United States District Court, E.D. California
TIMOTHY C. GRIFFIN, Petitioner,
F. FOULK, Respondent.
FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS
ALLISON CLAIRE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
a state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed a petition for
a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
ECF No. 1. He seeks relief from a disciplinary action which
resulted in the loss of custody credits, thus affecting the
duration of his incarceration. Id. Respondent filed
an answer (ECF No. 22) and petitioner filed a traverse (ECF
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
is serving a determinate, nineteen-year eight-month sentence
in the custody of the California Department of Corrections
and Rehabilitation. ECF No. 1 at 1. On September 20, 2011,
while petitioner was an inmate at the Deuel Vocational
Institution, he and his cellmate, Nix, got into a fight.
Id. at 9, ¶ 7. According to petitioner, during
the fight, Nix “accidentally hit his own head on a cell
fixture, which caused him to start bleeding.”
Id., ¶ 8. After Nix hit his head, the fighting
stopped, and when Nix's forehead would not stop bleeding,
Nix and petitioner agreed that the injuries should be
reported. Id., ¶¶ 8, 11. To avoid getting
in trouble for fighting, petitioner and Nix agreed that they
would say that Nix injured himself falling off the top bunk,
but they eventually admitted that they had been engaged in
mutual combat. Id. at 10-11, ¶¶ 12, 15-16.
officials issued a Rules Violation Report (“RVR”)
charging petitioner with battery on an inmate with serious
bodily injury, a violation of title 15, section 3005(d)(1) of
the California Code of Regulations. Id. at 75. A
prison disciplinary hearing was held, and the hearing officer
found petitioner guilty of the charge and assessed a 181-day
loss of custody credits. Id. at 18, 24, ¶¶
37, 53. Petitioner filed an administrative appeal, which was
denied at all levels of review. Id. at 84-90. He
then filed a habeas corpus petition in the Lassen County
Superior Court, which was transferred to the superior court
in San Joaquin County, where Deuel Vocational Institution is
located. Id. at 92. The petition was denied on
August 16, 2013. Id. at 92-94. Next, petitioner
filed a state habeas petition in the California Court of
Appeal, Third Appellate District, and the petition was denied
in an unreasoned decision on November 1, 2013. Id.
at 97. Petitioner's last state habeas corpus petition was
in the California Supreme Court and denied on March 19, 2014.
ECF No. 22-7.
filed the instant petition on December 30, 2013. ECF No. 1.
Respondent then moved to dismiss the petition on the ground
that it was untimely. ECF No. 13. The motion was denied, and
respondent was directed to answer the petition. ECF No. 21.
Respondent proceeded to file an answer arguing that
petitioner was not entitled to habeas relief (ECF No. 22) and
petitioner filed a traverse (ECF No. 25).
of habeas corpus is the appropriate federal remedy
“[w]hen a state prisoner is challenging the very fact
or duration of his physical imprisonment, and the relief he
seeks is a determination that he is entitled to immediate
release or a speedier release from that imprisonment.”
Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). If
success on the merits of a petitioner's challenged
disciplinary proceeding will not necessarily impact
the fact or duration of his confinement, his claim does not
fall within “the core of habeas corpus, ” and
unless a state prisoner's claim lies at the core of
habeas corpus, it may not be brought in habeas corpus.
Nettles v. Grounds, 830 F.3d 922, 934-35
(9th Cir. 2016) (en banc). In this case, petitioner is
serving a determinate sentence and the loss of good-time
credits will therefore necessarily affect the duration of his
GOVERNING HABEAS RELIEF
U.S.C. § 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”),
provides in relevant part as follows:
(d) An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a
person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court
shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was
adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless
the adjudication of the claim -
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved
an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal
law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States;
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented
in the State court proceeding.
statute applies whenever the state court has denied a federal
claim on its merits, whether or not the state court explained
its reasons. Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 100
(2011). State court rejection of a federal claim will be
presumed to have been on the merits absent “any
indication or state-law procedural principles to the
contrary.” Id. at 99 (citing Harris v.
Reed, 489 U.S. 255, 265 (1989) (presumption of a merits
determination when it is unclear whether a decision appearing
to rest on federal grounds was decided on another basis)).
“The presumption may be overcome when there is reason
to think some other explanation for the state court's
decision is more likely.” Id. at 99-100
phrase “clearly established Federal law” in
§ 2254(d)(1) refers to the “governing legal
principle or principles” previously articulated by the
Supreme Court. Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63,
71-72 (2003). Clearly established federal law also includes
“‘the legal principles and standards flowing from
precedent.'” Bradley v. Duncan, 315 F.3d
1091, 1101 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Taylor v.
