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Lucas v. Janda

United States District Court, S.D. California

August 9, 2016

JUSTIN LUCAS, Petitioner,
v.
G.J. JANDA, Respondent.

         ORDER: (1) OVERRULING PETITIONER’S OBJECTIONS; (2) ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION IN ITS ENTIRETY (Doc. No. 19); (3) DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS; (4) DENYING AS MOOT MOTION TO DISMISS (Doc. No. 8); AND (5) DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          HON. ANTHONY J. BATTAGLIA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On August 31, 2015, Petitioner Justin Lucas, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. No. 1.) Petitioner challenges a decision of the prison’s disciplinary hearing officer that found Petitioner guilty of distributing a controlled substance. As a result, Petitioner received a 180-day forfeiture of credits and other penalties. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss the Petition on December 18, 2015. (Doc. No. 8.) The motion to dismiss asserts Petitioner’s claims are procedurally defaulted because Petitioner failed to exhaust his administrative appeals. On January 12, 2016, Petitioner filed a traverse and an opposition to the motion to dismiss. (Doc. Nos. 9-11.) During the briefing process, the Court ordered the parties to address the merits of the Petition. (Doc. No. 14.)

         Following completion of briefing on the procedural default and merits of the Petition, Magistrate Judge Barbara Major issued a report and recommendation (“R&R”). (Doc. No. 19.) The R&R recommends the Court deny the Petition on the merits and that Respondent’s motion to dismiss be denied as moot.[1] Petitioner filed objections to the R&R on July 1, 2016. (Doc. No. 20.) Respondent has not filed a reply.

         Presently before the Court are the Petition, the R&R, Petitioner’s objections to the R&R, and Respondent’s motion to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, the Court OVERRULES Petitioner’s objections to the R&R, ADOPTS the R&R in its entirety, and DENIES the Petition for habeas corpus.

         Background

         On January 22, 2013, Petitioner was asleep in his cell at the Calipatria State Prison when his cellmate, Johnson, woke him up and stated that correctional officers wanted to conduct a random search of their cell. (Doc. No. 1 at 5-6, 11.) During the subsequent search of their cell, a correctional officer discovered four bindles containing unknown substances wrapped in clear plastic inside a detergent box. (Id. at 6.) Additionally, the correctional officer discovered a cell phone hidden in Johnson’s shoe. (Id.) The bindles containing the unknown substance tested positive for controlled substances. (Id.) Petitioner was charged with a rules violation for distribution of a controlled substance. (Id. at 5.)

         On February 27, 2013, a rules violation hearing was conducted. Petitioner’s cellmate testified that contraband found in their cell belonged to him and that Petitioner had no knowledge it was there. (Id. at 6-7.) Petitioner was found guilty of “introduction of a controlled substance for distribution” and was assessed a 180 day forfeiture credit, and other penalties. (Id. at 39.) Petitioner now challenges whether sufficient evidence underlies his forfeiture of credits, as Petitioner maintains he was unaware the controlled substances were located within his cell. (See Doc. No. 20.)

         Legal Standard

         The duties of the district court in connection with a Report and Recommendation of a magistrate judge are set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). When a party objects to a Report and Recommendation, “[a] judge of the [district] court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the [Report and Recommendation] to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). A district court may “accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         In this case, review of the Petition is governed by the framework of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) because the Petition was filed in 2010, well after the Act’s effective date. See Woodford v. Garceau, 538 U.S. 202, 210 (2003). As amended by AEDPA, 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) states:

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 ...

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