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Garcia v. Baughman

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 23, 2018

RAUL F. GARCIA, Petitioner,



         I. Introduction

         Petitioner is a state prisoner, proceeding without counsel. Petitioner challenges a 2016 prison disciplinary. Respondent moves to dismiss for failure to state a cognizable habeas claim. Petitioner filed an opposition. No. reply was filed. As set forth below, the undersigned recommends that the motion to dismiss be granted, and this action be dismissed without prejudice.

         II. Background

         Petitioner is serving an indeterminate sentence of 25 years to life in state prison.[1] (ECF No. 1 at 2.) On May 13, 2016, petitioner was found guilty of a prison disciplinary violation, constructive possession of a cell phone, and assessed a 90-day loss of custody credit. (ECF No. 2 at 33-40.) Petitioner challenged the prison disciplinary conviction through all three levels of administrative review. (ECF No. 10-4 at 37-45.)

         Subsequently, petitioner filed petitions for writs of habeas corpus in the Sacramento County Superior Court, the California Court of Appeal, and the California Supreme Court; all of these petitions were denied. (ECF No. 2 at 50-56.) See also In re Raul Garcia on Habeas Corpus, No. C084256 (Cal. Ct. Appeal, 3rd Dist. April 3, 2017); Garcia (Raul) on Habeas Corpus, No. S242055 (Cal. Aug. 9, 2017).[2]

         On December 1, 2017, petitioner filed the instant petition, arguing that the disciplinary hearing officer failed to conduct the hearing using the “constructive possession” test, violating petitioner's due process rights, and there was not “some evidence” to support the guilty finding. (ECF No. 2 at 21-26.)

         III. Motion to Dismiss

         A. Legal Standards

         Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases allows a district court to dismiss a petition if it “plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court. . . .” Id. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has referred to a respondent's motion to dismiss as a request for the court to dismiss under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases. See, e.g., O'Bremski v. Maass, 915 F.2d 418, 420 (1991). Accordingly, the court reviews respondent's motion to dismiss pursuant to its authority under Rule 4.

         In light of petitioner's challenges to a prison disciplinary conviction, the following legal standards are also applicable.

         It is well established that prisoners subjected to disciplinary action are entitled to certain procedural protections under the Due Process Clause, although they are not entitled to the full panoply of rights afforded to criminal defendants. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974); see also Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455-56 (1985); United States v. Segal, 549 F.2d 1293, 1296-99 (9th Cir.) (observing that prison disciplinary proceedings command the least amount of due process along the prosecution continuum), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 919 (1977).

         A prisoner is entitled to advance written notice of the charges against him as well as a written statement of the evidence relied on by prison officials and the reasons for the disciplinary action. See Wolff, 418 U.S. at 563. A prisoner also has a right to a hearing at which he may “call witnesses and present documentary evidence in his defense when permitting him to do so will not be unduly hazardous to institutional safety or correctional goals.” Id. at 566; see also Ponte v. Real, 471 U.S. 491, 495 (1985). An investigative officer may be required to assist prisoners who are illiterate or whose case is particularly complex. Wolff, 418 U.S. at 570. The disciplinary hearing must be conducted by a person or body that is “sufficiently impartial to satisfy the Due Process Clause.” Id. at 571. Finally, the decision rendered on a disciplinary charge must be supported by “some evidence” in the record. Hill, 472 U.S. at 455.

         In Nettles, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that “if a state prisoner's claim does not lie at ‘the core of habeas corpus, ' it may not be brought in habeas corpus but must be brought, ‘if at all, ' under § 1983[.]” Nettles, 830 F.3d at 931, 934 (citations omitted). In Nettles, the court found that success on the merits of the petitioner's challenged disciplinary proceeding would not necessarily impact the fact or duration of his confinement, and therefore his challenge did not fall within “the core of habeas corpus.” Id. The court reasoned that “[s]uccess on the merits of Nettles' claim would not necessarily lead to immediate or speedier release because the expungement of the challenged disciplinary violation would not ...

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