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Koeurn Roeun v. Matthew Cate

August 12, 2011

KOEURN ROEUN, PETITIONER,
v.
MATTHEW CATE, SECRETARY, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James K. Singleton, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION

Koeurn Roeun, a state prisoner appearing pro se, filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Roeun is currently in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"), incarcerated at the Avenal State Prison. Respondent has answered, and Roeun has replied. In his Petition, Roeun challenges the disciplinary action taken by the CDCR that resulted in the loss of 31 days of good time credit. Roeun does not challenge his conviction or sentence in this proceeding.

I. BACKGROUND/PRIOR PROCEEDING

Roeun is currently serving an indeterminate prison term of 15 years to life on his November 1993 conviction of Murder in the Second Degree (Cal. Penal Code § 187). In January 2008 Roeun was issued a Rules Violation Report charging him with falsification of a lower bunk chrono (California Code of Regulations, title 15, § 3021). After a disciplinary hearing before a Senior Hearing Officer ("SHO"), Roeun was found guilty and assessed a penalty of the loss of 31 days good time credit. After exhausting his administrative remedies, Roeun timely filed a petition for habeas relief in the Solano County Superior Court, which denied his petition in an unreported, reasoned decision. The California Court of Appeal, First District, summarily denied his petition for habeas relief without opinion or citation to authority, and the California Supreme Court summarily denied his petition for habeas relief without opinion or citation to authority on November 12, 2009. Roeun timely filed his Petition in this Court on January 7, 2010.

The facts underlying Roeun's conviction as recited in the Rules Violation Report:

On 01-06-08, while verifying lower bunk chronos turned in by inmates the evening before I saw a chrono with Inmate ROEUN's (J-05804, 21-J-2-L) name on it that appeared to be falsified. Specifically Inmate ROEUN presented a chrono to staff that appeared identical in every respect to another chrono that was turned in by another Inmate except for the name, CDCR number and housing location. I took the medical chrono to medical records and they searched Inmate ROEUN's medical records for the original copy of the chrono to verify its authenticity. Medical Records reported to me, after they searched Inmate ROEUN's medical record, the chrono that ROEUN presented to staff was fake and they could not locate any medical chronos similar to the one that Inmate ROEUN had presented to building staff. Presenting falsified lower bunk chronos to staff in order to obtain a lower bunk disrupts the Facility IV program when staff attempt to find housing for inmates with legitimate medical issues.*fn1 The SHO found: FINDINGS: GUILTY of the Division E(4) offense FALSIFICATION OR FORGERY OR ALTERATION OF ANY GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT OR RECORD NOT AFFECTING AN INMATE'S TERM OR IMPRISONMENT. Forgery means representing something as genuine that you know has been altered, forged or counterfeited. This means that the inmate must attempt to pass a document or record as genuine, that he must be aware that it is not genuine and this was done with intent to defraud. This finding is based upon the following preponderance of evidence:

1. The testimony of SERGEANT D. KYTE in the disciplinary report of 02-06-08; which states in part; "I discovered that Inmate ROEUN, J-058C4, had falsified a lower bunk chrono."

2. The lower bunk chrono appeared to be erased and rewritten with false information that authorized Inmate ROEUN to be housed in a lower bunk.

3. On 02-22-08, Sergeant Kyte checked Medical Records and discovered he did not have an authorized lower bunk chrono in his medical file.

4. In the hearing, Inmate ROEUN failed to produce a valid lower bed chrono.*fn2

II. GROUNDS RAISED/DEFENSES

In his Petition, Roeun asserts a single ground: that, because there was no evidence that Roeun falsified the chrono and the regulation under which he was convicted does not adequately warn that possession of a forged document is a violation, Roeun was denied due process of law. Respondent does not assert any affirmative defense.*fn3

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), this Court cannot grant relief unless the decision of the state court was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" at the time the state court renders its decision or "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding."*fn4 The Supreme Court has explained that "clearly established Federal law" in § 2254(d)(1) "refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court] as of the time of the relevant state-court decision."*fn5 The holding must also be intended to be binding upon the states; that is, the decision must be based upon constitutional grounds, not on the supervisory power of the Supreme Court over federal courts.*fn6 Thus, where holdings of the Supreme Court regarding the issue presented on habeas review are lacking, "it cannot be said that the state court 'unreasonabl[y] appli[ed] clearly established Federal law.'"*fn7 When a claim falls under the "unreasonable application" prong, a state court's application of Supreme Court precedent must be objectively unreasonable, not just incorrect or erroneous.*fn8 The Supreme Court has made clear that the objectively unreasonable standard is a substantially higher threshold than simply believing that the state court determination was incorrect.*fn9 "[A]bsent a specific constitutional violation, federal habeas corpus review of trial error is limited to whether the error 'so infected the trial with unfairness as to make the resulting conviction a denial of due process.'"*fn10 In a federal habeas proceeding, the ...

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