White v. Lambert

Decision Date10 June 2004
Docket NumberNo. 02-35550.,02-35550.
Citation370 F.3d 1002
PartiesJoel WHITE, Petitioner-Appellant, v. John LAMBERT, Superintendent, Respondent-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Amy M. Schwering, Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington and Idaho, Spokane, WA, for the petitioner-appellant.

Christine O. Gregoire and Paul D. Weisser, Washington State Attorney General's Office, Olympia, WA, for the respondent-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington Robert H. Whaley, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV-02-05018-RHW.

Before: NOONAN, WARDLAW, and PAEZ, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

PAEZ, Circuit Judge.

Joel White challenges the State of Washington's authority to continue to confine him after his transfer in November 1999 from a Washington state prison to a privately-run prison in Colorado. Unlike most habeas petitioners, White is not challenging the validity of his state court conviction, but rather the administrative decision to transfer him from one prison to another. White alleges that the transfer, initiated by the Washington Department of Corrections, was in violation of both the United States and Washington constitutions. After exhausting his state court remedies, White filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the federal district court for the Eastern District of Washington, invoking jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.

The district court, after rejecting the State of Washington's argument that jurisdiction was proper only under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, allowed White to proceed under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, but denied his petition on the merits. The district court also denied White's motion for a certificate of appealability ("COA") as moot, reasoning that a COA was not necessary when a petitioner seeks habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.

White's appeal raises several issues that we have not previously addressed concerning the proper jurisdictional statute and procedural requirements for a state prisoner attacking the legality of his detention resulting from an administrative decision by state prison authorities. The circuits that have addressed these issues are divided on whether jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 or under § 2254, and on whether a COA is required. We hold that the district court erred in concluding that White could seek habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, which is properly understood as a general grant of habeas authority that provides federal court jurisdiction to a state prisoner when that prisoner is not in custody pursuant to a "state court judgment." Because White was "in custody pursuant to a state court judgment" at the time he filed his federal habeas petition, 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is the proper jurisdictional basis for his habeas petition.

We further hold that, although 28 U.S.C. § 2254 was the proper statutory basis for White's petition, he did not need to obtain a COA to appeal the district court's judgment. The requirement for a COA in 28 U.S.C. § 2253, that the "detention complained of" must "arise[] out of" state court process, does not apply to White's situation. In his habeas petition White attacks his incarceration in a private Colorado prison, which arises out of a decision by officials at the Washington Department of Corrections, and not from a state court process.

Finally, we hold that White's constitutional claims fail because he has no constitutional right to imprisonment in a specific prison, and the state court's determination was not "contrary to" or "an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). Accordingly, we affirm the district court's dismissal of White's habeas petition.

I. BACKGROUND

In October of 1999, in response to overcrowding in Washington state prisons, the Washington State Department of Corrections (" DOC") contracted for prison space with the Crowley County Correctional Facility ("CCCF"), a private, for-profit prison located in Colorado. Joel White was among a group of inmates that were transferred from DOC facilities to CCCF on November 2, 1999. On June 6, 2000, White was transferred from CCCF back to a DOC facility in Washington State. White did not consent to either transfer.

On January 18, 2000, White filed a habeas petition in the Washington Supreme Court arguing that no legal authority existed to detain him in CCCF. The Washington Supreme Court construed White's filing as a "personal restraint petition" under Washington Rule of Appellate Procedure 16.4(c)(6), and stayed consideration pending the outcome of a case consolidating the claims of three other Washington state prisoners who objected to being transferred to CCCF. The Washington Supreme Court ultimately affirmed the legality of White's transfer to CCCF and denied White's petition. That order became final on May 18, 2001.

On March 1, 2002, White filed a habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 in the District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, alleging that the transfer violated, among other things, his Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights. The district court dismissed the petition with prejudice, and denied White's subsequent motion to reconsider. White then sought a COA from the district court. The district court denied the request as moot, ruling that a COA was not required to appeal the denial of a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.

II. JURISDICTION AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

We have jurisdiction over White's timely appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1291 and 2253. We review de novo the district court's decision to deny a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. See Hunter v. Ayers, 336 F.3d 1007, 1011 (9th Cir.2003). We also review de novo the district court's decision to deny a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas petition. See Alcala v. Woodford, 334 F.3d 862, 868 (9th Cir.2003).

III. ANALYSIS
A. 28 U.S.C. § 2241 versus 28 U.S.C. § 2254

Whether a state prisoner such as White can proceed under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 when challenging an administrative decision to transfer him from one prison to another, but not the underlying state court judgment, is an open question in this circuit. We agree with the majority of circuits that have considered this issue that 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is the proper jurisdictional statute for White's habeas petition.1

The plain text of the two statutes, 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and 28 U.S.C. § 2254, both appear to apply to White's petition. Section 2241 confers jurisdiction on a district court to issue a writ of habeas corpus when a federal or state prisoner establishes that he "is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241(a) and (c)(3). The relevant sub-section of 28 U.S.C. § 2254 confers jurisdiction on a district court to issue "a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court ... on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) (emphasis added).

Although the text of either statute would appear to confer jurisdiction, a proper understanding of the interaction between 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and 28 U.S.C. § 2254 leads us to the conclusion that they apply in different situations. Section 2254 is properly understood as "in effect implement[ing] the general grant of habeas corpus authority found in § 2241, as long as the person is in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court, and not in state custody for some other reason, such as pre-conviction custody, custody awaiting extradition, or other forms of custody that are possible without a conviction." Walker, 216 F.3d at 633 (emphasis in original); see also Eric Johnson, An Analysis of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in Relation to State Administrative Orders: the State Court Judgment as the Genesis of Custody, 29 New Eng. J. on Crim. & Civ. Confinement 153, 168 (2003) ("In contrast to section 2255, section 2254 does not create an alternative to the habeas corpus remedy provided in section 2241; rather, it imposes limitations on this remedy.").

This understanding of the interaction between the two statutes is bolstered by the relevant legislative history. When § 2254 was enacted in 1948, it "merely codified the requirement of exhaustion of state remedies." Johnson, supra, at 168. Congress' amendments to § 2254 in 1966 and in the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA")2 merely imposed additional requirements on state prisoners seeking habeas relief who were in custody pursuant to a state court judgment. Id. As a Senate report on a bill proposing new amendments to § 2254 in 1966 stated, the bill "revises the procedure applicable to review by lower federal courts of petitions for habeas corpus by prisoners who have been convicted and who are in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court." S. Rep. 89-1797, at 3663 (1966), reprinted in 1966 U.S.C.C.A.N. 3663, 3663 (emphasis added).

By contrast, the general grant of habeas authority in § 2241 is available for challenges by a state prisoner who is not in custody pursuant to a state court judgment — for example, a defendant in pre-trial detention or awaiting extradition. In these situations, not covered by the limitations in § 2254, the general grant of habeas authority provided by the Constitution3 and § 2241 will provide jurisdiction for state prisoners' habeas claims. See, e.g., McNeely v. Blanas, 336 F.3d 822 (9th Cir.2003) (allowing a pre-trial detainee to proceed under § 2241).

This understanding of the interaction between 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and 28 U.S.C. § 2254 finds support in the Supreme Court's decision in Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651, 116 S.Ct. 2333, 135 L.Ed.2d 827 (1996). See Walker, 216 F.3d at 633; Crouch, 251 F.3d at...

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