United States District Court, E.D. California
June 3, 2014
JOHN MORALEZ-LOPEZ, Petitioner,
MICHAEL L. BENOV, Respondent.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION REGARDING RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS [ECF NO. 17]
GARY S. AUSTIN, Magistrate Judge.
Petitioner is proceeding pro se with an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.
On July 17, 2013, Petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus. Respondent filed an answer on November 6, 2013, and Petitioner filed a traverse on November 21, 2013. He contends his due process rights were violated during a disciplinary process because an individual not employed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons sanctioned Petitioner with a loss of good conduct time credits based on an incident report for misconduct.
On April 22, 2014, the Court directed Respondent to file a status report in light of the Court's decision in Valenzuala v. Benov, Case No. 1:13-cv-00480-LJO-MJS-HC. On May 22, 2014, Respondent responded to the status report and moved for dismissal of the petition as moot in light of a rehearing conducted by the BOP. On May 30, 2014, Petitioner filed an opposition to the motion.
The case or controversy requirement of Article III of the Federal Constitution deprives the Court of jurisdiction to hear moot cases. Iron Arrow Honor Soc'y v. Heckler , 464 U.S. 67, 70 (1983); NAACP., W. Region v. City of Richmond , 743 F.2d 1346, 1352 (9th Cir. 1984). A case becomes moot if "the issues presented are no longer live or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome." Murphy v. Hunt , 455 U.S. 478, 481 (1984). The Federal Court is "without power to decide questions that cannot affect the rights of the litigants before them." North Carolina v. Rice , 404 U.S. 244, 246 (1971) (quoting Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Hayworth , 300 U.S. 227, 240-241 (1937)).
In this case, Petitioner contends that his due process rights were violated during a disciplinary hearing because an individual who was not employed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") conducted the hearing. Respondent submits that the challenged disciplinary hearing has been reheard before a BOP employee. In support, Respondent has provided a declaration from Christopher Cruz, the Discipline Hearing Administrator for the Western Regional Office of the BOP. Resp't's Supp. to Mot. to Dismiss, Cruz Decl. He is a BOP disciplinary hearing officer and the individual who conducted the rehearing. In addition, Respondent has submitted the disciplinary report dated March 7, 2014, which reflects that the disciplinary rehearing was conducted on May 7, 2014. Resp't's Supp. to Mot. to Dismiss, Cruz Decl., Attach. 3. In light of the rehearing before a BOP employee, there is no longer a case or controversy. The instant petition is moot.
In his opposition, Petitioner now complains that the disciplinary process as a whole is flawed because private employees of Taft Correctional Institution participated at some point in the process, such as by making the initial report of a violation, investigating the violation, or submitting the report to the Unit Discipline Committee ("UDC"). This claim was not presented in the petition and is therefore not properly presented. Moreover, there is no merit to the claim. The regulation at issue contemplates the imposition of sanctions by Bureau staff. 28 C.F.R. § 541.1. In this case, Petitioner does not dispute that he had the opportunity to appear and present evidence and witnesses to a BOP staff member, whereupon the BOP staff member considered the evidence and rendered a decision. Petitioner fails to demonstrate a violation of his due process rights. See Wolff v. McDonnell , 418 U.S. 539 (1974) (Prisoners are entitled to minimal due process protections in prison disciplinary hearings). In addition, the Court finds no prejudice resulting from the rehearing.
Accordingly, the court HEREBY RECOMMENDS that Respondent's motion to dismiss be GRANTED and this action be DISMISSED for mootness.
This Findings and Recommendation is submitted to the Honorable Lawrence J. O'Neill, United States District Court Judge, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(B) and Rule 304 of the Local Rules of Practice for the United States District Court, Eastern District of California. Within thirty (30) days after being served with a copy, any party may file written objections with the court and serve a copy on all parties. Such a document should be captioned "Objections to Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendations." Replies to the objections shall be served and filed within fourteen (14) days after service of the objections. The Court will then review the Magistrate Judge's ruling pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(C). The parties are advised that failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to appeal the District Court's order. Martinez v. Ylst , 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991).
IT IS SO ORDERED.