Nettles v. Grounds

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 05-28-2015
  • Case #: 12-16935
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Ikuta for the Court; Circuit Judges Smith and Murguia; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Murguia
  • Full Text Opinion

A habeas claim is cognizable only if it will “necessarily spell speedier release” from custody, meaning that the relief sought will either terminate custody, accelerate the future date of release from custody, or reduce the level of custody.

Damous Nettles and Matta Juan Santos were separately convicted and sentenced to prison with possibility of parole. Nettles received rules violation reports during his first and second parole hearings, which along with his criminal history, caused his parole to be denied. Santos was validated for being involved in the Mexican Mafia, which resulted in Santos being placed in a security housing unit while in custody. Both Nettles and Santos filed state habeas corpus petitions challenging those actions, which were denied several times. Nettles and Santos then filed federal habeas petitions, which the district court dismissed. Nettles and Santos appealed the district court’s decisions, and the Ninth Circuit consolidated their appeals to review the scope of federal jurisdiction for habeas corpus petitions. The panel determined based on Skinner v. Switzer, and other precedent cases, that a habeas claim is cognizable in federal court “only if success on the claim would ‘necessarily spell speedier release’ from custody, [which includes] termination of custody, acceleration of the future date of release from custody, or reduction of the level of custody.” Applying the standard from Skinner to each appeal in turn, the panel first concluded that Nettles’s habeas claim was not cognizable because expunging Nettles’s rules violation reports would not necessarily spell speedier release since the parole board considered multiple factors, and thus was too attenuated from the Skinner standard. The panel then concluded that expunging Santos’s gang validation was cognizable under the federal habeas statute since the relief sought would reduce the level of custody by removing Santos from the security housing unit. The panel therefore affirmed the dismissal of Nettle’s petition, and reversed and remanded Santos’s petition. AFFIRMED in Appeal No. 12-16935; REVERSED and REMANDED in Appeal No. 13-15050.

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