United States District Court, C.D. California
September 9, 2014
GARY TAYLOR, Petitioner,
RON DAVIS, Warden, Respondent.
ORDER DISMISSING ACTION FOR LACK OF SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
S. JAMES OTERO, District Judge.
On April 24, 2014, Petitioner Gary Taylor ("Petitioner"), a California state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Docket Entry No. 1). On June 17, 2014, the Court issued an Order To Show Cause ("OSC") that required Petitioner to file a Supplemental Statement explaining why the action should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (Docket Entry No. 10). On July 8, 2014, Petitioner filed a Supplemental Statement (Docket Entry No. 11). After reviewing the Petition and the Supplemental Statement, the Court has decided to DISMISS the action without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
On March 23, 2009, Petitioner pleaded guilty to one count of continuous sexual abuse, in violation of California Penal Code ("P.C.") § 288.5(a), and three counts of committing a lewd act upon a child, in violation of P.C. § 288(a). (See Lodgment 1, at 1.) On May 1, 2009, the Ventura County Superior Court sentenced Petitioner to twenty-two years in state prison. (See id.) The court also ordered Petitioner to pay $158, 760 in restitution, which would be allocated accordingly: (1) $90, 720 was to be paid to Hannah T. (one of Petitioner's victims), and (2) $68, 040 was to be paid to Terri Taylor (Hannah T.'s mother and Petitioner's ex-wife). (See id. at 2; Pet. 11.) Petitioner did not appeal the trial court's judgment.
On May 18, 2012, Petitioner filed a state habeas petition in the California Court of Appeal, (see Lodgment 2), which was denied on July 9, 2012. (See Lodgment 4.) On May 24, 2013, Petitioner filed another petition in the California Court of Appeal, (see Lodgment 5), which was denied on June 18, 2013. (See Lodgment 6.) On July 30, 2013, Petitioner filed a state habeas petition in the California Supreme Court, (see Lodgment 7), which was denied on October 16, 2013. (See Lodgment 8.)
On April 24, 2014, Petitioner filed the instant Petition.
The Petition raises three grounds for habeas relief:
1. Ground One: The trial court's imposition of $158, 760 in restitution violates the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment.
2. Ground Two: The restitution order violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it is "arbitrary and capricious[.]"
3. Ground Three: Petitioner's counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to raise certain objections at the restitution hearing.
(See Pet. 7-8, 11-27.)
Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) provides that:
The Supreme Court, a Justice thereof, a circuit judge, or a district court shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) (emphasis added).
The requirement that a habeas petitioner be "in custody in violation of [federal law]" is "jurisdictional." See Bailey v. Hill , 599 F.3d 976, 978 (9th Cir. 2010); cf. Williamson v. Gregoire , 151 F.3d 1180, 1182 (9th Cir. 1998) (noting that 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3)'s requirement that a habeas petitioner be "in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States" is jurisdictional). "The plain meaning of the text of § 2254(a) makes clear that physical custody alone is insufficient to confer jurisdiction." See Bailey , 599 F.3d at 980. Rather, "[it] explicitly requires a nexus between the petitioner's claim and the unlawful nature of the custody." See id. (emphasis added) (citing Dickerson v. United States , 530 U.S. 428, 439 n.3 (2000).) If the remedy sought is merely "the elimination or alteration" of a petitioner's restitutionary obligation, then there is no such nexus between the habeas claim and the petitioner's purportedly unlawful custody. See id. at 981; see also Washington v. Smith , 564 F.3d 1350, 1350-51 (7th Cir. 2009) (holding that a petitioner did not satisfy the "in custody" requirement because, even if he prevailed on his ineffective assistance claim, "the only possible benefit [would] be a lower payment to his victim"), quoted with approval in Bailey , 599 F.3d at 981-82. In such a case, the action must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Bailey , 599 F.3d at 984.
Here, Petitioner's cruel and usual punishment, due process, and ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims each challenge only the $158, 760 restitution order. (See Pet. 7-8, 11-27.) Nonetheless, Petitioner claims that he is not directly contesting the imposition of restitution, but is merely attacking "the trial courts abuse of authority and the prosecutor[s] misconduct[, ]" which stem from their failure "to accept that [P]etitioner has already paid the imposed restitution." (See Supplemental Statement 3.) Petitioner also claims that his attorney rendered constitutionally deficient assistance by failing to argue to the trial court that Petitioner previously satisfied that financial obligation. (See id. at 4.) However, even if Petitioner prevailed on these claims, he would not obtain early release from custody; instead, he would be entitled to only "the elimination or alteration of a money judgment" (and perhaps the return of funds already paid). See Bailey , 599 F.3d at 981. Thus, the "nexus" between these claims and illegal custody is lacking. See id. Put differently, the legal theories on which his claims rely are irrelevant - the only relevant consideration is whether his claims would impair the validity of the custodial sentence. See id. at 978, 984 (affirming dismissal of ineffective assistance claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction); Washington , 564 F.3d at 1351. Because these claims do not affect the legality of Petitioner's confinement, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the action. See Bailey , 599 F.3d at 984.
IT IS ORDERED that: (1) the Petition is DENIED, and (2) the action is DISMISSED without prejudice.