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Jones v. E. Valenzuela

United States District Court, Central District of California

November 3, 2014


For Leander Leroy Jones, Jr, Petitioner: Charles Chung, CAAG - Attorney General Office, Los Angeles, CA.

For E Valenzuela, Respondent: Charles Chung, CAAG - Attorney General Office, Los Angeles, CA.



This Report and Recommendation is submitted to the Hon. Percy Anderson, United States District Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and General Order 05-07 of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. For the reasons discussed below, it is recommended that the Petition be denied and the action dismissed with prejudice.



Petitioner is a state prisoner. On March 17, 2011, Corrections Officer J. A. De Franco was conducting a random pat down search when he discovered a bag of tobacco on Petitioner. (Lodged Doc. No. 1.) When De Franco asked if Petitioner had anything else on him, Petitioner swore at De Franco and told him to finish the pat down. (Lodged Doc. No. 1.) De Franco placed Petitioner in handcuffs and began to escort him to a holding cell. (Lodged Doc. No. 1.) Petitioner then told De Franco, " Take these handcuffs off me, I'm going to fuck you up." (Lodged Doc. No. 1.)

Petitioner was notified that he had been charged with threatening to commit battery on staff. (Lodged Doc. No. 1.) He was afforded a disciplinary hearing at which he appeared and denied the charges, claiming that De Franco was lying. (Lodged Doc. No. 1.) The Disciplinary Hearing Officer issued a written decision, finding Petitioner guilty and explaining why. (Lodged Doc. No. 1.) He sanctioned Petitioner with, among other things, the loss of 60 days good time credits. (Lodged Doc. No. 1.)

Petitioner appealed through the prison appeal system and lost. He then sought relief in the state courts via habeas corpus and lost there, too. This action followed.



The standard of review in this case is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim--
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

A state court decision is " contrary to" clearly established federal law if it applies a rule that contradicts Supreme Court case law or if it reaches a conclusion different from the Supreme Court's in a case that involves facts that are materially indistinguishable. Premo v. Moore, 562 U.S. 115, 131 S.Ct. 733, 743, 178 L.Ed.2d 649 (2011) (citing Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694, 122 S.Ct. 1843, 152 L.Ed.2d 914 (2002)). To establish that the state court unreasonably applied federal law, a petitioner must show that the state court's application of Supreme Court precedent to the facts of his case was not only incorrect but objectively unreasonable. Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 130 S.Ct. 1855, 1862, 176 L.Ed.2d 678 (2010). Where no decision of the Supreme Court has squarely decided an issue, a state court's adjudication of that issue cannot result in a decision that is contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established Supreme Court precedent. See Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786, 178 L.Ed.2d 624 (2011).

Petitioner raised the instant claims in his habeas petitions in the Monterey County Superior Court, the California Court of Appeal, and the California Supreme Court. Only the superior court explained its reasons for denying them. In this situation, the Court presumes that the California Supreme Court denied the claims for the same reasons the superior court did and will uphold that reasoning unless it is clear that no fairminded judge would find the decision correct. See Richter, 131 S.Ct. at 786.



Petitioner contends that Officer De Franco lied when he accused Petitioner of threatening him and that the Disciplinary Hearing Officer as well as the state court judges erred when they concluded otherwise. For the following reasons, the Court finds that Petitioner is not entitled to relief.

Because prison disciplinary proceedings are not criminal in nature, prisoners are not entitled to the same panoply of rights that a defendant is entitled to in a criminal prosecution. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 41 L.Ed.2d 935 (1974). Instead, due process requires only that a prisoner be given advance written notice of the charges, an opportunity to call witnesses and present documents in his defense, and a written statement of the evidence relied on in finding him guilty. Id. at 563. Obviously, Petitioner was afforded these rights in the disciplinary proceedings and he does not contend otherwise. His argument here is that De Franco was lying and that, as a result, Petitioner should not have been found guilty.

To survive scrutiny, a prison disciplinary decision need only be supported by " some evidence." Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455, 105 S.Ct. 2768, 86 L.Ed.2d 356 (1985). Under this minimally stringent standard, a federal reviewing court will uphold disciplinary findings if there is " any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion" reached by the officer. Id. at 455-56 (emphasis added); see also Cato v. Rushen, 824 F.2d 703, 704-05 (9th Cir. 1987)(requiring " some evidence" having a sufficient indicia of reliability).

The superior court found that there was " some evidence" supporting the Disciplinary Hearing Officer's determination that Petitioner threatened De Franco. (Lodged Doc. No. 4 at 2 (" A review of the record shows that the finding of guilt was based on 'some evidence.'").) Clearly, the record supports this finding. De Franco prepared a report documenting the threat, which the Disciplinary Hearing Officer relied on in making his finding. (Lodged Doc. No. 1.) That report amounts to " some evidence" and supports both the Hearing Officer's finding and the state courts' rulings upholding that finding.[1]



Accordingly, IT IS RECOMMENDED that the Court issue an Order (1) accepting this Report and Recommendation and (2) directing that judgement be entered denying the Petition and dismissing the action with prejudice.[2]

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