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Belletti v. Montgomery

United States District Court, S.D. California

March 18, 2015

JOHN BELLETTI, Petitioner,
v.
W.L. MONTGOMERY, Warden, et al., Respondents.

ORDER: (1) GRANTING RESPONDENTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AND DENYING THE PETITION ON THE MERITS [Doc. No. 12] (2) DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR DECLARATORY JUDGMENT [Doc. No. 9] (3) ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [Doc. No. 22]

MARILYN L. HUFF, District Judge.

On July 8, 2014, John Belletti ("Petitioner"), at that time a prisoner incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison and proceeding pro se, filed a petition for habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. No. 1.) Petitioner is now out of custody.[1] On October 22, 2014, Respondents filed a motion to dismiss the petition. (Doc. No. 12.) On November 6, 2014, Petitioner filed an opposition. (Doc. No. 15.) Petitioner also filed a motion for declaratory judgment. (Doc. No. 9.) On January 29, 2015, the magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation to grant Respondents' motion to dismiss and deny Petitioner's motion. (Doc. No. 22.) On January 30, 2015, the Court requested supplemental briefing in connection with the motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 23.) On February 17, 2015, the government filed a supplemental brief. (Doc. No. 24.) Petitioner has neither filed objections to the report and recommendation nor responded to the Court's request for supplemental briefing.

Background

Petitioner was determined guilty of fighting with another inmate in violation of the California Code of Regulations after a hearing on the charge. (Doc. No. 16-1 at 1, Lodgment No. 1, Rules Violation Report.) On December 20, 2012, Petitioner was assessed a ninety day credit loss and ninety day forfeiture of certain privileges such as use of the gym and telephone. (Id.)

Petitioner filed an appeal of the disposition three months later, on March 14, 2013. An inmate appeal must be submitted within thirty calendar days of the disposition. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.8(b). Accordingly, the appeal was cancelled as untimely. (Doc. No. 16-3, Lodgment No. 3.) On April 2, 2014, Petitioner submitted his appeal for third-level review. (Doc. No. 16-2, Lodgment No. 2.) That appeal was rejected for failing to obtain review at the lower level. (Doc. No. 16-4, Lodgment No. 4.)

On April 5, 2013, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Fresno County Superior Court. (Doc. No. 16-5, Lodgment No. 5.) The Fresno County Superior Court denied the petition for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and failure to show why the exhaustion requirement should not apply. (Doc. No. 16-6, Lodgment No. 6.) Petitioner next filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Fifth District Court of Appeal. (Doc. No. 16-7, Lodgment No. 7.) The Court of Appeal denied the petition for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. (Doc. No. 16-8, Lodgment No. 8.) On August 26, 2013, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court. (Doc. No. 16-9, Lodgment No. 9.) On November 12, 2013, the California Supreme Court denied the petition for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, citing In re Dexter, 25 Cal.3d 921 (1979). (Doc. No. 10, Lodgment No. 10.) Petitioner then filed additional petitions for habeas review in state court that were denied as successive. (Doc. Nos. 16-11-16-16, Lodgment Nos. 11-16.)

On July 8, 2014, Petitioner filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. No. 1.) Petitioner contends he was denied due process at the hearing where he was found guilty of fighting. (Doc. No. 1 at 22-31.) Petitioner argues that he acted in self-defense and that the senior hearing officer failed to consider a DVD recording of the incident that supported his self-defense argument. (Id.) On October 22, 2014, Respondent filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that Petitioner failed to exhaust his administrative remedies by failing to timely appeal the decision of the senior hearing officer. (Doc. No. 12.) On January 29, 2015, the magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation to grant Respondent's motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 22.) On January 30, 2015, the Court ordered supplemental briefing on whether sufficient evidence supports the disposition for fighting and whether Petitioner suffered any prejudicial constitutional violations. (Doc. No. 23.) On February 17, 2015, Respondents filed supplemental briefing. (Doc. No. 24.) The Court has not received any objections from Petitioner nor has Petitioner filed supplemental briefing.

Discussion

I. Legal Standards

A. Standard of Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254

A federal court may review a petition for writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to a state court judgment "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); accord Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 375 n.7 (2000). Habeas corpus is an "extraordinary remedy" available only to those "persons whom society has grievously wronged...." Juan H. v. Allen, 408 F.3d 1262, 1270 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 633-34 (1993)). Because Petitioner filed this petition after April 24, 1996, the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") governs the petition. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 327 (1997); Chein v. Shumsky, 373 F.3d 978, 983 (9th Cir. 2004) (en banc). "When a federal claim has been presented to a state court and the state court has denied relief, it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to the contrary." Id . Federal habeas relief is available only if the result reached by the state court on the merits is "contrary to, " or "an unreasonable application" of Supreme Court precedent, or if the adjudication is "an unreasonable determination" based on the facts and evidence. 28 U.S.C. §§ 2254(d)(1)-(d)(2).

A federal court may grant habeas relief only if a state court either "applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's] cases" or "confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [the Court's] precedent." Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002); see also Williams, 529 U.S. at 405-06 (distinguishing the "contrary to" and the "unreasonable application" standards). "[R]eview under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits." Cullen v. Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011). "Although the Supreme Court has declined to decide whether a district court may ever choose to hold an evidentiary hearing before it determines that § 2254(d) has been satisfied, ' an evidentiary hearing is pointless once the district court has determined that § 2254(d) precludes habeas relief." Sully v. Ayers, 725 F.3d 1057, 1075 (9th Cir. 2013) (citing Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. at 1411 n. 20).

A federal court may grant habeas relief under the "unreasonable application" clause of § 2254(d)(1) if the state court "identifies the correct governing legal rule from [the Supreme] Court's cases but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the particular state prisoner's case." Williams, 529 U.S. at 407. A federal court may also grant habeas relief "if the state court either unreasonably extends a legal principle from [Supreme Court] precedent to a new context where it should not apply or unreasonably refuses to extend that principle to a new context where it should apply." Id . The state court's "unreasonable application" of binding precedent must be objectively unreasonable to the extent that the state court decision is more than merely incorrect or erroneous. Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520-21 (2003) (citation omitted); see also Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75-76 (2003). Additionally, even if a state court decision is "contrary to" Supreme Court precedent or rests on an "unreasonable determination" of facts in light of the evidence, the petitioner must show that such error caused substantial or injurious prejudice. Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 795 (2001) (quoting Brecht, 507 U.S. at 637-38); see also Fry v. Pliler, 551 U.S. 112, 121-22 (2007); Bains v. Cambra, 204 F.3d 964, 977 (9th Cir. 2000). AEDPA creates a highly deferential standard toward state court rulings. Woodford v. Viscotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002).

In determining whether a state court decision is contrary to clearly established federal law, the court looks to the state's last reasoned decision. Avila v. Galaza, 297 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 2002). Where there is an unexplained decision from the state's highest court, the court "looks through" to the last reasoned state judgment and presumes that the ...


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