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Tillman v. The Board of Parole Hearings

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 27, 2014



GREGORY G. HOLLOWS, Magistrate Judge.

Petitioner, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254.

Petitioner challenges various decisions by the California Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) finding him unsuitable for parole in regard to his underlying 1985 conviction, as well as other claims. By order of April 4, 2014, petitioner was informed of the deficiencies in his petition, and directed to file an amended petition. The amended petition, filed April 11, 2014, does nothing more than repeat excerpts from that order verbatim, as well as add a new claim that was not raised in the original petition, that the Board of Parole Hearings refused to allow an "A.D.H. attorney" and forced him to have a state appointed attorney.

In regard to this newly raised claim, petitioner states that the attorney misled him into believing he was an A.D.A. or A.D.H. attorney and familiar with petitioner's condition, but later revealed that he was not. The same attorney then allegedly told petitioner that he was an A.D.H. attorney on the day of the hearing. (ECF No. 6 at 5.)

With respect to this claim, petitioner has failed to indicate what, if any, prejudice he suffered by the presence of an attorney who was not an "A.D.H." attorney. To the extent that this attorney was in fact an "A.D.H." attorney, then petitioner concedes that there was no prejudice. Petitioner has failed to provide any facts suggesting prejudice, such as the context of the representation, any particular decision at issue, (see discussion infra), or how the outcome was different than it otherwise would have been. For the sole reason that petitioner raises this claim for the first time in his amended petition, he will be permitted to file a second amended petition.

In regard to his claims raised in the original petition concerning his challenges to various BPH decisions finding him unsuitable for parole, the amended petition makes no effort to cure the deficiencies in the original petition, but merely repeats some of the directives provided in the first screening order. The court would normally recommend dismissal of the petition on this basis alone; however, because petitioner has raised a new claim, he will be permitted one last opportunity to amend. The authority set forth in the original screening order is repeated here for convenience.

On January 24, 2011, the United States Supreme Court in a per curiam decision found that the Ninth Circuit erred in commanding a federal review of the state's application of state law in applying the "some evidence" standard in the parole eligibility habeas context. Swarthout v. Cooke, ___ U.S. ___ , 131 S.Ct. 859, 861 (2011). Quoting, inter alia, Estelle v. McGuire , 502 U.S. 62, 67 (1991), the Supreme Court re-affirmed that "federal habeas corpus relief does not lie for errors of state law.'" Id . While the high court found that the Ninth Circuit's holding that California law does create a liberty interest in parole was "a reasonable application of our cases" (while explicitly not reviewing that holding), [1] the Supreme Court stated:

When, however, a State creates a liberty interest, the Due Process Clause requires fair procedures for its vindication-and federal courts will review the application of those constitutionally required procedures. In the context of parole, we have held that the procedures required are minimal.

Swarthout v. Cooke, at 862 .

Citing Greenholtz, [2] the Supreme Court noted it had found under another state's similar parole statute that a prisoner had "received adequate process" when "allowed an opportunity to be heard" and "provided a statement of the reasons why parole was denied." Swarthout v. Cooke, at 862 . Noting their holding therein that "[t]he Constitution [] does not require more, " the justices in the instances before them, found the prisoners had "received at least this amount of process: They were allowed to speak at their parole hearings and to contest the evidence against them, were afforded access to their records in advance, and were notified as to the reasons why parole was denied." Id.

The Supreme Court was emphatic in asserting "[t]hat should have been the beginning and the end of the federal habeas courts' inquiry...." Swarthout v. Cooke, at 862 . "It will not do to pronounce California's some evidence' rule to be a component' of the liberty interest...." Id., at 863. "No opinion of ours supports converting California's "some evidence" rule into a substantive federal requirement." Id., at 862. The Ninth Circuit recently noted that in light of Swarthout v. Cooke , certain Ninth Circuit jurisprudence had been reversed and "there is no substantive due process right created by California's parole scheme." Roberts v. Hartley , 640 F.3d 1042, 1046 (9th Cir. 2011). Thus, there is no federal due process requirement for a "some evidence" review and federal courts are precluded from review of the state court's application of its "some evidence" standard.

Because the amended petition contains no grounds in regard to the alleged denial of fair parole board hearings, the allegations in the original petition are restated here. Petitioner alleges that the BPH has not provided him with a fair hearing and denied him parole in "204-208 and 2010." (ECF No. 1 at 6.) Elsewhere, petitioner states, "[i]n 2002 and 20[0]4 and 20[0]6 and 20[0]8 and 2010 my time was over in state prison. I am 12 years over my parole." (Id.) According to petitioner, his release on parole is overdue, and the additional time he has spent in prison constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

The notice pleading standard applicable in ordinary civil proceedings does not apply in habeas corpus cases; rather, Rules 2(c), 4, and 5(b) of the Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases in the United States District Courts require a more detailed statement of all grounds for relief and the facts supporting each ground; the petition is expected to state facts that point to a real possibility of constitutional error and show the relationship of the facts to the claim. Mayle v. Felix , 545 U.S. 644, 655 (2005). This is because the purpose of the rules is to assist the district court in determining whether the respondent should be ordered to show cause why the writ should not be granted and to permit the filing of an answer that satisfies the requirement that it address the allegations in the petition. Id . Conclusionary allegations that are not supported by a statement of specific facts do not warrant habeas relief. Jones v. Gomez , 66 F.3d 199, 204-05 (9th Cir. 1995).

Here, the petitioner is confusing in stating that he is twelve years past his parole, referring to years 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010, but elsewhere stating that he did not get a fair hearing in "20[0]4-20[0]8 and 2010." Petitioner may not attack multiple proceedings in one habeas petition. Petitioner must ...

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