Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Northern California Judges Deny Prisoner Petitions

Several Northern California Judges have recently denied a few prisoner petitions.

Blair v. Wong is a petition for habeas corpus.  A jury convicted Mr. Blair of second degree murder for which the trial judge sentenced him to 17 years to life in 1982.  In 2008 the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) declared him eligible for parole and the governor revoked that determination in a manner similar to the Ninth Circuit's decision in Hayward v. Marshall.   Since filing the petition, Mr. Blair, to his delight has been released on parole.  Parole after a second degree murder conviction lasts for life, there is no basis for the current petition.  Judge Lucy H. Koh dismissed the petition.

Williams v. Supreme Court of California is a petition for a writ of mandamus where the prisoner pro se demands the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court to rule on his petition for habeas corpus.  Judge Jeffery S. White explained that federal courts to not have power by mandate to order state officials to do anything.  See Clark v. State of Washington (9th Cir. 1966) ("It follows that no effective decree can be framed against the Bar Association to afford Clark the relief he seeks in this action.")  Judge White denied the petition.

Woodruff v. Awoke involves a convicted criminal in an Oakland halfway house who contests the conditions at that place.  He filed a "petition for habeas corpus" based upon complaints of a lack of access to the career center and legal materials in violation of "the Second Chance Act of 2008...."  Judge Claudia Wilken explained that a challenge to conditions of confinement, rather than the conviction itself is properly brought under Bivens v Six Unknown Named Agents, (U.S. 1971). See Boyce v. Ashcroft (10th Cir. 2001) ("Prisoners who raise constitutional challenges to other prison decisions — including transfers to administrative segregation, exclusion from prison programs, or suspension of privileges, e.g. conditions of confinement, must proceed under Section 1983 or Bivens.")

Smith v. Curry is similar to  Blair above.  A jury convicted Mr. Smith of second degree murder for the execution style killing of a former friend.  He believes that the BPH does not have "some evidence of dangerousness" to deny his parole.  Judge Richard Seeborg noted that Mr. Smith had vague plans on what to do upon release which could provide the parole board with some evidence of dangerousness.  He denied the petition for habeas corpus.

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