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Garcia v. Bowen

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

December 20, 2019

MICHAEL GARCIA, Petitioner,
v.
MARK BOWEN, Warden, Respondent.

          Michael Garcia Northeast Plaintiff pro se

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Petitioner's Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, filed March 22, 2018 (Doc. 1)(“Petition”). Petitioner Michael Garcia is incarcerated and proceeding pro se. Having reviewed the matter sua sponte under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, effective February 1, 1997 and amended on February 1, 2010 (“Habeas Corpus Rules”), [1] the Court will dismiss the Petition, but grant leave to amend.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Garcia is incarcerated at the Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility. He alleges that Respondent Mark Bowen, Warden of the facility, violated his due process rights in connection with a prison disciplinary proceeding. See Petition ¶ 1, at 1. The Petition raises one ground for relief, which states:

This is a simple case of violation of prisoners rights under the due process clause of the U.S. and N.M. Const[itutions] and Bill of Rights and also of N.M.C.D. policies of proper handling of evidence and time frames not being held too[.] [T]hey want this to use against me but by a matter of law this should have been dismissed as I have evidence of one that was dismissed by the state but GEO Corp. does not abide by established N.M.D.C. policy and constitutional amendments. They believe they are above the law.

         Petition ¶ 6, at 3. The “Supporting Facts” section elaborates that prison officials did “not allow[] [Garcia] due process, ” and notes that the prosecuting authority “would [have] dismissed the [write-]ups” based on Garcia's evidence and exhibits. Petition ¶ 6(a), at 4.

         The documents attached to the Petition reflect that the disciplinary proceeding stems from a coded letter that Garcia wrote. See Disciplinary Officer's Findings and Recommendations at 12 (dated January 16, 2018), filed March 22, 2018 (Doc. 1). Garcia purportedly wrote: “Mom, let's get straight to business . . . send me a package like I used to make for Lup Jefika [which] has the strips . . . . I need Adette to bring some sheets four company letterhead three business cards dords[sic] with shards dissolved in water . . . .” Disciplinary Officer's Findings and Recommendations ¶ 1, at 12. Prison officials intercepted the letter, and determined that “strips” refers to suboxone and that “shards” refers to methamphetamine. Disciplinary Officer's Findings and Recommendations ¶ 1, at 12. They concluded that Garcia was requesting drugs from an outside third-party. See Disciplinary Officer's Findings and Recommendations ¶ 1, at 12. Prison officials issued a Misconduct Report, which listed the charge as: “A(31) Attempt or Complicity to wit A(19) Dealing in Dangerous Drugs (selling, trading, giving away, introducing, attempting to introduce, or conspiring to introduce any quantity of any item defined as dangerous).” Inmate Misconduct Report at 14 (dated January 22, 2018), filed March 22, 2018 (Doc. 1)(“First Inmate Misconduct Report”). In the investigative report, it appears Garcia wrote: “Don't know nothing about this.” See Disciplinary Officer's Investigation at 19 (dated January 24, 2018), filed March 22, 2018 (Doc. 1). The Hearing Officer found Garcia guilty of a category A(19) offense, but he dismissed the A(31) offense. See Disciplinary Decision at 21 (dated February 5, 2018), filed March 22, 2018 (Doc. 1). The sanctions included: (i) loss of contact visitation privileges for 365 days; (ii) loss of commissary/property privileges for ninety days; and (iii) loss of telephone privileges for ninety days. See Disciplinary Decision at 21

         Garcia appealed the decision, and Bowen affirmed the decision. See Letter from M. Bowen to Michael E. Garcia at 28 (dated February 20, 2018), filed March 22, 2018 (Doc. 1). The Petition also attaches a second Misconduct Report dated December 2, 2017, but it is not clear whether that Misconduct Report is related to the coded letter. See Misconduct Report at (dated December 2, 2017), filed March 22, 2018 (“Second Inmate Misconduct Report”). In the prayer for relief, Garcia asks the Court to overturn one or both of the decisions; “clear [his] record”; and “reprimand the GEO Group for not foll[ow]ing the law.” Petition ¶ 10, at 10. Garcia paid the $5.00 filing fee, and the matter is ready for initial review.

         LAW REGARDING SUA SPONTE REVIEW OF HABEAS PETITIONS

         Rule 4 of the Habeas Corpus Rules and 28 U.S.C. § 2241 govern the Petition. Habeas Corpus Rule 4 requires a sua sponte review of habeas petitions. “If it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief . . . the judge must dismiss the petition.” Habeas Corpus Rule 4. “If the petition is not dismissed, the judge must order the respondent to file an answer.” Habeas Corpus Rule 4. The standards set forth in rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are instructive when screening a petition under Habeas Corpus Rule 4. See, e.g., Paters v. United States, 159 F.3d 1043, 1059 (7th Cir. 998)(“Rule 4, like Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), acts as a screening device to weed out meritless claims from the federal court system.”); Rivas v. Fischer, 687 F.3d 514, 535 (2d Cir. 2012)(“The facts vital to a habeas claim are those without which the claim would necessarily be dismissed under Rule 4 . . . or Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.”).

         Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a court to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). “The nature of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of the allegations within the four corners of the complaint after taking those allegations as true.” Mobley v. McCormick, 40 F.3d 337, 340 (10th Cir. 1994)(citing Williams v. Meese, 926 F.2d 994, 997 (10th Cir. 1991)). A complaint's sufficiency is a question of law, and when considering a rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint, view those allegations in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322-23 (2007)(“[O]nly ‘[i]f a reasonable person could not draw . . . an inference [of plausibility] from the alleged facts' would the defendant prevail on a motion to dismiss.” (second alteration in Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd.)(quoting Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd. v. Tellabs, Inc, 437 F.3d 588, 602 (7th Cir. 2006))); Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009)(“[F]or purposes of resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, we accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in a complaint and view these allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” (citing Moore v. Guthrie, 438 F.3d 1036, 1039 (10th Cir. 2006))).

         A complaint need not set forth detailed factual allegations, yet “[a] pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action'” is insufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations and footnote omitted).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's complaint must contain sufficient “facts that, if assumed to be true, state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Mink v. Knox, 613 F.3d 995, 1000 (10th Cir. 2010)(citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Thus, the mere metaphysical possibility that some plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims is insufficient; the complainant must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims.” Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007)(emphasis omitted). The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has stated:

“[P]lausibility” in this context must refer to the scope of the allegations in a complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs “have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” The allegations must be enough that, if assumed to ...

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