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Fernandez v. Cox

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 6, 2017

RENE F. FERNANDEZ, Petitioner,
v.
JAMES GREG COX, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          Gloria M. Navarro, Chief Judge.

         Before the court are the amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (ECF No. 21), respondents' answer (ECF No. 50), and petitioner's reply (ECF No. 51). The court finds that relief is not warranted, and the court denies the petition.

         After a jury trial, petitioner was convicted of one count each of conspiracy to violate the controlled substance act, trafficking in a controlled substance, and transport of a controlled substance. Ex. 2 (ECF No. 31-2). Petitioner appealed, and the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed. Ex. 5 (ECF No. 31-5).

         Petitioner then filed in the state district court a post-conviction habeas corpus petition and a subsequent supplement. Ex. 6 (ECF No. 31-6), Ex. 6A (ECF No. 31-7). The state district court denied the petition. Ex. 8 (ECF No. 31-9). Petitioner appealed, and the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed. Ex. 9 (ECF No. 31-10).

         Petitioner then commenced this action. The court dismissed ground 6 because it was based upon a confusion of the federal and state schedules of controlled substances. ECF No. 6, ECF No. 49. The answer and the reply followed.

         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, 562 U.S. 86, 98 (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, 562 U.S. at 100. “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, 562 U.S. at 102.

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 103.

         All claims are claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. 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 ineffective assistance ...


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