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Casados v. Board of Parole Hearings

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 12, 2017






         Petitioner, a California state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the decision of the California Board of Parole Hearings ("Parole Board") to deny him parole and defer his next parole hearing for seven years. (ECF No. 1). The Court lacks jurisdiction over this action because Petitioner has not named the correct respondent and because his claims are not cognizable on federal habeas review. Furthermore, amendment to cure these jurisdictional defects would be futile because it is clear on the face of the Petition that Petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief. Therefore, the Petition is ordered dismissed without leave to amend, and this action ordered dismissed with prejudice.



         Petitioner is serving an indeterminate sentence of 15 years to life following his 1989 conviction for attempted murder. (ECF No. 1 at 239). In 2008, California voters amended the parole statute through Proposition 9, commonly referred to as "Marsy's Law" and codified in California Penal Code § 3041.5. Marsy's Law amended the parole statute to increase the maximum period after a parole denial that a prisoner can be scheduled for his next parole hearing from five to 15 years, although an inmate can request that the hearing be advanced based on changed circumstances or new information. In June 2015, the Parole Board found Petitioner unsuitable for parole and deferred his next hearing for seven years. (ECF No. 1 at 214).

         Petitioner challenged that decision in a state habeas petition, alleging that the Parole Board (1) deprived him of due process under Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), when it found him unsuitable for parole, and (2) violated the Ex Post Facto Clause when it deferred his next parole hearing for seven years because Marsy's Law was enacted after his conviction. (ECF No. 1 at 243-45). In a reasoned decision, a California Superior Court rejected both claims, concluding that Petitioner's due process argument was a veiled sufficiency challenge to evidence that overwhelmingly supported the Parole Board's decision and finding no ex post facto violation in the application of Marsy's Law. (ECF No. 1 at 243-44). Petitioner's subsequent habeas petitions to the California Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court were denied without comment (ECF No. 1 at 246-47), making the opinion of the Superior Court the last reasoned decision for purposes of federal habeas review. See Barker v. Fleming, 423 F.3d 1085, 1091 (9th Cir. 2005). Naming the Parole Board as respondent, Petitioner timely filed the present federal habeas petition alleging the same due process and ex post facto claims. (ECF No. 1 at 5-6, 54, 73, 115-19).



         A. The Court Lacks Jurisdiction to Address the Petition

         A federal habeas petitioner in custody pursuant to the judgment of a California court must name as the respondent the state officer having custody over him. See Ortiz-Sandoval v. Gomez, 81 F.3d 891, 894-95 (9th Cir. 1996); 22 U.S.C. § 2242; Rule 2(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases. When a petitioner names an incorrect respondent, the federal court is deprived of personal jurisdiction and must dismiss the petition. See Stanley v. California Supreme Court, 21 F.3d 359, 360 (9th Cir. 1994). Here, Petitioner named as respondent the California Board of Parole Hearings rather than his custodian, thereby depriving the Court of jurisdiction. See id.

         In addition, even if the Petition had named the correct respondent, the Court would still lack jurisdiction because Petitioner's claims do not fall within the Court's federal habeas jurisdiction. Habeas jurisdiction exists only when a prisoner is challenging the "legality or duration" of his confinement. Badea v. Cox, 931 F.2d 573, 574 (9th Cir. 1991) (citing Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 484 (1973)). If success on a prisoner's claims "would not necessarily lead to his immediate or earlier release from confinement, " such claims do not fall within the "core of habeas corpus" and must therefore be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Nettles v. Grounds, 830 F.3d 922, 935 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc), cert, denied, 137 S.Ct. 645 (2017). Here, a favorable judgment for Petitioner would not mean immediate release from confinement or a shorter stay in prison. Rather, success would only mean either speedier consideration of a new parole application or a new parole hearing, but it would not "necessarily spell speedier release" because the Parole Board may, in its discretion, decline to shorten the prison term. Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 82 (2005). Therefore, neither of Petitioner's claims "lies at the core of habeas corpus." Id.[1]

         B. Petitioner Is Not Entitled to ...

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