United States District Court, D. Oregon
VICTOR M. RODRIGUEZ-PUENTE, Petitioner,
MARION FEATHER, Warden, Respondent.
Victor M. Rodriguez-Puente Register No.: 44647-079 F.C.I. Sheridan Attorney District of Oregon
Natalie Wight Assistant United States Attorney United States Attorney’s Office Attorneys for Respondent
OPINION AND ORDER
Garr M. King United States District Judge
On or about December 5, 2014, petitioner filed this habeas corpus proceeding pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Petitioner contends he was denied due process at a disciplinary hearing held on January 4, 2013, at Big Spring Correctional Center (“BSCC”), a contracted correctional institution operated by a private corporation. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is dismissed as moot.
While incarcerated at BSCC, petitioner was charged with Possession of a Hazardous Tool (a cell phone). On December 17, 2012, during a fire drill at 10:00 in the morning, Officer K. Horapfe found a cell phone under the mattress of petitioner’s bunk. When Officer Horapfe asked petitioner about the cell phone, petitioner admitted it was his. He said he had possessed the phone for 12 days. The investigating officer, BSCC staff member L. Vasquez, interviewed petitioner; petitioner reported he had purchased the cell phone for $200 worth of commissary while out on the compound 12 days before. Petitioner confirmed he had left the cell phone under his mattress. When the Unit Discipline Committee (“UDC”) asked petitioner about the incident, petitioner stated the report was true and he did not have anything to add. On January 4, 2013, when the BSCC Discipline Hearings Officer (“DHO”) asked petitioner about the report, petitioner admitted the charges and said the report was true and correct, he took ownership of the cell phone, and he reported another inmate no longer at the institution had given it to him. The BSCC DHO considered these statements, along with a photograph of the confiscated cell phone, and imposed the following discipline: 41 days’ loss of good time, 2 months’ disciplinary segregation, 18 months’ loss of commissary privileges, 18 months’ loss of visitation, 18 months’ loss of phone privileges, and a fine of $271.86.
Petitioner filed this habeas petition on December 5, 2014. Along with its response to the petition, respondent provided a disciplinary rehearing report from a Bureau of Prisons’ (“BOP”) DHO, D. Cortez, dated January 9, 2015. In that report, Cortez reported he had held a hearing on January 8, 2015 about the 2012 cell phone incident. In that hearing, petitioner newly denied the incident had occurred. Petitioner explained,
At the time I was afraid because I had seen what happens to other inmates when the[y] say things aren’t theirs and then get sent back to the compound. There is no security there, so they end up getting beaten up because they get called a snitch. I was at the table drawing when the alarm went off and they took everyone out of the unit. Later they came and told me they found a cell phone under my bed and asked me if it was mine. I said it was mine because I was afraid. It is a common area. Anybody could have come by and put that in there.
Cortez Decl. Att. 3, at 1. Petitioner named two witnesses he wished to call, Jorge Lopez and Oscar Rodriguez, but Cortez could not locate the individuals without more detailed information.
Cortez concluded, based on the incident report of BSCC staff member K. Horapfe, the photograph of the cell phone, and petitioner’s statements to the investigating officer and to the UDC, that petitioner had committed the prohibited act of Possession of a Hazardous Tool (cell phone).
In this habeas petition, petitioner challenges the authority of a hearings officer employed at BSCC, who was not a BOP employee, to sanction him with a loss of 41 days of good-time. He relies on an unpublished Ninth Circuit decision, which held that under the applicable BOP regulations at the time, disciplinary action could only be taken by BOP staff and not by private contractors. Arredondo-Virula v. Adler, 510 F. App’x 581 (9th Cir. 2013). In that unpublished case, the Ninth Circuit held a private contractor was not “institution staff” and was not authorized by regulation to discipline the petitioner.
Respondent urges dismissal of the petition as moot because BOP DHO Cortez undertook a rehearing of the alleged disciplinary infraction on January 8, 2015. It argues the original decision is now superseded by the BOP’s decision, rendering this action moot. I agree.
This court’s Article III jurisdiction extends only to actual cases or controversies. Iron Arrow Honor Soc’y v. Heckler, 464 U.S. 67, 70 (1983). A habeas petition becomes moot when a petitioner’s claim for relief can no longer be redressed by a favorable decision of the court. Id.; Spencer v. Kemna, ...