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Michael Arreygue v. James Walker

March 12, 2012

MICHAEL ARREYGUE, PETITIONER,
v.
JAMES WALKER, RESPONDENT.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges a 2009 prison disciplinary conviction for battery on an inmate causing serious injury. Petitioner claims there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction and that he was denied a fair hearing when the assigned investigative employee failed to ask three correctional officers questions presented by petitioner.

FACTS

Petitioner was charged with battery on an inmate with a weapon following an incident that occurred on September 2, 2008 on the C-Facility Yard at California State Prison-Sacramento (CSP-Sacramento). Respondent's Ex. 2 at Ex. D. A Classification Staff Representative ordered the disciplinary reheard. Respondent's Ex. 2 at Ex. C. The rehearing occurred on February 25, 2009, and petitioner was found guilty of the charge of battery on an inmate causing serious injury. Id. He was assessed 360 days loss of credits. Id. Petitioner filed an administrative grievance claiming, inter alia, insufficient evidence to support the conviction and inadequate assistance by the assigned investigative employee. Id. Petitioner's appeal was denied at each level at which it was reviewed in the administrative process. See Respondent's Ex. 2 at Ex. A.

Petitioner's request for habeas corpus relief in the California courts was also denied at each level of the state court system. See Respondent's Exs. 3, 6 and 7. The last reasoned rejection of his claims is the decision of the Sacramento County Superior Court. See id.

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) (internal citations omitted) (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.'")

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 Claims

As noted above, petitioner raises two challenges to the ...


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