Petitioner is challenging disciplinary proceedings held with respect to CDC 115 Rules Violation Report (RVR) log number A/S-07-12-030. [FN 1] First, he contends that there was no evidence to show that he had knowing possession of the weapon as he asserts that correctional officials cannot demonstrate that they properly searched the cell and mattresses prior to moving petitioner and his cellmate into that particular cell. He also claims that officials did not search or x-ray a third mattress that was brought into the cell approximately five months later. [FN 2] [FN 1] Petitioner was charged with, and found guilty of, possession of an inmate-manufactured weapon. [FN 2] Petitioner has also raised the claim that prison officials failed to follow procedure when they allegedly neglected to search the cell and mattresses prior to his assignment there, and ...


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