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Settles v. Legrand

United States District Court, D. Nevada

April 15, 2014

ROBERT LEGRAND, et al., Respondents.


ROBERT C. JONES, District Judge.

Before the court are the second amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus (#9), respondents' answer (#32), and petitioner's reply (#34). The court finds that relief is not warranted, and the court denies the second amended petition.

In state district court, petitioner agreed to plead guilty to one count of attempted lewdness with a child under the age of 14. Ex. 5 (#16).[1] The plea agreement informed petitioner that he would be sentenced to lifetime supervision in addition to any other penalties provided by law. Id. at 2 (#16). The judgment of conviction was entered on April 18, 2008. Ex. 6 (#16). The state court sentenced petitioner to prison for a maximum term of 240 months and a minimum term of 96 months, and the state court also imposed a special sentence of lifetime supervision. Id . Petitioner did not appeal. On March 25, 2009, petitioner filed in state district court a post-conviction habeas corpus petition. Ex. 7 (#16). The state district court first denied the petition because it was not verified. Ex. 9 (#16). Petitioner appealed. The Nevada Supreme Court reversed and remanded to give petitioner an opportunity to correct the defect. Ex. 10 (#16). Petitioner then filed a petition and memorandum with the verification. Ex. 11 (#16). The state district court denied the petition on March 4, 2010. Ex. 14 (#16). Petitioner appealed. The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed. Ex. 16 (#16).

Petitioner then commenced this action. The second amended petition (#9) is the operative petition. Respondents filed a motion to dismiss (#15). The court adopted respondents' division of petitioner's grounds for relief into sub-grounds. For various reasons, grounds 1(d), 1(f), 1(g), 4(a), 4(b), 6(a), 6(b), 6(c), 6(d), 6(e), 6(f) have been dismissed.

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 are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of this Court.

Richter , 131 S.Ct. at 786.

As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.

Id., at 786-87.

Ground 1 contains claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. "[T]he right to counsel is the right to the effective assistance of counsel." McMann v. Richardson , 397 U.S. 759, 771 & n.14 (1970). A petitioner claiming ineffective assistance of counsel must demonstrate (1) that the defense attorney's representation "fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, " Strickland v. Washington , 466 U.S. 668, 688 (1984), and (2) that the attorney's deficient performance prejudiced the defendant such that "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different, " id. at 694. "[T]here is no reason for a court deciding an ...

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