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Medina v. Guyer

United States District Court, D. Montana, Helena Division

July 18, 2019

LYNN GUYER, Respondents.


          John Johnston, United States Magistrate Judge.

         On June 26, 2019, Petitioner Jimmy Lee Medina filed a petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.[1] Medina is a state prisoner proceeding pro se.

         Medina challenges 2018 judgments handed down in Montana's Fourth Judicial District Court, Missoula County, and Montana's Sixth Judicial District, Park County. (Doc. 1 at 2, ¶¶ 1-2.) Following guilty pleas, Medina was convicted of Burglary and Criminal Possession of Dangerous Drugs. Id. at 3, ¶¶ 3-5.

         Medina alleges his Fourteenth Amendment right to Due Process was violated when he was denied witnesses and documentary evidence during a prison disciplinary hearing, which resulted in his loss of release on parole. Id. at 4, ¶13(A). Medina claims he is now parole eligible, but remains incarcerated due to abuses committed by prison authorities during his disciplinary hearings. Id.

         Medina asks this Court to order an injunction and restore 471 days of clear conduct. He also requests an order for his immediate release from Montana State Prison to parole status. Id. at 7, ¶16. Medina notes that he has filed a companion action under 42 U.S.C. §1983.[2] Id. at 6, ¶14.

         I. Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis

         Medina seeks leave of the Court to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 2.) After reviewing the motion and supporting account statement, it appears Medina has sufficiently shown he cannot afford to pay all costs that may be associated with this action. The motion to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

         II. Analysis

         For the reasons discussed below, Medina's petition should be dismissed because the claims he advances relative to his current custody have not yet been exhausted. Dismissal should be without prejudice.

         Federal courts may not grant a writ of habeas corpus brought by an individual in custody pursuant to a state court judgment unless "the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State." 28 U.S.C. §2254(b)(1)(A). The exhaustion requirement is grounded in the principles of comity and gives states the first opportunity to correct alleged violations of a prisoner's federal rights. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731 (1991).

         To meet the exhaustion requirement, a petitioner must (1) use the "remedies available," § 2254(b)(1)(A), through the state's established procedures for appellate review, O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999); (2) describe "the federal legal theory on which his claim is based," Davis v. Silva, 511 F.3d 1005, 1009 (9th Cir. 2008); and (3) describe "the operative facts ... necessary to give application to the constitutional principle upon which the petitioner relies," id. See also Gray v. Netherlands 518 U.S. 152, 162-63 (1996) (discussing Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270 (1971), and Anderson v. Harless, 459 U.S. 4 (1982)). A petitioner must meet all three prongs of the test in one proceeding.

         Medina's own filings make it clear that he has not presented his claims to the state courts in a petition for postconviction relief, (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶10), or in a petition for writ of habeas corpus. Id. at ¶12; see also, ¶13(A)(ii)-(v). Accordingly, there are still remedies available to Medina under state law, including collateral and extraordinary review; Medina has not exhausted his state remedies. 28 U.S.C. §2254(c). Because Medina has not yet exhausted his available state court remedies, this Court cannot review the claim. See, Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509 (1982). Dismissal is without prejudice and Medina may return to this Court if and when he fully exhausts the claims relative to his current custody.

         III. Certificate of Appealability

         "The district court must issue or deny a certificate of appealability when it enters a final order adverse to the applicant." Rule 11(a), Rules Governing § 2254 Proceedings. A COA should issue as to those claims on which the petitioner makes "a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right." 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). The standard is satisfied if "jurists of reason could disagree with the district court's resolution of [the] constitutional claims" or "conclude the issues presented are adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further." Miller-El v. Cockrell,537 U.S. 322, 327 (2003) (citing Slack v. McDaniel,529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000)). Where a claim is dismissed on procedural grounds, the court must also decide whether "jurists of reason would find it ...

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