Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Merth v. Puentes

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 10, 2019

RANDALL MERTH, Petitioner,
v.
G. PUENTES, Respondent.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND DENY PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS (ECF NO. 12)

         Petitioner, represented by counsel, is a federal prisoner proceeding with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner is currently incarcerated at the Correctional Institution in Taft, California (“CI Taft”) serving a sentence of eighty-seven months for conspiracy to distribute more than fifty kilograms of marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846. (ECF No. 1 at 1; ECF No. 12 at 1; ECF No. 12-1 at 1).[1] On February 22, 2019, Petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus. (ECF No. 1). Therein, Petitioner asserts that he is due “an immediate correction of his GOOD CONDUCT TIME (GCT) credit of an additional 7 days per calendar year served under his sentence to date” based on the First Step Act. (ECF No. 1 at 2).

         Respondent filed a response and motion to dismiss, arguing the petition should be dismissed because: (1) the petition is not ripe; (2) requests for transfer to home confinement fail to state a cognizable claim for habeas relief; and (3) Petitioner failed to exhaust administrative remedies. (ECF No. 12). Petitioner filed a traverse and opposition to the motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 13).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Good Time Credits and the First Step Act

         A federal prisoner may accelerate the date of his release from prison by receiving “good time credit, ” Barber v. Thomas, 560 U.S. 474, 476 (2010), if the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) determines that “the prisoner displayed exemplary compliance with institutional disciplinary regulations, ” 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b)(1). Before the enactment of the First Step Act, § 3624(b)(1) stated that a prisoner may receive good time credit “of up to 54 days at the end of each year of the prisoner's term of imprisonment, beginning at the end of the first year of the term” and that “credit for the last year or portion of a year of the term of imprisonment shall be prorated and credited within the last six weeks of the sentence.” 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b)(1). The BOP's method of calculating good time credits was based on time served rather than time imposed. Barber, 560 U.S. at 478-79. Thus, a well-behaved prisoner with a ten-year sentence would receive 470 days of good time credit instead of 540 days because the BOP's methodology “precludes prisoners from earning credit they would otherwise have earned had they not been released early for good behavior.” United States v. Ruiz-Apolonio, 657 F.3d 907, 919 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Barber, 560 U.S. at 483).

         Section 102(b)(1)(A) of the First Step Act amends 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b)(1) to state that a prisoner may receive good time credit “of up to 54 days for each year of the prisoner's sentence imposed by the court” and that “credit for the last year of a term of imprisonment shall be credited on the first day of the last year of the term of imprisonment.” First Step Act of 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-391, § 102(b)(1)(A), 132 Stat. 5194, 5210 (2018).

         B. Ripeness

         Article III of the United States Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to “actual, ongoing cases or controversies.” Lewis v. Continental Bank Corp., 494 U.S. 472, 477 (1990). One component of the Article III case-or-controversy requirement is “ripeness, which concerns when a litigant may bring suit.” Habeas Corpus Res. Ctr. v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 816 F.3d 1241, 1247 (9th Cir. 2016).

         Respondent argues that Petitioner's request for recalculation of his good time credits pursuant to the First Step Act is not ripe because “the section of the First Step Act relied upon, on its face is not yet effective, the Petitioner has not been denied benefit thereof, ” and “Petitioner seeks to challenge a potential, future sentence computation.” (ECF No. 12 at 3). Petitioner contends that the issue presented in the petition is ripe for judicial review because it “is a direct legal dispute regarding the effective date of” the amendment and if Petitioner is correct that the good time credit amendment is effective immediately, then Petitioner is suffering harm because “he remains in prison when he should have already been transferred to a community corrections setting.” (ECF No. 13 at 4).

         “Ripeness is a justiciability doctrine designed ‘to prevent the courts, through avoidance of premature adjudication, from entangling themselves in abstract disagreements over administrative policies, and also to protect the agencies from judicial interference until an administrative decision has been formalized and its effects felt in a concrete way by the challenging parties.'” Nat'l Park Hosp. Ass'n v. Dep't of Interior, 538 U.S. 803, 807-08 (2003) (quoting Abbott Labs. v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 148-49 (1967)). “The ripeness doctrine is ‘drawn both from Article III limitations on judicial power and from prudential reasons for refusing to exercise jurisdiction.'” Nat'l Park Hosp., 538 U.S. at 808 (quoting Reno v. Catholic Social Services, Inc., 509 U.S. 43, 57 n.18 (1993)).

         “The constitutional component of ripeness overlaps with the ‘injury in fact' analysis for Article III standing, ” which inquires “whether the issues presented are ‘definite and concrete, not hypothetical or abstract.'” Wolfson v. Brammer, 616 F.3d 1045, 1058 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Thomas v. Anchorage Equal Rights Comm'n, 220 F.3d 1134, 1139 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc)). “To evaluate the prudential component of ripeness, we weigh two considerations: ‘the fitness of the issues for judicial decision and the hardship to the parties of withholding court consideration.'” Wolfson, 616 F.3d at 1060 (quoting Abbott Labs., 387 U.S. at 149). A “claim is fit for decision if the issues raised are primarily legal, do not require further factual development, and the challenged action is final.” Wolfson, 616 F.3d at 1060 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting U.S. West Commc'ns v. MFS Intelenet, Inc., 193 F.3d 1112, 1118 (9th Cir.1999)). “To meet the hardship requirement, a litigant must show that withholding review would result in direct and immediate hardship and would entail more than possible financial loss.” Wolfson, 616 F.3d at 1060 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Stormans, Inc. v. Selecky, 586 F.3d 1109, 1126 (9th Cir. 2009)).

         Here, the issue presented is whether the First Step Act provision regarding good time credit is effective immediately or whether pursuant to First Step Act § 102(b)(2) the effective date is deferred until the Attorney General completes and releases the risk and needs assessment system within 210 days of the First Step Act's enactment, as required by § 101(a). The issue presented is definite and concrete, purely legal, and does not require further factual development. Petitioner contends that withholding court consideration would result in direct and immediate hardship given that if the good time credit amendment is effective immediately Petitioner should have already been transferred to a community corrections setting.[2] Accordingly, the Court finds that the instant petition is ripe for adjudication.

         C. Cognizability of Request for Transfer

         Respondent contends that the petition should be dismissed because all requests for transfers to home confinement fail to state a cognizable claim for habeas relief because the “Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to review the BOP's discretionary, individualized decisions concerning designations of the place of incarceration.” (ECF No. 12 at 4). However, as noted by Petitioner in the traverse, Petitioner is not asking the Court to make or review a transfer decision, but to find the good time credit amendment provision of the First Step Act to be effective immediately. Such a finding, in turn, would increase Petitioner's good time credits and accelerate ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.