Unpublished Disposition, 844 F.2d 792 (9th Cir. 1989)

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US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit - 844 F.2d 792 (9th Cir. 1989)

Terry HARDAGE, Plaintiff-Appellant,v.Hazel HAYS; Paul Aronson; William Groener; ChalmersJones; Arlene Samuelson; Doug Dinsmore, OregonBoard of Parole, Defendants-Appellees.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Submitted March 18, 1988.* Decided April 4, 1988.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon; James A. Redden, District Judge, Presiding.

Before JAMES R. BROWNING, Chief Judge, and HUG and BEEZER, Circuit Judges.


Terry Hardage, an Oregon state prisoner, appeals pro se the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Oregon Parole Board. Hardage, who was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for the crime of custodial interference, brought suit under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986 against the Board, alleging that the Board violated his civil rights by refusing to grant him parole when he was allegedly eligible under the Oregon matrix system guidelines.


On September 25, 1984, the Douglas County Circuit Court sentenced Hardage to ten years' imprisonment with a five-year judicially-imposed minimum for Custodial Interference in the first degree.1  At Hardage's prison term hearing, the Oregon Board of Parole set his history/risk score at 11 under crime category 2, with a matrix range of six months, but sustained the five-year judicial minimum establishing a release date of May 28, 1989.

The Oregon Court of Appeals summarily affirmed the Board's decision. The Oregon Supreme Court then denied Hardage's petition for review.

Hardage filed a complaint with the district court under 28 U.S.C. § 1983, contending that the parole board officials violated his civil rights by refusing to grant him parole when he was allegedly eligible under the state matrix system guidelines. Hardage alleged there was no evidence that the judicial minimum was ever imposed pursuant to any particular statute and, therefore, by sustaining the judicial minimum pursuant to Or.Rev.Stat. Sec. 144.110(1) (1987), the Board actually sentenced him to the five-year minimum term. Hardage sought monetary damages as well as injunctive and declaratory relief.

The district court granted the Board's motion for summary judgment. Hardage timely appeals.



1. Did the district court err in granting summary judgment in favor of the Parole Board based on judicial immunity?

2. Is Hardage entitled to federal habeas relief?



This court reviews de novo the district court's grant of summary judgment. See Darring v. Kincheloe, 783 F.2d 874, 876 (9th Cir. 1986) (citing Lojek v. Thomas, 716 F.2d 675, 677 (9th Cir. 1983)). In reviewing a decision of the district court, this court may affirm on any ground finding support in the record. See Salmeron v. United States, 724 F.2d 1357, 1364 (9th Cir. 1983).



Hardage contends the district court erred in concluding that the Parole Board enjoyed absolute immunity from monetary damages under this section 1983 action. This contention lacks merit.

State parole board officers are entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity from suits by prisoners for actions taken when processing parole applications. See Anderson v. Boyd, 714 F.2d 906, 908-09 (9th Cir. 1983); Sellers v. Procunier, 641 F.2d 1295, 1302-03 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1102 (1981). Parole board officers perform "functionally comparable" tasks to judges when they decide to grant, deny, or revoke parole. Anderson, 714 F.2d at 908 (citing Sellers, 641 F.2d at 1303).

Hardage's suit arose as a result of the Board's action in processing his parole application. Specifically, Hardage alleged that the Board should have granted him parole as required under the Oregon matrix system guidelines. Therefore, because Hardage alleges injury resulting from the Board's processing of his parole application, the district court did not err in determining that quasi-judicial immunity barred Hardage's section 1983 claim for monetary damages. See Anderson, 714 F.2d at 908-09.



Hardage contends that the district court erred in concluding that his sole federal remedy was a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. This contention lacks merit.

When a prisoner seeks release from confinement, his exclusive remedy is a writ of habeas corpus. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 499 n. 14 (1973); Fendler v. United States Parole Commission, 774 F.2d 975, 979 (9th Cir. 1985). Hardage sought not only monetary damages, but also immediate release from confinement through injunctive and declaratory relief. His complaint, therefore, challenged the very fact or duration of his continuing confinement. See Fendler, 774 F.2d at 979. Accordingly, his only federal remedy for this claim was a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Id.

Nevertheless, this court liberally construes pro se pleadings. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam). In particular, a court should construe a pro se prisoner's complaint as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus where the complaint in essence seeks collateral review of the legality of his confinement. Keeton v. Procunier, 468 F.2d 810, 811 (9th Cir. 1972) (per curiam), cert. denied, 411 U.S. 987 (1973); Padilla v. Ackerman, 460 F.2d 477, 478 (9th Cir. 1972). Here, the district court did not construe the complaint as a habeas corpus petition. Because it appears that Hardage did exhaust his state remedies,2  however, the district court could have construed the complaint to be a habeas corpus petition. Cf. Keeton, 468 F.2d at 811 (court can construe section 1983 complaint as habeas petition but prisoner is still required to exhaust available state remedies).

Nevertheless, this court may affirm the district court's decision on any ground finding support in the record. Salmeran, 724 F.2d at 1364. Here, the record supports a finding that Hardage did not state a cognizable claim that would have entitled him to habeas corpus relief.

To state a claim under section 2254, a prisoner must allege a violation of a federal statute or the Constitution. See Pulley v. Harris, 465 U.S. 37, 41 (1984); Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 119, 121 n. 21 (1982); Darnell v. Swinney, 823 F.2d 299, 301-02 (9th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 56 U.S.L.W. 3561 (U.S., Feb. 23, 1988) (87-537). Hardage alleges that the Board misconstrued or misapplied its own guidelines. A state court's alleged misapplication of its own laws does not support a claim under section 2254. See Engle, 456 U.S. at 121 n. 21; Middleton v. Cupp, 768 F.2d 1083, 1085 (9th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 106 S. Ct. 3336 (1986).

Moreover, the Board did not misconstrue its own guidelines. The Board had authority to sustain the minimum sentence under Or.Rev.Stat. Sec. 144.110 (1987).3  Therefore, Hardage is not entitled to federal habeas corpus relief.



The panel unanimously finds this case suitable for decision without oral argument. Fed. R. App. P. 34(a) and Ninth Circuit Rule 34-4


This disposition is not appropriate for publication and may not be cited to or by the courts of this circuit except as provided by 9th Cir.R. 36-3


Or.Rev.Stat. Sec. 163.257(3) (1987) characterizes Custodial Interference in the first degree as a Class B felony carrying a maximum possible sentence of 10 years (Or.Rev.Stat. Sec. 161.605(2) (1987). Or.Rev.Stat. Sec. 144.110(1) (1987) gives the sentencing court the authority to impose in any felony case a minimum term of imprisonment of up to one-half of the sentence imposed


The Board contends that Hardage failed to exhaust state remedies because he did not seek review by the Oregon Supreme Court. The record refutes the Board's contention

A state prisoner may not obtain federal habeas relief without first exhausting all available state remedies. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b). A prisoner may satisfy the exhaustion requirement as to a particular claim by fairly presenting the merits of the claim to the highest court of the state. See Picard v. Conner, 404 U.S. 270, 275-76 (1971). Hardage "fairly presented" his claim to the Oregon Supreme Court. Therefore, Hardage satisfied the exhaustion requirement even though the state court denied review of his claims. See Turner v. Compoy, 827 F.2d 526, 529-30 (9th Cir. 1987), petition for cert. filed (Nov. 27, 1987).


Or.Rev.Stat. Sec. 144.110 (1977) provides:

(1) In any felony case, the court may impose a minimum term of imprisonment of up to one-half of the sentence it imposes.

(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of ORS Secs. 144.120 and 144.780:

(a) the [parole] board shall not release a prisoner on parole who has been sentenced under subsection (1) of this section until the minimum term has been served....

(Emphasis added.)