UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
August 29, 2012
MARIO GUTIERREZ, PETITIONER,
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge
ORDER DISMISSING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND GRANTING PETITIONER LEAVE TO AMEND [Doc. 1]
Petitioner is proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
Petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus on July 18, 2012, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, Sacramento Division. On August 23, 2012, the action was transferred to this Court.
Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases requires the Court to make a preliminary review of each petition for writ of habeas corpus. The Court must dismiss a petition "[i]f it plainly appears from the face of the petition . . . that the petition is not entitled to relief." Rule 4 of the Rules Governing 2254 Cases; see also Hendricks v. Vasquez, 908 F.2d 490 (9th Cir. 1990).
I. Naming Proper Respondent
The Court has conducted a preliminary review of the Petition and finds it is without jurisdiction to hear the case as Petitioner has named an improper respondent.
A petitioner seeking habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 must name the state officer having custody of him as the respondent to the petition. Rule 2 (a) of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases; Ortiz-Sandoval v. Gomez, 81 F.3d 891, 894 (9th Cir. 1996); Stanley v. California Supreme Court, 21 F.3d 359, 360 (9th Cir. 1994). Normally, the person having custody of an incarcerated petitioner is the warden of the prison in which the petitioner is incarcerated because the warden has "day-to-day control over" the petitioner. Brittingham v. United States, 982 F.2d 378, 379 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Stanley v. California Supreme Court, 21 F.3d 359, 360 (9th Cir. 1994). However, the chief officer in charge of state penal institutions is also appropriate. Ortiz, 81 F.3d at 894; Stanley, 21 F.3d at 360. Where a petitioner is on probation or parole, the proper respondent is his probation or parole officer and the official in charge of the parole or probation agency or state correctional agency. Id.
In this case, petitioner names the People (presumably the State of California), as Respondent. Although Petitioner is currently in the custody of the State, the State cannot be considered the person having day-to-day control over Petitioner.
Petitioner's failure to name a proper respondent requires dismissal of his habeas petition for lack of jurisdiction. Stanley, 21 F.3d at 360; Olson v. California Adult Auth., 423 F.2d 1326, 1326 (9th Cir. 1970). However, in this case, the Court will give Petitioner the opportunity to cure his defect by amending the petition to name a proper respondent. See West v. Louisiana, 478 F.2d 1026, 1029 (5th Cir.1973), vacated in part on other grounds, 510 F.2d 363 (5th Cir. 1975) (en banc) (allowing petitioner to amend petition to name proper respondent); Ashley v. State of Washington, 394 F.2d 125 (9th Cir. 1968) (same).
II. Exhaustion of State Court Remedies
On the form Petitioner, Petitioner indicates that he has exhausted the state court remedies; however, Petitioner neglected to list the claims that were raised before the state's highest court. Therefore, the Court cannot determine whether Petitioner has exhausted the state court remedies.
A petitioner who is in state custody and wishes to collaterally challenge his conviction by a petition for writ of habeas corpus must exhaust state judicial remedies. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1). The exhaustion doctrine is based on comity to the state court and gives the state court the initial opportunity to correct the state's alleged constitutional deprivations. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731, 111 S.Ct. 2546, 2554-55 (1991); Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518, 102 S.Ct. 1198, 1203 (1982); Buffalo v. Sunn, 854 F.2d 1158, 1163 (9th Cir. 1988).
A petitioner can satisfy the exhaustion requirement by providing the highest state court with a full and fair opportunity to consider each claim before presenting it to the federal court. Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 276, 92 S.Ct. 509, 512 (1971); Johnson v. Zenon, 88 F.3d 828, 829 (9th Cir. 1996). A federal court will find that the highest state court was given a full and fair opportunity to hear a claim if the petitioner has presented the highest state court with the claim's factual and legal basis. Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365, 115 S.Ct. 887, 888 (1995) (legal basis); Kenney v. Tamayo-Reyes, 504 U.S. 1, 112 S.Ct. 1715, 1719 (1992) (factual basis). Additionally, the petitioner must have specifically told the state court that he was raising a federal constitutional claim. Duncan, 513 U.S. at 365-66, 115 S.Ct. at 888; Keating v. Hood, 133 F.3d 1240, 1241 (9th Cir.1998). For example, if a petitioner wishes to claim that the trial court violated his due process rights "he must say so, not only in federal court but in state court." Duncan, 513 U.S. at 366, 115 S.Ct. at 888. A general appeal to a constitutional guarantee is insufficient to present the "substance" of such a federal claim to a state court. See Anderson v. Harless, 459 U.S. 4, 7, 103 S.Ct. 276 (1982) (Exhaustion requirement not satisfied circumstance that the "due process ramifications" of an argument might be "self-evident."); Gray v. Netherland, 518 U.S. 152, 162-63, 116 S.Ct. 1074 (1996) ("a claim for relief in habeas corpus must include reference to a specific federal constitutional guarantee, as well as a statement of the facts which entitle the petitioner to relief.").
Additionally, the petitioner must have specifically told the state court that he was raising a federal constitutional claim. Duncan, 513 U.S. at 365-66; Lyons v. Crawford, 232 F.3d 666, 669 (9th Cir.2000), amended, 247 F.3d 904 (2001); Hiivala v. Wood, 195 F.3d 1098, 1106 (9th Cir.1999); Keating v. Hood, 133 F.3d at 1241.
Because it is unclear what, if any, claims presented in the instant federal petition for writ of habeas corpus were exhausted in the state's highest court, Petitioner will be ordered to show cause regarding exhaustion. If possible, Petitioner should present to the Court documentary evidence that the claims were indeed presented to the California Supreme Court.*fn1
III. Failure to State a Cognizable Claim
In this case, the best the Court can decipher it appears Petitioner is attempting to challenge his sentence under California's Three Strikes law, by claiming he has not suffered the requisite prior serious felonies with the meaning of the state law. Petitioner is advised that he is not entitled to habeas relief if the claim raises a state law issue only. In conducting habeas corpus review, a federal court is limited to deciding whether a conviction violated the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68 (1991). Federal habeas relief is not available for alleged errors in the application of state law. Id. at 67-68. Whether a conviction qualifies as a "serious felony" under California sentence enhancement provisions is a question of state sentencing law. See Miller v. Vasquez, 868 F.2d 1116, 1118-1119 (9th Cir. 1989) (whether assault with a deadly weapon qualifies as serious felony under California law is a question of state sentencing law not cognizable on federal habeas review) (citation omitted).
However, a petition for writ of habeas corpus should not be dismissed without leave to amend unless it appears that no tenable claim for relief can be pleaded were such leave granted. Jarvis v. Nelson, 440 F.2d 13, 14 (9th Cir. 1971). Here, it is possible that Petitioner can plead a cognizable federal constitutional claim based on the sentence imposed by the state court. Accordingly, the Court will grant Petitioner the opportunity to amend his petition.
Based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. Within thirty (30) days from the date of service of this order, Petitioner shall file an amended petition addressing the deficiencies outlined above;
2. The Clerk of Court is directed to send Petitioner a blank § 2254 form petition, and Petitioner is advised he should include the case number referenced above and caption it "amended petition"; and
3. Failure to comply with this order will result in a recommendation to dismiss the action for failure to comply with a court order. Local Rule 110.
IT IS SO ORDERED.