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Michael Arreygue v. James Walker

May 2, 2012

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



ORDER AND AMENDED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition 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.

By order filed May 7, 2010, this court set a briefing schedule on petitioner's application. Pursuant to that order, respondent's answer was due within forty-five days, and petitioner's traverse was due thirty days thereafter. Respondent timely filed an answer on June 21, 2010. No traverse was filed in this action within the thirty day period thereafter. On March 12, 2012, this court issued findings and recommendations based on review of the petition, the answer, and all exhibits filed theretofore. On March 26, 2012, petitioner filed objections to the findings and recommendations.

On April 17, 2012, the court received petitioner's traverse in mail from California State Prison-Sacramento (CSP-Sacramento). The traverse was accompanied by a letter from the Warden noting that it had "recently" come to his attention that the traverse had not been delivered to the court. The traverse was delivered to prison officials for mailing on or about July 8, 2010 and mail metered on July 12, 2010. No further explanation for the delay has been provided. On April 23, 2012, petitioner filed notice that he had been informed of the foregoing and he requested a "rehearing" on his petition. Good cause appearing, the findings and recommendations filed March 12, 2012 will be vacated and the court will issue revised findings and recommendations based on review of the petition, the answer, the traverse, and relevant exhibits.

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 ...


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