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Hubbard v. Seng

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 30, 2014

ZANE HUBBARD, Petitioner,
v.
MICHAEL J. SENG, Magistrate Judge, Respondent/Plaintiff.

ORDER DENYING "PETITION UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2254 FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS BY A PERSON IN STATE CUSTODY"

ROBERT J. TIMLIN, District Judge.

The court has read and considered petitioner Zane Hubbard's ("Hubbard") petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("Section 2254"), ("Petition"). The court has also read and considered the docket and various court filings in the civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that Hubbard previously filed. See Docket # 13-1736-AWI-MJS. Based on such consideration, the court will deny the petition for the reasons set forth below.

I.

BACKGROUND

Hubbard filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983 action") on October 23, 2013. See Docket # CV 13-1736-AWS-MJS. That complaint alleged that he had been validated as a gang associate while in custody, and as result has been confined in segregated housing and subjected to interrogation, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The magistrate judge assigned to the Section 1983 action was Magistrate Judge Michael J. Seng. See id. On November 13, 2013, Judge Seng dismissed the complaint with leave to amend within thirty days. See Docket # CV 13-1736, Entry 11. On December 20, 2013, Hubbard filed an amended complaint. See id., Entry 12.

Shortly thereafter, on December 23, 2013, Hubbard filed the instant habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, making a number of claims regarding Magistrate Judge Seng's conduct during the course of the Section 1983 case, including that Judge Seng is not a judicial officer because he is not listed in the court directory, that he had a conflict of interest that was not disclosed, that he lied during court proceedings, and finally that he also disregarded material facts in order to deny Hubbard relief in his Section 1983 action.

II.

ANALYSIS

Hubbard is entitled to habeas relief if his incarceration violates the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. Estelle v. McGuire, 112 S.Ct. 475, 480 (1991). "According to traditional interpretation, the writ of habeas corpus is limited to attacks upon the legality or duration of confinement." Crawford v. Bell, 599 F.2d 890, 891 (9th Cir. 1979) (citing Presier v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 484-86 (1973)). Hubbard's allegations, however, do not make such attacks, as they are focused on the conduct and actions of the magistrate judge who presided over his Section 1983 case. The complaint makes no mention of the legality or duration of his confinement; in fact, it does not mention the criminal case for which he is currently incarcerated. Therefore, it plainly appears from the face of the Petition that Hubbard is not entitled to habeas relief.[1]

However, pro se complaints are liberally construed. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). Therefore, oftentimes, courts construe pro se habeas petitions as 42 U.S.C. § 1983 actions, when they challenge conditions of confinement. Here, Hubbard's petition would have to be construed as a claim under Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), because the only named defendant is Judge Seng, who was acting under color of federal law. Accordingly, this court will treat the complaint as made under Bivens. See Mullis v. U.S. Bankruptcy Court, 828 F.2d 1385, 1387 (9th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 108 S.Ct. 2031 (1988). However, judges sued under Bivens are absolutely immune from civil damage liability unless they act in absence of all jurisdiction or perform acts that are not judicial in nature. See Lonneker Farms, Inc. v. Klobucher, 804 F.2d 1096, 1097 (9t Cir. 1986). In Hubbard's complaint, all his allegations relate to conduct of Judge Seng while "acting in his capacity" as a federal magistrate judge. Judicial immunity thus bars Hubbard's Bivens claim.

III.

DISPOSITION

For the reasons above, IT IS ORDERED that Petitioner Zane Hubbard's Section 2254 petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied.


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