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Morris v. Baker

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 6, 2017

BRENT MORRIS, Petitioner,



         Petitioner, an inmate in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC), has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 to challenge his forfeiture of 90 days of good-time credit. ECF No. 2. The State filed an Answer. ECF No. 11. Morris filed a Reply. ECF No. 31. For the reasons below, the court shall deny Morris' petition for a writ of habeas corpus, dismiss this action with prejudice, and deny a certificate of appealability.


         On July 9, 2013, Morris was notified that he was being charged in a prison disciplinary proceeding with the unauthorized use of equipment or mail and charging fees for legal services. ECF No. 12-12. On July 21, 2013, a disciplinary hearing officer found Morris guilty of both, and recommended that he forfeit 90 days of good-time credits. ECF No 12-14. That recommendation was accepted by the NDOC. ECF No. 12-15.

         On November 8, 2013, Morris filed a pro se habeas petition in state court challenging the forfeiture of good-time credit. ECF No. 12-2. The state court denied his petition on December 19, 2013. ECF No. 13-1. When Morris appealed, the Supreme Court of Nevada affirmed. ECF No. 13-17.

         Morris filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court on May 29, 2015. ECF No.2. The State filed an Answer. ECF No. 11. Morris filed a Reply. ECF No. 31.

         II.Federal Habeas Review Standards

         When a state court has adjudicated a claim on the merits, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) imposes a “highly deferential” standard for evaluating the state court ruling; that standard is “difficult to meet” and “demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170 (2011). Under this highly deferential standard of review, a federal court may not grant habeas relief merely because it might conclude that the state court decision was incorrect. Id. at 202. Instead, under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), the court may grant relief only if the state court decision: (1) was either contrary to or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established law as determined by the United States Supreme Court or (2) was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented at the state court proceeding. Id. at 181-88. The petitioner bears the burden of proof. Id. at 181.

         A state court decision is “contrary to” law clearly established by the Supreme Court only if it applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in Supreme Court case law or if the decision confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a Supreme Court decision and nevertheless arrives at a different result. See, e.g., Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003). A state court decision is not contrary to established federal law merely because it does not cite the Supreme Court's opinions. Id. The Supreme Court has held that a state court need not even be aware of its precedents, so long as neither the reasoning nor the result of its decision contradicts them. Id. And “a federal court may not overrule a state court for simply holding a view different from its own, when the precedent from [the Supreme] Court is, at best, ambiguous.” Id. at 16. A decision that does not conflict with the reasoning or holdings of Supreme Court precedent is not contrary to clearly established federal law.

         A state court decision constitutes an “unreasonable application” of clearly established federal law only if it is demonstrated that the state court's application of Supreme Court precedent to the facts of the case was not only incorrect but “objectively unreasonable.” See, e.g., id. at 18; Davis v. Woodford, 384 F.3d 628, 638 (9th Cir. 2004). When a state court's factual findings based on the record before it are challenged, the “unreasonable determination of fact” clause of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2) controls, which requires federal courts to be “particularly deferential” to state court factual determinations. See, e.g., Lambert v. Blodgett, 393 F.3d 943, 972 (9th Cir. 2004). This standard is not satisfied by a mere showing that the state court finding was “clearly erroneous.” Id. at 973. Rather, as the Ninth Circuit explained, AEDPA requires substantially more deference:

[I]n concluding that a state-court finding is unsupported by substantial evidence in the state-court record, it is not enough that we would reverse in similar circumstances if this were an appeal from a district court decision. Rather, we must be convinced that an appellate panel, applying the normal standards of appellate review, could not reasonably conclude that the finding is supported by the record.

Taylor v. Maddox, 366 F.3d 992, 1000 (9th Cir. 2004); see also Lambert, 393 F.3d at 972.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1), a state court's factual findings are presumed to be correct and the petitioner must rebut that presumption by “clear and convincing evidence.” In this inquiry, federal courts may not look to any factual basis not developed before the state court unless the petitioner shows that the claim relies on either (a) “a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable” or (b) “a factual predicate that could not have been previously discovered through the exercise of due diligence, ” and also shows that “the facts underlying the claim would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found the applicant guilty of the underlying offense.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2).

         When a state court summarily rejects a claim, it is the petitioner's burden to show that “there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98 (2011).


         A. Ground 1

          Morris argues that “his due process rights were violated when the NDOC failed to timely serve him with the notice of charges.” ECF No. 2 at 3. Morris contends that, under NDOC procedures, “the 10-day limit in which to file the [notice of charges] began to run on March 12, 2013, when the alleged incident had occurred.” ECF No. 2 at 6; see ECF No. 12-12. The Supreme Court of Nevada ...

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