United States District Court, D. Nevada
ROBERT C. JONES, District Judge.
Before the court are the amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (#15), respondents' answer (#49), and petitioner's reply (#56). The court finds that relief is not warranted, and the court denies the amended petition.
In state court, petitioner was convicted of two counts of domestic battery, two counts of battery causing substantial bodily harm, and one count of assault with a deadly weapon. Ex. 37 (#23). Petitioner's direct appeal and post-conviction habeas corpus proceedings in state court were unsuccessful.
Petitioner then commenced this action. The amended petition (#49) contained sixteen grounds. Ground 16 was a claim that petitioner received ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel in state court. The court dismissed ground 16 when it screened the petition, because there is no right to effective assistance of post-conviction counsel. Order (#16). Reasonable jurists would not find this conclusion to be debatable or wrong, and the court will not issue a certificate of appealability on the matter.
Respondents filed a motion to dismiss. The court determined that petitioner had not exhausted many grounds in the amended petition. Order (#37). Petitioner elected to dismiss those grounds. Decl. (#44). Grounds 3, 8(2), 15(I)(A), 15(I)(B), 15(I)(C), and 15(II) remain.
The court had denied petitioner a stay because he had not shown good cause for the failure to exhaust. The court of appeals has since elaborated on what constitutes cause to justify a stay. Blake v. Baker, ___ F.3d ___ , 2014 WL 983623 (9th Cir. Mar. 14 2014). The court will issue a certificate of appealability on the matter of the denial of a stay.
Congress has limited the circumstances in which a federal court can grant relief to a petitioner who is in custody pursuant to a judgment of conviction of a state court.
An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim-
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). "By its terms § 2254(d) bars relitigation of any claim adjudicated on the merits' in state court, subject only to the exceptions in §§ 2254(d)(1) and (d)(2)." Harrington v. Richter , 131 S.Ct. 770, 784 (2011).
Federal habeas relief may not be granted for claims subject to § 2254(d) unless it is shown that the earlier state court's decision "was contrary to" federal law then clearly established in the holdings of this Court, § 2254(d)(1); Williams v. Taylor , 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000); or that it "involved an unreasonable application of" such law, § 2254(d)(1); or that it "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts" in light of the record before the state court, § 2254(d)(2).
Richter , 131 S.Ct. at 785. "For purposes of § 2254(d)(1), an unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law.'" Id . (citation omitted). "A state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision." Id . (citation omitted).
[E]valuating whether a rule application was unreasonable requires considering the rule's specificity. The more general the rule, the more leeway courts have in reaching outcomes in case-by-case determinations.
Yarborough v. Alvarado , 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004).
Under § 2254(d), a habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported or, as here, could have supported, the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories ...