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Mark Allen Ouellette v. Kathleen Dickinson

March 12, 2012

MARK ALLEN OUELLETTE, PETITIONER,
v.
KATHLEEN DICKINSON, RESPONDENT.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding through counsel with an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner claims that his federal constitutional right to due process was violated by a 2009 decision of then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to deny petitioner a parole date.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In 1993, petitioner was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to fifteen years to life in prison. See Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, filed July 16, 2010 (Petition), at 1. On August 21, 2008, petitioner appeared before the Board for a subsequent parole consideration hearing. See Ex. B to Petition at 1, 3. Petitioner appeared at and participated in the hearing. Id. Following deliberations held at the conclusion of the hearing, the Board announced their decision to grant petitioner parole and the reasons for that decision. Id. at Decision Pages 1-14. On January 16, 2009, pursuant to authority granted by California Penal Code § 3041.2, the California Governor reversed the Board's decision and denied petitioner parole. See Ex. E to Petition.

ANALYSIS

I. Standards for a Writ of Habeas Corpus

Federal habeas corpus relief is not available for any claim decided on the merits in 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 the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

Under section 2254(d)(1), a state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established United States Supreme Court precedents if it applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in Supreme Court cases, or if it confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of the Supreme Court and nevertheless arrives at different result. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 7 (2002) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-406 (2000)).

Under the "unreasonable application" clause of section 2254(d)(1), a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from the Supreme Court's decisions, but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case. Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. A federal habeas court "may not issue the writ simply because that 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 412; see also Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003) (it is "not enough that a federal habeas court, in its independent review of the legal question, is left with a 'firm conviction' that the state court was 'erroneous.'") (internal citations omitted).

The court looks to the last reasoned state court decision as the basis for the state court judgment. Avila v. Galaza, 297 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 2002). Where the state court reaches a decision on the merits but provides no reasoning to support its conclusion, a federal habeas court independently reviews the record to determine whether habeas corpus relief is available under section 2254(d). Delgado v. Lewis, 223 F.3d 976, 982 (9th Cir. 2000).

II. Petitioner's Claim

As noted above, petitioner claims that the Governor's decision to reverse the grant of parole violated his federal constitutional right to due process of law. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits state action that deprives a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. A litigant alleging a due process violation must first demonstrate that he was deprived of a liberty or property interest protected by the Due Process Clause and then show that the procedures attendant ...


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