United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
DEBORAH BARNES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
a state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed a petition for
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254,
together with a request to proceed in forma pauperis.
of the affidavit reveals petitioner is unable to afford the
costs of this action. Accordingly, leave to proceed in forma
pauperis is granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a).
to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases, a
district court may summarily dismiss a § 2254 petition
before the respondent files an answer “[i]f it plainly
appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the
petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district
issue in this case is petitioner’s pursuit of the
removal of an erroneous “R suffix” that was
placed in his Central File and that he claims has affected
his programming ability and the availability of certain job
assignments. He initially tried to have it removed by
complying with institutional regulations for corrections to
his record and then by submitting an inmate grievance. When
those efforts proved futile, he submitted a petition for writ
of habeas corpus in the San Joaquin County Superior Court,
Case No. STK-CR-FMISC-2017-007284. That petition was denied
on July 17, 2017, because it involved a conditions of
confinement claim and because petitioner did not pay the
filing fee. Pet. Ex. D. It was then denied on October 26,
2017, at the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate
District, for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
Id. Ex. E. Finally, it was denied at the California
Supreme Court on May 23, 2018, for, inter alia, failure to
exhaust. Id. Ex. F.
instant petition, petitioner claims the institution
misapplied its own regulations regarding removal of the
suffix, that the state courts were wrong in their analysis of
his claims, and that he did not need to pay a filing fee for
his state petition under California caselaw. By way of
relief, he seeks the removal of the R Suffix, an order to
respondent prohibiting him from using the suffix
“against petitioner, ” an expedited hearing
pursuant to California Penal Code § 1484, and a finding
that the superior and appellate courts erred in denying his
petition for writ of habeas corpus and mandate.
law opens two main avenues to relief on complaints related to
imprisonment: a petition for habeas corpus and a civil rights
complaint. See Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750
(2004). “[H]abeas is the exclusive vehicle for claims
brought by state prisoners that fall within the core of
habeas corpus, and such claims may not be brought in a §
1983 [civil rights] action.” Nettles v.
Grounds, 830 F.3d 922, 927 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc).
Nettles further sets forth “the correlative
rule that a § 1983 action is the exclusive vehicle for
claims brought by state prisoners that are not within the
core of habeas corpus.” Id. That is, claims
challenging “the fact or duration of the conviction or
sentence” are within the core of habeas, while claims
challenging “any other aspect of prison life” are
properly brought as civil rights actions. Id. at
934. If success on a habeas petitioner's claim would not
necessarily lead to his immediate or earlier release from
confinement, the claim does not fall within “the core
of habeas corpus” and thus, is not cognizable under 28
U.S.C. § 2241. Id. at 935 (citing Skinner
v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521 (2012)).
claim in this case is premised on an R Suffix in his Central
File, and success in this action in the form of declaratory
and injunctive relief will in no way affect the fact or
duration of petitioner’s conviction or sentence and
would not necessarily lead to his immediate or earlier
release from confinement. His claim is therefore not
appropriate for a petition for writ of habeas corpus.
appropriate circumstances, courts have the discretion to
convert a habeas petition to a prisoner civil rights
complaint. Wilwording v. Swenson, 404 U.S. 249, 251
(1971), overruled on other grounds by Woodford v.
Ngo, 548 U.S. 81 (2006); Nettles, 830 F.3d at
936 (holding that a district court has the discretion to
construe a habeas petition as a civil rights action under
§ 1983). However, recharacterization is appropriate only
if the petition is “amenable to conversion on its face,
meaning that it names the correct defendants and seeks the
correct relief, ” and only after the petitioner is
warned of the consequences of conversion and is provided an
opportunity to withdraw or amend the petition.
Nettles, 830 F.3d at 936.
Court finds that recharacterization would be inappropriate in
this case for multiple reasons. First, prisoner civil rights
actions are subject to different requirements than are
federal habeas proceedings, including higher filing fees. The
filing fee for a prisoner civil rights complaint proceeding
in forma pauperis is $350.003 compared to the substantially
lower $5.00 filing fee for habeas petitions. 28 U.S.C. §
1914(a). The $350.00 fee may be deducted in full over time
from a qualified prisoner's prison trust account. 28
U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Petitioner may be unwilling to pay
the considerably higher filing fee for a civil rights action.
the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”)
provides that “[n]o action shall be brought with
respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this
title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in
any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such
administrative remedies as are available are
exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The exhaustion
requirement applies to all claims relating to prison life
that do not implicate the duration of a prisoner’s
sentence. Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 523, 532
(2002) (“[F]ederal prisoners suing under
Bivens [ ] must first exhaust inmate grievance
procedures just as state prisoners must exhaust
administrative processes prior to instituting a § 1983
suit.”). Exhaustion is a prerequisite to bringing a
civil rights action that cannot be excused by a district
court. Woodford, 548 U.S. at 85; Booth v.
Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 739 (2001). Petitioner claims
that he has been deprived of the right to utilize the
administrative remedy program. It therefore appears that he
has not exhausted inmate grievance procedures.
habeas petitions and civil rights actions are governed by
different pleading standards. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
8 only requires “a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ”
Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2), whereas Habeas Rule 2(c) requires
a more detailed statement. The Habeas Rules instruct
petitioners to “specify all the grounds for relief
available” and “the facts supporting each
ground.” Rule 2(c). Petitioner's inartfully pled
claims satisfy neither of these standards and are subject to
dismissal with leave to amend. Moreover, petitioner has not
necessarily named the proper defendants and the relief he
seeks here may not necessarily be the same relief he might
seek in a civil rights action. Therefore, the Court declines
to recharacterize the action.
on the foregoing, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. Petitioner is granted leave to proceed in forma ...