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Lopez v. Perry

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 4, 2017

TOMAS LOPEZ, Petitioner,
PERRY, Respondent.



         Petitioner, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Currently before the court is respondent's motion to dismiss. ECF No. 10.

         I. Petitioner's Allegations

         Petitioner presents seven grounds for relief from twenty-one rules violations for refusing to submit to random urinalysis testing. ECF No. 1 at 7-37. In Grounds One, Two, and Three, petitioner alleges that the required random urinalysis testing, and punishment for refusing that testing, violates his Fourth Amendment rights. Id. at 12-22. In Ground Four, petitioner states that his due process rights have been violated because random urinalysis testing requires him to prove that he is not using drugs or alcohol when it is the prison's burden to prove he has committed an offense. Id. at 23-25. In Ground Five petitioner argues that random testing constitutes an ex-post facto law and violates due process and the right to a fair warning because he has been punished in excess of the regulations. Id. at 25-30. Ground Six claims that petitioner's multiple disciplinary findings violate the prohibition against double jeopardy because he has been punished multiple times for the same offense. Id. at 30-32. Finally, in Ground Seven, petitioner alleges that random testing is unconstitutional because its purpose is to punish prisoners who suffer from the disease of addiction in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. at 33-37. Petitioner seeks to have the twenty-one rules violations expunged, reinstatement of 630 days of credits, and removal of eighty classification points. Id. at 37-38.

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         A. Respondent's Motion to Dismiss

         Respondent argues that petitioner fails to state a prima facie claim for habeas relief because he does not allege that the prison disciplinary violations at issue necessarily affect the duration of his confinement. ECF No. 10 at 2. Respondent further argues that petitioner's opposition to the motion to dismiss fails to establish that his claims fall within the parameters of federal habeas jurisdiction and the petition must therefore be dismissed. ECF No. 12. In the alternative, respondent argues that petitioner has failed to demonstrate that the state court's decisions were contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. ECF No. 10 at 3-4.

         B. Petitioner's Opposition

         In his opposition to respondent's motion to dismiss, petitioner argues that federal habeas jurisdiction is proper because he is seeking expungement of rules violation reports; restoration of forfeited good time credits; and cancellation of classification points, which led to his transfer to a maximum-level security institution. ECF No. 11 at 4-5. Petitioner claims that if the rule violations are expunged and his credits are restored, his release from prison will be advanced. Id. at 6-8. Additionally, petitioner argues that the habeas corpus statute authorizes federal courts to order relief to reduce an inmate's level of custody. Id. at 5. Alternatively, petitioner requests that the court treat this action as a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if the court determines it is not cognizable in habeas. Id. at 9.

         C. Legal Standard for Habeas Jurisdiction

         The federal habeas corpus statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, provides that the federal courts “shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgement of a State court 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). The courts have interpreted this statute to provide relief only where a successful challenge will shorten an inmate's sentence. Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 859 (9th Cir. 2003). Notably, the Ninth Circuit has held that federal courts lack habeas jurisdiction over claims for constitutional violations that do not challenge the validity of the conviction or do not necessarily spell speedier release. Blair v. Martel, 645 F.3d 1151, 1157-58 (9th Cir. 2011). Instead, such claims must be brought, if at all, in a § 1983 civil rights complaint. Id. With respect to disciplinary proceedings, habeas relief cannot be granted unless those proceedings necessarily affect the duration of time to be served. Muhammed v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 754-55 (2004). Most recently, the Ninth Circuit has articulated that habeas relief is only available if success on the merits of a petitioner's challenged disciplinary proceeding would necessarily impact the fact or duration of his confinement. Nettles v. Grounds, 830 F.3d. 922, 934-35 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc).

         However, the courts have also concluded that habeas relief may be available “[w]hen a prisoner is put under additional and unconstitutional restraints during his lawful custody.” Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 499 (1973). For example, the Seventh Circuit has held that if a prisoner is seeking a “quantum change in the level of custody” then habeas corpus is the appropriate remedy. Graham v. Broglin, 922 F.2d 379, 381 (7th Cir. 1991). Similarly, the Ninth Circuit has permitted prisoners to request habeas corpus relief where the prisoner was placed in disciplinary segregation due to validation as a gang member and would obtain immediate release from segregation if he successfully challenged his validation. Nettles v. Grounds (“Santos”), 788 F.3d 992, 1004-05 (9th Cir. 2015) (finding the holding in Bostic v. Carlson, 884 F.2d 1267, 1269 (9th Cir. 1989), was not “clearly irreconcilable” with the Supreme Court's case law on speedier release), reheard en banc, Nettles v. Grounds, 830 F.3d 922 (9th Cir. 2016)).[1]

III. Discussion

         A. Necessarily ...

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