United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT RESPONDENT'S
MOTION TO DISMISS, DENY PETITIONER'S MOTIONS TO AMEND,
AND DISMISS PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS (ECF Nos. 1,
13, 22, 23)
Steven Ciotta is a state prisoner proceeding pro se
with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges a prison
disciplinary proceeding that resulted in the loss of 360 days
of good time credit and 24 months in the Security Housing
Unit. The undersigned recommends granting Respondent's
motion to dismiss given that Petitioner's claim is not
cognizable under the federal habeas statute and the instant
petition was filed outside the one-year limitations period.
currently is in the custody of the California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitation at Pleasant Valley State
Prison serving a sentence of life without the possibility of
parole. (ECF No. 1 at 1; ECF No. 13 at 3). On March 25,
2011, Officer J. Figueroa observed Petitioner striking
another inmate in the neck area approximately two times with
his right fist. All inmates were ordered to get down, but
Officer Figueroa observed Petitioner walking towards the
inmate urinals and Petitioner appeared to place an unknown
object in the toilet. Petitioner then got down by the
urinals. Officer Figueroa approached the victim inmate and
observed bleeding from the left side of his neck. (ECF No. 1
was charged with battery on an inmate with a weapon in Rules
Violation Report Log No. FA-11-03-049, dated March 25, 2011,
and a disciplinary hearing was held on April 11, 2011. (ECF
No. 1 at 20). Petitioner pleaded not guilty and submitted a
written statement. No witnesses were requested or called. The
Senior Hearing Officer found Petitioner guilty of battery on
an inmate with a weapon, a Division A-1 offense. Petitioner
was penalized with the forfeiture of 360 days of credit and
10 days of yard. Petitioner also was referred for a Security
Housing Unit ("SHU") term assessment. (Id.
at 21). Petitioner ultimately was assessed twenty-four months
in the SHU. (Id. at 4).
December 29, 2011, Petitioner's administrative appeal was
denied at the third level of review. (ECF No. 1 at 23-24). On
January 3, 2014, Petitioner filed a state habeas petition in
the Kern County Superior Court, which denied the petition on
March 24, 2014. (Id. at 25-26). On August 15, 2014,
Petitioner filed a state habeas petition in the California
Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District, which denied the
petition on November 3, 2014. (Id. at 27).
Thereafter, Petitioner filed a state habeas petition in the
California Supreme Court, which denied the petition on May
13, 2015. (Id. at 28).
December 10, 2015, the Court received the instant federal
petition for writ of habeas corpus. (ECF No. 1). On February
5, 2016, Respondent filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that
there is no habeas jurisdiction because Petitioner is serving
a sentence of life without the possibility of parole and that
the petition was filed outside the one-year limitations
period. (ECF No. 13). Petitioner filed multiple
oppositions. (ECF Nos. 15, 17, 18, 20). Respondent has
filed a reply. (ECF No. 16).
Habeas Corpus Jurisdiction
asserts that the petition should be dismissed for lack of
jurisdiction. Respondent argues that because Petitioner is
serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole,
success on his claim would not necessarily spell speedier
release and thus, there is no habeas jurisdiction. (ECF No.
13 at 3-4).
general, the Supreme Court has explained that claims
challenging "the fact or duration" of confinement
and "seek[ing] either immediate release from that
confinement or the shortening of its duration" lie at
"the core of habeas corpus." Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 489 (1973). Although
Preiser defined the core of habeas, it did not
"explore the appropriate limits of habeas corpus as an
alternative remedy to a proper action under §
1983." Id. at 500. Subsequently, the Ninth
Circuit has wrestled with issues arising out of the interplay
between habeas corpus and § 1983 jurisdiction.
Bostic v. Carlson, a prisoner filed multiple habeas
petitions challenging disciplinary infractions for which he
was assessed forfeiture of statutory good time or segregation
from the general prison population. 884 F.2d 1267, 1269 (9th
Cir. 1989). The Ninth Circuit "assume[d]" habeas
jurisdiction existed over all the petitions, stating that
habeas jurisdiction is available: (1) for a prisoner's
claims that he has been denied good time credits, (2) for a
prisoner's claims that he has been subjected to
disciplinary segregation without due process of law, and (3)
when a petitioner seeks expungement of a disciplinary finding
from his record if expungement is likely to accelerate the
prisoner's eligibility for parole. Id. The Ninth
Circuit did not elaborate on when expungement would be
"likely to accelerate" parole eligibility.
Ramirez v. Galaza, a prisoner brought a civil rights
action under § 1983 to challenge procedures used in
imposing disciplinary sanctions of ten days of disciplinary
detention, loss of privileges for sixty days, and assignment
to administrative segregation for twenty-four months. 334
F.3d 850, 852-53 (9th Cir. 2003). He was not subject to a
loss of good time credits. The Ninth Circuit held that
"habeas jurisdiction is absent, and a § 1983 action
proper, where a successful challenge to a prison condition
will not necessarily shorten the prisoner's
sentence." Id. at 859. Because there was no
showing that the expungement sought by the prisoner was
likely to accelerate his eligibility for parole, the Ninth
Circuit found that the challenge to the disciplinary
proceeding was properly brought under § 1983.
Docken v. Chase, a prisoner brought a habeas corpus
action to challenge the timing of his parole eligibility
reviews. 393 F.3d 1024, 1026 (9th Cir. 2004). The Ninth
Circuit understood "Bostic's use of the
term ‘likely' to identify claims with a sufficient
nexus to the length of imprisonment so as to implicate, but
not fall squarely within, the ‘core' challenges
identified by the Preiser Court." Id.
at 1031. The court held that prisoners could bring habeas
petitions so long as success on the claims
"could potentially affect the duration of their
Supreme Court discussed the distinction between habeas corpus
and § 1983 in Skinner v. Switzer, considering
the question, "[w]hen may a state prisoner, complaining
of unconstitutional state action, pursue a civil rights claim
under § 1983, and when is habeas corpus the
prisoner's sole remedy?" 562 U.S. 521, 533 (2011).
In Skinner, a prisoner brought a § 1983 action
alleging that Texas violated his due process rights by
refusing to provide for DNA testing he requested.
Id. at 529. The Supreme Court found the prisoner
properly invoked § 1983 because "[s]uccess in his
suit for DNA testing would not ‘necessarily imply'
the invalidity of his conviction." Id. at 534.
The Supreme Court noted that none of its cases "has
recognized habeas as the sole remedy, or even an available
one, where the relief sought would ‘neither terminat[e]
custody, accelerat[e] the future date of release from
custody, nor reduc[e] the level of custody.'"
Id. (alterations in original) (quoting Wilkinson
v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 86 (2005) (Scalia, J.,
concurring)). The Court further noted that
"Dotson declared . . . in no uncertain terms,
that when a prisoner's claim would not ‘necessarily
spell speedier release, ...