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Hernandez v. McDonald

United States District Court, C.D. California, Southern Division

March 6, 2014

ARMANDO HERNANDEZ, JR., Petitioner,
v.
JIM McDONALD, warden, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ARTHUR NAKAZATO, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On February 24, 2014, pro se petitioner Armando Hernandez filed his pending habeas petition ("Petition") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("§ 2254"). The Petition [1], including the attached pages, is not consecutively numbered as required by Local Rule 11-2.2. For convenience and clarity, the Court cites to the pages of the Petition by referring to the pagination furnished by the Court's official CM/ECF electronic document filing system.

Hernandez is the only party who has appeared in this action and he has filed a written consent [3] to the Magistrate Judge's jurisdiction. See Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1118-21 (9th Cir. 2012)(magistrate judge had jurisdiction to dismiss action where prisoner consented and was the only party to the action).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254 ("Habeas Rules"), requires a judge to "promptly examine" a habeas petition and "[i]fit plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the petitioner."

B. Analysis

After carefully considering the Petition, pursuant to the Court's duty to screen § 2254 petitions before service, the Court finds it must be dismissed because it plainly appears that Hernandez is using the Petition to challenge the conditions of his confinement, not the legality or duration of a state conviction and related prison sentence. (Petition at 2, 11-12.)

Specifically, the Petition reflects Hernandez is currently being detained at the La Palma Correctional Center, in Eloy, Arizona ("LPCC"). (Pet. at 2.) The LPCC is a medium-security facility for males that is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America. The Petition specifies the reason for Hernandez's detention is "assault with firearm; use of automatic weapon during commission of crime." ( Id. ) Hernandez states that January 29, 2008, is the date of his conviction and sentence that he sustained in the California Superior Court for Los Angeles County (case no. MA040421-01) ( Id. ) The Petition raises five grounds for relief as follows: (1) "prison officials have validated petitioner as a prison gang affiliate and place him in the ASU/SHU based on false, unreliable and insufficient information violating equal protection and due process under state and federal constitution"; (2) "prison officials have validated petitioner as an active prison gang affiliate and retained in the ASU/SHU based on false, unreliable and insufficient information violating 5th, 8th and 14th Amend[ments]"; (3) "prison officials are enforcing prison gang regulations that have not been promulgated pursuant to governing administrative, state and federal laws violating equal protection 14th Amend[ment]"; (4) "prison officials have a policy and practice of placing prisoners in the ASU/SHU based on mere allegations of gang affiliation, rather than for misconduct in violation of cruel and unusual punishment violating 8th Amend[ment]"; and (5) "prison officials enforce vague and overboard regulations that infringe upon petitioner's free and innocent speech and conduct, violating 1st and 14th Amend[ments]" ( Id. at 11-12.) As for relief, Hernandez does not seek release from his custody. Instead, he fundamentally requests this Court to issue various orders, allow discovery and an evidentiary hearing, and order Respondent to change the ASU/SHU policies and practices. ( Id. at 16.)

1. The Petition must be dismissed since it is directed at Hernandez's conditions of confinement rather than the legality or duration of his custody arising from his state conviction or sentence.

A habeas corpus petition can only be used to challenge the legality or duration of a prisoner's confinement; in contrast, a civil rights action is the proper mechanism for challenging conditions of confinement. See Badea v. Cox, 931 F.2d573, 574 (9th Cir. 1991) (prisoner must bring condition of confinement claims by way of a civil rights complaint brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983"), not a habeas corpus petition).

Further, a district court only has jurisdiction to consider a § 2254 petition that is brought by a person in state custody pursuant to a state judgment of conviction or sentence who claims his state custody violates "the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (a). It plainly appears from the Petition that Hernandez is challenging the conditions of his confinement, not the legality or duration of an underlying state conviction and sentence. Therefore, the Court finds the Petition is subject to summary dismissal pursuant to Habeas Rule 4. See Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 644, 656, 125 S.Ct. 2562 (2005) ("Under Habeas Rule 4, if it plainly appears from ...


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