Withrow, 288 F.3d 846, 852 (6th Cir. 2002)). Only
Supreme Court precedent may constitute “clearly
established Federal law, ” but circuit law has
persuasive value regarding what law is “clearly
established” and what constitutes “unreasonable
application” of that law. Duhaime v. Ducharme,
200 F.3d 597, 600 (9th Cir. 2000); Robinson v.
Ignacio, 360 F.3d 1044, 1057 (9th Cir. 2004) (citations
court decision is “contrary to” clearly
established federal law if the decision “contradicts
the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's]
cases.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405
(2000). A state court decision “unreasonably
applies” federal law “if the state court
identifies the correct governing legal rule from [the Supreme
Court's] cases but unreasonably applies it to the facts
of the particular state prisoner's case.”
Id. at 407-08. It is not enough that the state court
was incorrect in the view of the federal habeas court; the
state court decision must be objectively unreasonable.
Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520-21 (2003)
under § 2254(d)(1) is limited to the record that was
before the state court.” Cullen v. Pinholster,
563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011). The question at this stage is
whether the state court reasonably applied clearly
established federal law to the facts before it. Id.
at 181-82. In other words, the focus of the § 2254(d)
inquiry is “on what a state court knew and did.”
Id. at 182. Where the state court's adjudication
is set forth in a reasoned opinion, §2254(d)(1) review
is confined to “the state court's actual
decisions and analysis.” Frantz v. Hazey, 533
F.3d 724, 737 (9th Cir. 2008) (en banc) (emphasis in
original). A different rule applies where the state court
rejects claims summarily, without a reasoned opinion. In
Richter, supra, the Supreme Court held that
when a state court denies a claim on the merits but without a
reasoned opinion, the federal habeas court must determine
what arguments or theories may have supported the state
court's decision and subject those arguments or theories
to § 2254(d) scrutiny. Richter, 562 U.S. at
is also available under the AEDPA where the state court
predicated its adjudication of a claim on an unreasonable
factual determination. Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S.
231, 240 (2005); DeWeaver v. Runnels, 556 F.3d 995,
997 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)). The
statute explicitly limits this inquiry to the evidence that
was before the state court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2).
prevail in federal habeas proceedings, a petitioner must
establish the applicability of one of the § 2254(d)
exceptions and must also affirmatively establish the
constitutional invalidity of his custody under pre-AEDPA
standards. Frantz, 533 F.3d at 735-37. There is no
single prescribed order in which these two inquiries must be
conducted. Id. at 736. The AEDPA does not require
the federal habeas court to adopt any one methodology.
Andrade, 538 U.S. at 71.
Grounds for Relief
challenges the guilty finding on multiple grounds. As a
general matter, he alleges that the disciplinary hearing did
not meet the Constitutional standards of due process. ECF No.
1 at 8, ¶ 2. More specifically, he alleges that the
hearing was not recorded sufficiently to allow a thorough
judicial review, the finding of guilt was improper because
there was only some evidence to convict him of fighting based
on mutual combat rather than battery with serious bodily
injury, and he was denied the ability to call a witness and
present documentary evidence. Id. at 8, 27. Though
not specifically enumerated as grounds for relief, petitioner
also asserts that he was denied the assistance of an
investigative employee and that the hearing officer was
biased. Id. at 17, 22-23, 31-32, ¶¶ 33-35,
48-50, 63-66. By way of relief, petitioner requests that the
disciplinary finding be reversed, his good-time credits be
restored, and that any reference to the violation be expunged
from his Central File maintained by prison authorities.
Id. at 8, ¶ 3.
The Clearly Established Federal Law
of state law do not support federal habeas relief.
Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67 (1991). In the
context of prison disciplinary proceedings, due process
requires that an inmate subject to disciplinary sanctions
that include the loss of good-time credits must receive (1)
twenty-four-hour advanced written notice of the charges
against him, Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539,
563-64 (1974); (2) “a written statement by the
factfinders as to the evidence relied on and the reasons for
the disciplinary action, ” id. at 564-65
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted); (3) an
opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary
evidence where doing so “will not be unduly hazardous
to institutional safety or correctional goals, ”
id. at 566; (4) assistance at the hearing if he is
illiterate or if the matter is complex, id. at 570;
and (5) a sufficiently impartial fact finder, id. at
570-71. A finding of guilt must also be “supported by
some evidence in the record.” Superintendent v.
Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985). Accordingly, the only
cognizable issues are (1) substantively, whether the
disciplinary finding was supported by “some
evidence” as required by Hill; and (2)
procedurally, whether the disciplinary hearing itself
afforded petitioner the minimum procedural protections
required by Wolff.