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Cardoza v. Hatton

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 26, 2017

MARIO CARDOZA, Petitioner,
S. HATTON, Respondent.


          EDWARD M. CHEN, United States District Judge


         Mario Cardoza filed this pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 to challenge a disciplinary decision that caused him to lose time credits. Respondent has moved to dismiss the petition on the grounds that the petition is moot and unexhausted. Mr. Cardoza has not opposed the motion. The Court will dismiss the petition because state court remedies have not been exhausted for the petition.


         Mr. Cardoza received a rule violation report charging him with “possession of dangerous contraband (cell phone/accessories)” on October 3, 2014. Docket No. 1 at 29. A disciplinary hearing was held on October 26, 2014, at which he was found guilty of the disciplinary charge. For discipline, he received a 90-day time-credit forfeiture and 30 days on privilege group “C.” See Id. at 9, 29.

         Mr. Cardoza filed an inmate appeal to challenge the disciplinary decision. His inmate appeal was screened out at the third level for the procedural reason that he had not attached necessary documentation to his appeal. The May 15, 2015 letter from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Office of Appeals stated, in relevant part: “Your appeal has been rejected pursuant to the California Code of Regulations, Title 15, Section (CCR) 3084.6(b)(7). Your appeal is missing necessary supporting documents as established in CCR 3084.3. . . . Your appeal is missing: Photographs related to the disciplinary action.”[1] Docket No. 1 at 22. The letter also stated at the bottom of the page: “Be advised that you cannot appeal a rejected appeal, but should take the corrective action necessary and resubmit the appeal within the timeframes specified in CCR 3084.6(a) and CCR 3084.8(b).” Docket No. 1 at 22. Mr. Cardoza did not obtain the photographs and resubmit the appeal. See Docket No. 6-4.

         After his inmate appeal was screened out, Mr. Cardoza filed petitions for writ of habeas corpus in state court to challenge the prison disciplinary decision. The California Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of habeas corpus with a citation to In re Dexter, 25 Cal.3d 921, 925-26 (Cal. 1979). Docket No. 1 at 20.

         At the time he filed this action, Mr. Cardoza was serving a six-year prison term. Docket No. 1 at 9. He was released from prison approximately three months after filing this action. See Docket No. 6-1.

         Respondent has moved to dismiss the petition, arguing that state judicial remedies have not been exhausted for the petition.[2] Mr. Cardoza has not opposed the motion to dismiss.


         There are two exhaustion principles in this case; although it is the second one that requires dismissal of the petition, both kinds of exhaustion must be mentioned. First, there is exhaustion of administrative remedies. The State of California provides its inmates and parolees the right to appeal administratively “any policy, decision, action, condition, or omission by the department or its staff that the inmate or parolee can demonstrate as having a material adverse effect upon his or her health, safety, or welfare.” Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.1(a). In order to exhaust available administrative remedies within this system, a prisoner must proceed through three formal levels of appeal and receive a decision from the Secretary of the CDCR or his designee. Id. § 3084.1(b), § 3084.7(d)(3). A California prisoner-petitioner must exhaust administrative remedies before he files a habeas petition in a California state court. See In re Dexter, 25 Cal.3d at 925.

         Second, there is the federal habeas requirement of exhaustion of state judicial remedies. Prisoners in state custody who wish to challenge collaterally in federal habeas proceedings either the fact or length of their confinement are required first to exhaust state court remedies, either on direct appeal or through collateral proceedings, by presenting the highest state court available with a fair opportunity to rule on the merits of each and every claim they seek to raise in federal court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b), (c); Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 515-16 (1982). This exhaustion-of-state-remedies doctrine reflects a policy of federal-state comity to give the state “an initial opportunity to pass upon and correct alleged violations of its prisoners' federal rights.” Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275 (1971) (internal quotation marks omitted). Although the exhaustion requirement is not jurisdictional and instead is a matter of comity, see Granberry v. Greer, 481 U.S. 129, 133-34 (1987), a federal court generally may not grant relief on an unexhausted claim, see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1).

         Here, the California Supreme Court denied Mr. Cardoza's state habeas petition with a citation to In re Dexter, which stands for a rejection due to a petitioner's failure to exhaust administrative remedies. In In re Dexter, the California Supreme Court explained that the court generally will not grant judicial relief to a prisoner unless he has first exhausted available administrative remedies. 25 Cal.3d at 925-26; see also In re Arias, 42 Cal.3d 667, 678 (Cal. 1986) (superseded by statute on other grounds) (citing In re Dexter for the proposition that “it is well settled that habeas corpus petitioners must exhaust available administrative remedies before seeking judicial relief, even where constitutional issues are at the core of the dispute”).

         The California Supreme Court's citation to In re Dexter in its order denying Mr. Cardoza's habeas petition shows that the California Supreme Court did not reach the merits of Mr. Cardoza's claim because he had failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies. See Harris v. Super. Ct., 500 F.2d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 1974) (en banc) (“If the denial of the habeas corpus petition includes a citation of an authority which indicates that the petition was procedurally deficient or if the California Supreme Court so states explicitly, then the available state remedies have not been exhausted as the California Supreme Court has not been given the required fair opportunity to correct the constitutional violation.”) After the California Supreme Court rejected the petition for the procedural reason that Mr. Cardoza had not first ...

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