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Inman v. Koenig

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 14, 2019

RONALD JERRELL INMAN, Petitioner,
v.
C. KOENIG, Respondent.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION TO DISMISS PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

         Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In the instant petition, Petitioner challenges his 2002 Stanislaus County Superior Court convictions and sentence. As Petitioner previously sought federal habeas corpus relief with respect to the challenged convictions and given that success on his Proposition 57 claims would not necessarily lead to his immediate or earlier release from confinement, the undersigned recommends that the petition be dismissed.

         I. DISCUSSION

         Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases requires preliminary review of a habeas petition and allows a district court to dismiss a petition before the respondent is ordered to file a response, if it “plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.”

         A. Second or Successive Petition

         A federal court must dismiss a second or successive petition that raises the same grounds as a prior petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(1). The court must also dismiss a second or successive petition raising a new ground unless the petitioner can show that (1) the claim rests on a new, retroactive, constitutional right, or (2) the factual basis of the claim was not previously discoverable through due diligence, and these new facts establish by clear and convincing evidence that but for the constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found the applicant guilty of the underlying offense. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(2)(A)-(B). However, it is not the district court that decides whether a second or successive petition meets these requirements.

         Section 2244(b)(3)(A) provides: “Before a second or successive application permitted by this section is filed in the district court, the applicant shall move in the appropriate court of appeals for an order authorizing the district court to consider the application.” In other words, a petitioner must obtain leave from the Ninth Circuit before he can file a second or successive petition in district court. See Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651, 656-57 (1996). This Court must dismiss any second or successive petition unless the Court of Appeals has given a petitioner leave to file the petition because a district court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over a second or successive petition. Burton v. Stewart, 549 U.S. 147, 157 (2007).

         “Habeas petitions that are filed second-in-time are not necessarily second or successive.” Clayton v. Biter, 868 F.3d 840, 843 (9th Cir. 2017). For example, “a habeas petition that challenges a new or intervening judgment is not a second or successive petition even where the intervening judgment left in place an earlier challenged conviction and sentence.” Id. at 843- 44 (citing Wentzell v. Neven, 674 F.3d 1124 (9th Cir. 2012)). Courts “look to state law to determine what constitutes a new or intervening judgment.” Clayton, 868 F.3d at 844.

         In the instant petition, Petitioner asserts that: (1) the trial court erroneously sentenced Petitioner as a violent offender instead of a serious crime offender as was determined at trial; (2) the trial court erroneously failed to resentence Petitioner as a serious crime offender when Petitioner filed a resentencing motion after passage of Proposition 57; (3) Petitioner received ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel with respect to the serious felony/violent felony issue; and (4) the California courts denied Petitioner due process in denying his state habeas corpus petitions. (ECF No. 1 at 4-7).[1]

         Here, Petitioner challenges his 2002 Stanislaus County Superior Court convictions and sentence. Petitioner previously sought federal habeas relief in this Court with respect to the same convictions and sentence. See Inman v. Clark, No. 2:08-cv-02217-CMK (denied on the merits); Inman v. Grounds, No. 1:12-cv-000921-LJO-GSA (dismissed as successive).[2] Accordingly, the Court finds that the instant petition is “second or successive” under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b).

         Although the instant petition also challenges the state courts' denial of relief pursuant to Proposition 57, the California Court of Appeal has held that an order denying Proposition 57 relief does not constitute a new appealable post-judgment order. See People v. Dynes, 20 Cal.App. 5th 523, 528 (Cal.Ct.App. 2018) (holding that because section 32 to article I of the California Constitution, as enacted by Proposition 57, “did not create or authorize ‘a substantial right to be resentenced' or provide ‘a remedy by way of a statutory postjudgment motion' for an inmate to file a petition with the superior court for recall or resentencing in the first instance, ” the superior court lacked jurisdiction to grant defendant's request for relief under section 32 and thus denial of resentencing was not an appealable postjudgment order), review denied, No. S247510 (Apr. 25, 2018).

         As Petitioner has already filed federal petitions for writ of habeas corpus regarding his 2002 Stanislaus County Superior Court convictions and sentence, Petitioner cannot file another petition in this Court regarding the same convictions and sentence without first obtaining permission from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Here, Petitioner makes no showing that he has obtained prior leave from the Ninth Circuit to file his successive petition. Therefore, this Court has no jurisdiction to consider Petitioner's renewed application for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 and must dismiss the petition. See Burton, 549 U.S. at 157.

         B. Cognizability of Proposition 57 Claims in Federal Habeas Corpus

         A claim falls within the “core of habeas corpus” when a prisoner challenges “the fact or duration of his confinement” and “seeks either immediate release from that confinement or the shortening of its duration.” Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 489 (1973). The Ninth Circuit has held that a “state prisoner's claim [that] does not lie at ‘the core of habeas corpus' . . . must be brought, ‘if at all,' under § 1983.” Nettles v. Grounds, 830 F.3d 922, 934 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc) (quoting Preiser, 411 U.S. at 487; Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 535 n.13 (2011)). Therefore, if “success on [Petitioner]'s claims would not necessarily lead to his immediate or earlier release from confinement, [Petitioner]'s claim does not fall within ‘the core of habeas corpus,' and he must instead bring his claim under § 1983.” Nettles, 830 F.3d at 935 (quoting Skinner, 562 U.S. at 535 n.13).

         Here, Petitioner argues that his crime meets the criteria of Proposition 57 and that he should be “eligible for parole consideration once he's completed the full term of his primary offense(s).” (ECF No. 1 at 5). Petitioner also alleges that he was denied due process when the state courts ...


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