United States District Court, D. Arizona
June 27, 2014
Matthew C. Davidson, Petitioner,
Susan J McClintock, Respondent.
D. THOMAS FERRARO, Magistrate Judge.
Pending before the Court is a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Petitioner, Matthew C. Davidson, who is currently confined at the Federal Correctional Institution in Safford, AZ, alleges that his classification by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is not proper and in violation of federal law. The parties consented to exercise of jurisdiction by a Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). (Doc. 16.) The Court finds that the Petition should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
Petitioner was convicted on November 3, 2004, of being a felon in possession of a firearm - armed career criminal, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and obstruction of justice. (Doc. 11, Ex. A at 2.) He was sentenced to 235 months imprisonment and is currently housed at a low security federal correctional institution in Arizona pursuant to his classification under BOP Program Statement (P.S.) 5100.08, "Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification." ( Id. at 2.)
In order to classify inmates, the BOP uses a point-scoring system to analyze inmate's characteristics, including History of Violence. ( Id. at 3.) The points are tallied and the resulting score determines the security level in which the inmate will be incarcerated. ( Id. at 3.) Shortly after Petitioner was sentenced in 2005, BOP staff completed an initial Security/Designation review under P.S. 5100.08 and determined that Petitioner had a "Serious" History of Violence that was 10-15 years old. ( Id. at 2.) Reviews of an inmate's classification status are regularly conducted by BOP staff, mainly to update factors specific to an inmate's adjustment to incarceration. ( Id. at 2-3.) Category determinations are also updated to account for the passage of time. ( Id. at 3.) During the latest review in 2012, BOP staff determined that Petitioner had a "Serious" History of Violence over 15 years old, based on a 1982 conviction in Washington State. ( Id. at 3.)
Petitioner filed this Petition on June 21, 2013, challenging his classification status. (Doc. 1 at 2.) Proper exhaustion of all administrative remedies with respect to the allegations in his Petition is uncontested by Respondent. (Doc. 11 at 2.)
Petitioner alleges that his History of Violence determination was erroneously scored under P.S. 5100.08. He seeks injunctive relief in the form of a court order mandating the BOP to change the aforementioned, contested category from "Serious" to "Minor" and adjust his custody classification points accordingly.
A District Court has jurisdiction of a § 2241 petition if a prisoner is challenging the legality of the "manner, location, or conditions of the execution of a sentence, " Hernandez v. Campbell, 204 F.3d 861, 864 (9th Cir. 2000), and when a successful challenge to those prison conditions would accelerate the prisoner's release. See Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 859 (9th Cir. 2003); see also Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 487 (1973) (immediate or accelerated release from illegal custody is the essence of habeas corpus). Here, Petitioner alleges he is contesting the "manner and condition" of his sentence, but the Petition fails to provide any rationale for how a difference in custody classification points would affect the manner or condition of his custody. Claims which pertain to prisoner's classifications, especially individual custodial classification scores, are not cognizable in a federal habeas petition. See Estrada v. Chavez, CV 08-1358-PHX-NVWLOA, 2009 WL 1383328 at *5 (D. Ariz. May 15, 2009) (holding a prisoner's challenge to changes in the P.S. 5100.08 scorecard did not affect the execution of his sentence and, therefore, the court lacked habeas jurisdiction over these claims under § 2241); see also Franklin v. Gipson, CV 12-7411-R PLA, 2013 WL 1339545 at *2 (C.D. Cal. Feb. 19, 2013) (a challenge to classification status lacked habeas jurisdiction because the prisoner "would not be released from confinement or even be provided with a lesser term of confinement; rather, at most, he would receive a different or lower classification score"); Lerma v. Gutierrez, CV 11-07996-PSG VBK, 2012 WL 1320145 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 7, 2012) (finding that the court lacked habeas jurisdiction even if the classification designation impacted the prisoner's housing determination); Levi v. Ebbert, CIV 1:CV-09-0193, 2009 WL 2169171 at *5-7 (M.D. Pa. July 20, 2009), aff'd, 353 F.Appx. 681 (3d Cir. 2009).
In his Reply Brief, Petitioner alleges that the "manner and condition" in which his sentence is being carried out is illegal because BOP's incorrect application of P.S. 5100.08 violates 18 U.S.C. § 4081. Petitioner argues that because his classification is not "proper, " it is in violation of federal law. However, an inmate does not have a legitimate statutory or constitutional entitlement to his custody classifications score or his security designation level. See Moody v. Daggett, 429 U.S. 78, 88 n. 9 (1976). Moreover, "[a] habeas claim cannot be sustained based solely upon the BOP's purported violation of its own program statement because noncompliance with a BOP program statement is not a violation of federal law." Reeb v. Thomas, 636 F.3d 1224, 1227 (9th Cir. 2011).
In conclusion, Petitioner does not present any grounds upon which this Court can provide habeas relief. He does not challenge the duration of his sentence or articulate any manner or condition of the execution of his sentence that is illegal. Therefore, the Court is without jurisdiction to address the BOP staff's Custodial Classification determinations.
IT IS ORDERED that the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus is DISMISSED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of Court should enter judgment and close this case.