United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
EDWARD J. LODGE, District Judge.
This case was reassigned to this Court to consider dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2243 and Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases. Chief Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale entered an Initial Review Order on November 4, 2013, determining that Petitioner's case was subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Petitioner filed an Objection, or Motion to Reconsider, on November 18, 2013.
Respondent was ordered to file a response to the Motion to Reconsider. (Dkt. 9.) The question of whether Petitioner's claims are subject to summary dismissal is now fully briefed. Having reviewed the record, including the state court and administrative records submitted by the parties, the Court finds that the parties have adequately presented the facts and legal arguments in the briefs and record and that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Therefore, the Court will decide this matter on the written motions, briefs, and record without oral argument. D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d). Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order dismissing and denying the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.
CONSIDERATION OF HABEAS CORPUS PETITION
In 2003, Petitioner pleaded guilty to lewd conduct with a minor. (Dkt. 9-1, State's Exhibit A-1.) The charges arose from Petitioner's acts of engaging in sexual intercourse with his family's 14-year-old female babysitter twice. Assessments of Petitioner conducted after his guilty plea indicated he had a prior sexual history with the victim. (Dkt. 9-3, p. 33.) Petitioner and the victim had been using alcohol on both occasions when sexual intercourse occurred; it was unclear whether Petitioner supplied her with alcohol, or she obtained it from another source. (Dkt. 9-3, p. 32.)
On the day Petitioner had sex with the victim for the second time, she disappeared. Eventually, the victim was found dead in a pond. The prosecutor described her body as having "a black eye, shirt ripped off, pants undone, " and a "blood-alcohol [level] over.1%." ( Id., p. 33.) It was clear that the victim's physical injuries did not cause her death. ( Id .) Petitioner was not implicated in the death, but was not particularly helpful when questioned by law enforcement when the victim went missing. Petitioner was sentenced to a unified term of 20 years for the lewd conduct conviction, consisting of 8 years fixed and 12 years indeterminate. ( Id. )
Near the end of his fixed term, Petitioner applied for parole. In 2010 and 2012, he was denied parole. In 2014, his parole status was reviewed again, and he was passed to his full-term release date. He challenged his 2010 and 2012 parole denials by filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the state district court (Dkt. 1, p. 3.) Petitioner's underlying contentions were that the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole (ICPP) denied him a tentative parole release date for the sole reason that he has not completed the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) while incarcerated, and that the ICPP has altered its records or prepared them in a intentionally misleading way to attempt to show that there were other reasons for the parole denial.
In the state habeas corpus case, the State filed a motion for summary judgment, providing affidavits and parole records to support its arguments. The State argued that there was no liberty interest in parole, and that the ICPP decision need only bear a rational relationship to rehabilitation or deterrence. The State also asserted that Petitioner's impossibility argument was not based in fact, because (1) he was denied parole for reasons other than his inability to complete sex offender treatment, and (2) the lack of a tentative parole date was not an automatic bar to gaining entrance into the SOTP. (Dkt. 9-2, State's Exhibit B-4.)
The state district court granted the motion for summary judgment and denied the petition on the merits on February 13, 2013. (Dkt. 9-3, State's Exhibit B-11.) Petitioner filed a notice of appeal, but the state district court would not grant him permission to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal, discussing the merits of the claims and determining that the appeal was frivolous under I.C. § 31-3220(4). (Dkt. 9-4, State's Exhibit C-4.) The Idaho Supreme Court issued an order to Petitioner to show cause why his appeal should not be dismissed as frivolous. (Dkt. 9-4, Exhibit C-5). Petitioner filed a response to the order, addressing the merits of his claims. (Dkt. 9-4, State's Exhibit C-6.) After considering the response to the order to show cause, the Idaho Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. (Dkt. 9-4, State's Exhibits C-7, C-8.)
Petitioner brings the following claims arising from his denial of parole in his federal Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, as clarified by his Objection or Motion to Reconsider:
1. He was denied due process of law because the ICPP refuses to provide him with audio tapes of the parole hearing that would prove his claim-which is that the reasons the ICPP gave at the hearing for denial of parole are different from the reasons set forth in the written Minutes. (Dkt. 1, p. 4.)
2. Petitioner has a liberty interest in being released on parole. (Dkt. 5, pp. 3-4.)
3. IDOC and ICPP policies and practices prevent him from obtaining a tentative parole date until he participates in sex offender treatment, but he is prevented from participating in sex offender treatment until he obtains a tentative parole date, creating a "Catch 22" situation that has rendered it impossible for him to obtain release on parole, in violation of his constitutional rights. Petitioner alleges that he was denied entry into the SOTP because he did not have a tentative release date, and that he was denied a tentative release date because he had not completed the SOTP (Dkt. 1; Dkt. 5, p. 2.)
4. Petitioner alleges that he was denied his First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights to access the court when the appeal of his state habeas corpus action was denied because of his poverty. (Dkt. 1; Dkt 5, p. 3.)
2. Standard of Review
A petition for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 must allege that the petitioner is held in custody under a state court judgment and that such custody violates the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). When a person is detained under a state court conviction, 28 U.S.C. § 2254 remains the proper provision governing habeas corpus relief, even if the petition challenges a state administrative decision, such as revocation of parole. Shelby v. Bartlett , 391 F.3d 1061 (9th Cir. 2004).
Habeas corpus law requires that a petitioner "exhaust" his state court remedies before pursuing a claim in a federal habeas petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b). To exhaust a claim, a habeas petitioner must fairly present it to the highest state court for review in the manner prescribed by state law. See O'Sullivan v. Boerckel , 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999). The Court will assume, for purposes of this Order, that Petitioner's claims are exhausted properly, for the reasons explained below. The claims in the Petition will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted or denied on the merits.
A. Standard for Dismissal of Claims - Summary Dismissal
The Court is required to review a petition for writ of habeas corpus upon receipt to determine whether it is subject to summary dismissal. Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases. Summary dismissal is appropriate where "it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court." Id . The Court has reviewed Magistrate Judge Dale's recommendations in the Initial Review ...