Case No. CV 19-09914 RGK (RAO)
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE SUMMARY DISMISSAL OF PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DENIAL OF CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
On November 19, 2019, Petitioner Darnell Black Sr. ("Petitioner") filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("Petition"). Dkt. No. 1. The Petition alleges that a correctional officer at California State Prison, Lancaster, California, retaliated against Petitioner after Petitioner complained about the officer. Pet. at 11. Petitioner claims that the officer issued a Rules Violation Report ("RVR") against Petitioner, which caused Petitioner to lose good time credits. Id. Attached to the Petition are records related to Petitioner's appeal of the adverse RVR finding. See generally Petition.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, the Court may dismiss a petition "[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court."
"[T]he essence of habeas corpus is an attack by a person in custody upon the legality of that custody, and . . . the traditional function of the writ is to secure release from illegal custody." Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 484, 93 S. Ct. 1827, 36 L. Ed. 2d 439 (1973). Thus, "when 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, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus." Id. at 500.
Here, Petitioner is not attacking the legality or duration of any confinement. Rather, he is attacking the adverse RVR finding that caused him to lose good time credit. Because there is no claim before the Court that Petitioner is in custody in violation of federal law, the Court cannot entertain the Petition as a petition for writ of habeas corpus.
If a habeas petition is amenable to conversion to a civil rights claim on its face, meaning that it names the correct defendants and seeks the correct relief, then the Court may construe the Petition to plead a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 after notifying and obtaining informed consent from the petitioner. Nettles v. Grounds, 830 F.3d 922, 936 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc).
To state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must plead that a "person" acting under color of state law caused a deprivation of plaintiff's federal constitutional rights or limited federal statutory rights. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48, 108 S.Ct. 2250, 101 L.Ed.2d 40 (1988). Here, the Petition is not amenable to conversion on its face. Petitioner has made no specific allegations against the Respondent, and it is unclear who Petitioner would seek to hold responsible for the alleged retaliation claim. Accordingly, the Court declines to convert this action into a civil rights complaint.
IV. CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, a state prisoner seeking to appeal a district court's final order in a habeas corpus proceeding must obtain a Certificate of Appealability ("COA") from the district judge or a circuit judge. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)(A). A COA may issue "only if the applicant has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right." 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). "A petitioner satisfies this standard by demonstrating that jurists of reason could disagree with the district court's resolution of his constitutional claims or that jurists could conclude the issues presented are adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further." Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 327, 123 S. Ct. 1029, 154 L. Ed. 2d 931 (2003).
When the Court dismisses a petition on procedural grounds, it must issue a COA if the petitioner shows: (1) "that jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the petition states a valid claim of the denial of a constitutional right"; and (2) "that jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the district court was correct in its procedural ruling." Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 478, 120 S. Ct. 1595, 146 L. Ed. 2d 542 (2000).
Here, the Court is summarily dismissing the instant Petition without prejudice because the Court has determined that Petitioner has failed to state a cognizable claim for habeas relief. The Court finds that Petitioner cannot make the requisite showing that jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the district court was correct in its procedural ruling.
Based on the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED THAT:
1. The Petition is DISMISSED without prejudice; and
2. Certificate of Appealability is DENIED. DATED: November 27, 2019
R. GARY KLAUSNER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE