Havens v. Xavier Becerra, No. 4:2017cv06772 - Document 20 (N.D. Cal. 2018)

Court Description: ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY. Signed by Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton on 11/21/18. ***Civil Case Terminated. (Certificate of Service Attached). (kcS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 11/21/2018)
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Havens v. Xavier Becerra Doc. 20 1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 WARREN HAVENS, 7 Petitioner, 8 ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY v. 9 XAVIER BECERRA, 10 Respondent. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California Case No. 17-cv-06772-PJH 12 This is a habeas corpus case filed pro se by a former detainee pursuant to 28 13 14 U.S.C. § 2254.1 Petitioner challenges his five-day sentence and one-thousand dollar fine 15 after being found in contempt by the Alameda County Superior Court. The court ordered 16 respondent to show cause why the writ should not be granted. Respondent filed an 17 answer and lodged exhibits with the court and petitioner filed a traverse.2 For the 18 reasons set out below, the petition is denied. BACKGROUND 19 Susan Uecker is the court-appointed receiver in the state receivership case of 20 21 Leong v. Havens [petitioner], No. 2002-070640 (Alameda Cnty. Super. Ct. filed Oct. 31, 22 2002). Answer, AG0000556-68. On August 27, 2016, the receiver filed a motion seeking 23 contempt of court sanctions under Cal. Civ. Proc. Code section 1209 against petitioner 24 for violating an order of the court. Id. After a hearing was held on November 30, 25 26 27 28 To the extent petitioner seeks to reclassify this action as a civil rights case, his request is denied. If a petitioner is in custody at the time he files his federal habeas petition, his subsequent release from custody does not deprive the court of its jurisdiction. See Chaker v. Crogan, 428 F.3d 1215, 1219 (9th Cir. 2005). 2 Petitioner filed an initial traverse and then a more extensive traverse. The court has reviewed both filings. 1 Dockets.Justia.com 1 December 7 and December 14, 2016, petitioner was convicted of two counts of contempt 2 and sentenced to ten days of confinement and a two-thousand-dollar fine. Id. On August 3 3, 2017, the California Court of Appeal granted an alternative writ of prohibition as to the 4 second contempt count but denied relief for the remaining contempt count, which is the 5 subject of this federal petition. Id. at AG0001747-51. The California Supreme Court 6 denied the petition for review on November 15, 2017. Id. at AG0001850. STATEMENT OF FACTS 7 8 United States District Court Northern District of California 9 Starting in 1999 petitioner formed several related companies involving wireless services and obtained licenses from the Federal Communications Commission (”FCC”). 10 Id. at AG0000422-23. One such company, Skybridge Spectrum Foundation (“SSF”), 11 founded in 2006, was formed as a Delaware nonprofit corporation. Id. Since 2002 12 petitioner and Arnold Leong, have been involved in a dispute over the ownership and 13 control of the companies and their licenses. Id. at AG0000557. 14 Petitioner was also involved in a separate administrative proceeding before the 15 FCC. Id. at AG0000439. On April 22, 2015, an FCC administrative law judge (“ALJ”) 16 issued an order in Maritime Communications/Land Mobile LLC, FCC Docket No. 11-71, 17 2015 WL 1890837 (FCC Apr. 22, 2015). Id. at AG0000439. The ALJ described 18 petitioner’s extensive amount of frivolous and vexatious litigation. Id. at AG0000439-52. 19 The ALJ recommended that the FCC issue a Hearing Designation Order, which if issued 20 could result in the FCC licenses being frozen. Id. at AG0000557-58. As a result of the 21 ALJ’s order, Leong moved to appoint a receiver in Alameda County Superior Court. Id. at 22 AG0000558. 23 On November 16, 2015, the Alameda County Superior Court appointed the 24 receiver. Id.; Id. at AG0000236-41. In so doing the court enjoined petitioner, among 25 other restrictions, from contacting the FCC regarding the licenses in the receivership 26 entities; interfering with the receiver in the discharge of her duties; and otherwise 27 commencing or prosecuting any suit in the name of the receivership entities or acting on 28 their behalf. Id. at AG0000241. In July 2016, a second order was issued for petitioner 2 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 not to communicate with the FCC or anyone else that would lead the recipient to believe 2 that petitioner was communicating on behalf of a receivership entity. Id. at AG0000244. 3 Four months earlier in March 2016, petitioner filed a voluntary petition for bankruptcy on 4 behalf of SSF, one of the receivership entities, in the United States Bankruptcy Court for 5 the District of Delaware. Id. at AG0000456-512. The bankruptcy court found that, due to 6 the receivership order from the Alameda County Superior Court, petitioner was not 7 authorized to bring the action. Id. at AG0000500-07. 8 On August 22, 2016, petitioner filed an involuntary petition against the Leong 9 Partnership in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California in 10 his name and in the name of SSF, a receivership entity. Id. at AG0000247-73. Petitioner 11 sought to have the Leong Partnership forced into bankruptcy. Id. at AG0000559. 12 Petitioner also attempted to impose a stay on the receivership’s assets. Id. at 13 AG0000560. On August 25, 2016, petitioner filed a notice to dismiss SSF as a petitioning 14 creditor. Id. at AG0000275. On August 29, 2016, the Alameda County Superior Court issued a show-cause 15 16 order on a contempt petition filed by the receiver against petitioner. Id. at AG0000556. 17 Petitioner was found in contempt on December 14, 2016, on the basis of filing the 18 involuntary bankruptcy petition in the name of SSF. Id. at AG0000556-65. Specifically, 19 the court ruled that by filing the petition, petitioner had violated its orders to not 20 communicate with other persons or entities in a manner that would lead them to believe 21 that petitioner was acting on behalf of the receivership entity and to not interfere with the 22 receiver’s discharge of her duties. Id. at AG0000559-61.3 23 STANDARD OF REVIEW 24 A party may challenge the legality of custody under a civil contempt order in a 25 federal habeas petition. See Duncan v. Walker, 533 U.S. 167, 176 (2001). A district 26 court may not grant a petition challenging a state conviction or sentence on the basis of a 27 28 This court has not discussed the second contempt finding regarding he submission of an FCC filing because petitioner was already granted relief in state court. 3 3 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 claim that was reviewed on the merits in state court unless the state court's adjudication 2 of the claim: "(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable 3 application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of 4 the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable 5 determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court 6 proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). The first prong applies both to questions of law and 7 to mixed questions of law and fact, see Williams (Terry) v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 407-09 8 (2000), while the second prong applies to decisions based on factual determinations, see 9 Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003). 10 A state court decision is “contrary to” Supreme Court authority, that is, falls under 11 the first clause of § 2254(d)(1), only if “the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to 12 that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a 13 case differently than [the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable 14 facts.” Williams (Terry), 529 U.S. at 412-13. A state court decision is an “unreasonable 15 application of” Supreme Court authority, falling under the second clause of § 2254(d)(1), 16 if it correctly identifies the governing legal principle from the Supreme Court’s decisions 17 but “unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner’s case.” Id. at 413. 18 The federal court on habeas review may not issue the writ “simply because that court 19 concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied 20 clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly.” Id. at 411. Rather, the 21 application must be “objectively unreasonable” to support granting the writ. Id. at 409. 22 Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2), a state court decision “based on a factual 23 determination will not be overturned on factual grounds unless objectively unreasonable 24 in light of the evidence presented in the state-court proceeding.” See Miller-El, 537 U.S. 25 at 340; see also Torres v. Prunty, 223 F.3d 1103, 1107 (9th Cir. 2000). 26 The state court decision to which § 2254(d) applies is the “last reasoned decision” 27 of the state court. See Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803-04 (1991); Barker v. 28 Fleming, 423 F.3d 1085, 1091-92 (9th Cir. 2005). When there is no reasoned opinion 4 1 from the highest state court to consider the petitioner’s claims, the court looks to the last 2 reasoned opinion. See Nunnemaker at 801-06; Shackleford v. Hubbard, 234 F.3d 1072, 3 1079 n.2 (9th Cir. 2000). Here, the court looks to the California Court of Appeal opinion 4 for the sole claim in the petition. DISCUSSION 5 6 As grounds for federal habeas relief, petitioner asserts that there was insufficient 7 evidence for the finding of contempt because the state court order enjoining his actions 8 on behalf of SSF violated the Constitution. 9 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 LEGAL STANDARD The Due Process Clause “protects the accused against conviction except upon 11 proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with 12 which he is charged.” In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364 (1970). A state prisoner who 13 alleges that the evidence in support of his state conviction cannot be fairly characterized 14 as sufficient to have led a rational trier of fact to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt 15 therefore states a constitutional claim, see Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 321 (1979), 16 which, if proven, entitles him to federal habeas relief, see id. at 324. 17 The Supreme Court has emphasized that “Jackson claims face a high bar in 18 federal habeas proceedings . . . .” Coleman v. Johnson, 566 U.S. 650, 651, 655 (2012) 19 (per curiam) (finding that the 3rd Circuit “unduly impinged on the jury’s role as factfinder” 20 and failed to apply the deferential standard of Jackson when it engaged in “fine-grained 21 factual parsing” to find that the evidence was insufficient to support petitioner’s 22 conviction). A federal court reviewing collaterally a state court conviction does not 23 determine whether it is satisfied that the evidence established guilt beyond a reasonable 24 doubt. Payne v. Borg, 982 F.2d 335, 338 (9th Cir. 1992); see, e.g., Coleman, 566 U.S. at 25 656 (“the only question under Jackson is whether [the jury’s finding of guilt] was so 26 insupportable as to fall below the threshold of bare rationality”). The federal court 27 “determines only whether, ‘after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the 28 prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime 5 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 beyond a reasonable doubt.’” Payne, 982 F.2d at 338 (quoting Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319). 2 Only if no rational trier of fact could have found proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, 3 has there been a due process violation. Jackson, 443 U.S. at 324; Payne, 982 F.2d at 4 338. 5 ANALYSIS 6 The Alameda County Superior Court which had enjoined petitioner from interfering 7 with the discharge of the receiver’s duties and from communicating in a way that could 8 lead the recipient to believe the communication was made on behalf of the receivership 9 entity, found him in contempt for violating these orders by filing the involuntary 10 bankruptcy petition against Leong on behalf of SSF. Answer, AG0000556-65. After the 11 California Court of Appeal granted relief as to another contempt finding, the court stated 12 that it had “considered petitioner’s challenge to the remaining contempt count [regarding 13 the bankruptcy petition] and concludes it does not appear petitioner has persuasively 14 demonstrated an entitlement to writ relief regarding that count.” Id. at AG0001748, n.1. 15 Petitioner argues that the Alameda County Superior Court order preventing him 16 from filing a bankruptcy petition in federal court violated his rights under the Constitution; 17 therefore, the order of contempt for violating the superior court order was improper and 18 lacked sufficient evidence. Petitioner has failed to demonstrate that the state court 19 opinion denying his petition was an objectively unreasonable application of Supreme 20 Court authority. 21 Petitioner argues that he has a constitutionally protected right to file a petition in 22 the bankruptcy court. While he cites cases that support this proposition, it is not a 23 uniform rule and there are exceptions. Petitioner relies on Donovan v. City of Dallas, 377 24 U.S. 408 (1964), to support his argument. However, Donovan involved plaintiffs whom 25 the state court sought to enjoin from proceeding with a pending federal action. Id. The 26 Supreme Court noted that “[e]arly in the history of our country a general rule was 27 established that state and federal courts would not interfere with or try to restrain each 28 other's proceedings.” Id. at 412. The Supreme Court also noted, “An exception has 6 1 been made in cases where a court has custody of property, that is, proceedings in rem or 2 quasi in rem. In such cases this Court has said that the state or federal court having 3 custody of such property has exclusive jurisdiction to proceed.” Id. 4 5 over SSF, that is the subject of the parties’ dispute, before petitioner began litigation in 6 federal courts. This is distinguishable from Donovan, where the parties had already been 7 litigating in federal court before the state court took action. Furthermore, because SSF 8 was in state receivership, the California Court of Appeal could have construed the facts in 9 this case to fall within the exception noted in Donovan. The state court’s finding is 10 11 United States District Court Northern District of California In the instant case the Alameda County Superior Court had exercised jurisdiction supported by the record and was not objectively unreasonable. Nor has petitioner identified established Supreme Court authority pertaining to a 12 constitutionally protected right to file an involuntary bankruptcy against another party. 13 The Second Circuit noted, “We hold that while it should be sparsely exercised, district 14 courts possess the authority and discretion to enter anti-litigation orders, including those 15 that bar the filing of involuntary bankruptcy petitions absent the district court's 16 permission.” Sec. & Exch. Comm’n v. Byers, 609 F.3d 87, 89 (2d Cir. 2010). For all 17 these reasons, petitioner has failed to show that the state court denial of his claim was 18 contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law. 19 There was also sufficient evidence that the petitioner’s actions violated the state 20 court order. The superior court set forth specific reasons as to how petitioner was in 21 contempt by filing the bankruptcy petition, and the California Court of Appeal found he 22 was not entitled to relief. To the extent petitioner argues that the state court was 23 incorrect in its analysis of state law and the contempt statute, he is not entitled to habeas 24 relief. The Jackson standard must be applied with reference to the substantive elements 25 of the criminal offense as defined by state law. Jackson, 443 U.S. at 324 n.16; see, e.g., 26 Boyer v. Belleque, 659 F.3d 957, 968 (9th Cir. 2011) (concluding it was not 27 unreasonable, in light of Oregon case law, for Oregon court to conclude that a rational 28 jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that petitioner intended to kill his victim based 7 1 on proof that he anally penetrated several victims with knowledge that he could infect 2 them with AIDS). The state court’s ruling on the state law issue is binding on this court. United States District Court Northern District of California 3 The “minimum amount of evidence that the Due Process Clause requires to prove 4 the offense is purely a matter of federal law,” Coleman, 566 U.S. at 655, and petitioner 5 has not shown that the state court was objectively unreasonable in finding sufficient 6 evidence to support the contempt finding in light of the high bar for Jackson claims. 7 Multiple orders were issued barring petitioner from certain actions and from interfering 8 with the receiver. Yet he filed two bankruptcy petitions on behalf of receivership entities 9 in the United States Bankruptcy Court in the District of Delaware and an involuntary 10 petition in the Northern District of California. The state courts found that trying to put the 11 receivership entities into bankruptcy and trying to impose a stay over receivership assets 12 amounted to interference with the receiver’s duties. The receivership incurred costs and 13 it complicated pending and future sale transactions that had been authorized by the 14 court. The state courts also found that petitioner communicated with other persons or 15 entities in a manner that would lead them to believe that petitioner was acting on behalf 16 of a receivership entity. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the receiver, 17 there was sufficient evidence for the state court to find petitioner in contempt. The state 18 court decision was not objectively unreasonable; therefore, petitioner is not entitled to 19 habeas relief. 20 21 APPEALABILITY The federal rules governing habeas cases brought by state prisoners require a 22 district court that denies a habeas petition to grant or deny a certificate of appealability 23 (“COA”) in the ruling. See Rule 11(a), Rules Governing § 2254 Cases, 28 U.S.C. foll. 24 § 2254 (effective December 1, 2009). 25 To obtain a COA, petitioner must make “a substantial showing of the denial of a 26 constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). “Where a district court has rejected the 27 constitutional claims on the merits, the showing required to satisfy § 2253(c) is 28 straightforward: The petitioner must demonstrate that reasonable jurists would find the 8 1 district court’s assessment of the constitutional claims debatable or wrong.” See Slack v. 2 McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000). Section 2253(c)(3) requires a court granting a COA 3 to indicate which issues satisfy the COA standard. Here, petitioner has made no showing 4 warranting a certificate, and so none is granted. CONCLUSION 5 6 7 1. The petition for writ of habeas corpus is DENIED on the merits. A certificate of appealability is DENIED. See Rule11(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases. 8 2. The clerk shall close the file. 9 IT IS SO ORDERED. 10 Dated: November 21, 2018 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON United States District Judge 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 9 1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 WARREN HAVENS, Case No. 17-cv-06772-PJH Plaintiff, v. CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE XAVIER BECERRA, Defendant. I, the undersigned, hereby certify that I am an employee in the Office of the Clerk, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. That on November 21, 2018, I SERVED a true and correct copy(ies) of the attached, by placing said copy(ies) in a postage paid envelope addressed to the person(s) hereinafter listed, by depositing said envelope in the U.S. Mail, or by placing said copy(ies) into an inter-office delivery receptacle located in the Clerk's office. Warren Havens 2649 Benvenue Avenue Berkeley, CA 94704 19 20 21 22 23 Dated: November 21, 2018 Susan Y. Soong Clerk, United States District Court 24 25 26 ______________________ Kelly Collins, Deputy Clerk to the Honorable PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON 27 28 10