Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Noel Phillipe Scott v. Robert H. Trimble

September 29, 2011


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


Noel Phillipe Scott, a state prisoner appearing pro se, filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Scott is currently in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, incarcerated at the Pleasant Valley State Prison. Respondent has answered, and Scott has replied.

I. BACKGROUND/PRIOR PROCEEDINGS In November 1990, following his conviction in the Los Angeles County Superior Court of Murder in the First Degree (Cal. Penal Code § 187(a)), with an enhancement for the use of a firearm (Cal. Penal Code § 12022.5), Scott was sentenced to an aggregate prison term of 27 years to life. Scott does not challenge his conviction or sentence in this proceeding.

Scott was charged in a Rules Violation Report ("RVR") with "Conspiracy/Introduce Contraband/Prison." After a hearing before a Special Hearing Officer ("SHO"), Scott was found guilty and assessed a penalty of the loss of 30 days of work-time credits. After he had exhausted his administrative remedies,*fn2 Scott timely filed a petition for habeas relief in the Solano County Superior Court, which denied the petition in an unreported decision. The California Court of Appeal summarily denied Scott's petition for habeas relief without explanation or citation to authority. The California Supreme Court also summarily denied Scott's petition for habeas relief on June 11, 2008. Scott timely filed his Petition for relief in this Court on October 3, 2008.

Scott was charged with a violation of § 3005(a) of the regulations, to wit:

On 06/28/06, I was advised Inmate SCOTT, E-75935, 08-241-L, had contacted MGM (quarterly package vendor) via correspondence (refer to attached). In this correspondence Scott is requesting this vendor to sell him vitamin and skin care products. Scott further states in this correspondence that, "I will gladly pay you a service charge to process the order and for shipping it in the same way as a quarterly package is sent. Please contact my mother with your response." In this Scott is conspiring to introduce unauthorized property to be sent into him disguised as a quarterly package, for this Scott is offering financial compensation. Scott's blatant conduct implicates his mother in a conspiracy that if not reported by MGM managerial staff to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Institutional Services Division (Inmate Property Unit) would of compromised the quarterly package program. Inmate Scott is aware of the quarterly package program as I and Correctional Sergeant Smith have spoken to him concerning this process on August 1, 2005. Attached is a faxed copy of Scott's letter to MGM and a medical chrono provided by MGM.*fn3 The SHO found Scott guilty on the basis of the RVR and "SCOTT'S own admission of guilt, stating: 'I DID IT.'"*fn4


In his Petition, Scott raises three grounds: (1) the Solano County Superior Court did not issue an Order to Show Cause before denying him relief; (2) the RVR was erroneously issued; and (3) the finding of guilt is unsupported by any evidence. Respondent does not assert any affirmative defense.*fn5


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."*fn6 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."*fn7 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.*fn8 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.'"*fn9 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.*fn10 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.*fn11 "[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.'"*fn12 In a federal habeas proceeding, the standard under which this Court must assess the prejudicial impact of constitutional error in a state-court criminal trial is whether the error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the outcome.*fn13 Because state-court judgments of conviction and sentence carry a presumption of finality and legality, the petitioner has the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she merits habeas relief.*fn14

The Supreme Court recently underscored the magnitude of the deference required: As amended by AEDPA, § 2254(d) stops short of imposing a complete bar on federal court relitigation of claims already rejected in state proceedings. Cf. Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651, 664, 116 S.Ct. 2333, 135 L.Ed.2d 827 (1996) (discussing AEDPA's "modified res judicata rule" under § 2244). It preserves authority to issue the writ in cases where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with this Court's precedents. It goes no farther. Section 2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is a "guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems," not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332, n. 5, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979) (Stevens, J., concurring in judgment). As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.*fn15

In applying this standard, this Court reviews the last reasoned decision by the state court.*fn16 State appellate court decisions that summarily affirm a lower court's opinion without explanation are presumed to have adopted the reasoning of the lower court.*fn17 This Court gives the presumed decision of the state court the same AEDPA deference that it would give a reasoned decision of the state court.*fn18

Under California's unique habeas procedure, a prisoner who is denied habeas relief in the superior court files a new original petition for relief in the court of appeal. If denied relief by the court of appeal, the defendant has the option of either filing a new original petition for habeas relief or a petition for review of the court of appeal's denial in the California Supreme Court.*fn19

This is considered the functional equivalent of the appeal process.*fn20 Under AEDPA, the state court's findings of fact are presumed to be correct unless the petitioner rebuts this presumption by clear and convincing evidence.*fn21 This presumption applies to state trial courts and appellate courts alike.*fn22


The Supreme Court has clearly and unequivocally held that where the disciplinary action results in the revocation of time credits, prisoners retain the protection of the Due Process Clause.*fn23 Because prison disciplinary proceedings are not part of a criminal prosecution, the full panoply of rights due a defendant in such a proceeding does not apply.*fn24 In the context of prison disciplinary proceedings, the minimum requirements of due process are: (1) advance written notice of the charges brought against the inmate; (2) the right to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in his defense; (3) a written statement of the factfinder of the evidence relied on and the reasons for the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.