United States District Court, D. Nevada
MIRANDA M. DU CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
habeas matter is before the Court on Petitioner Clifford
Wayne Miller's renewed motion for appointment of counsel.
(ECF No. 11.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court
grants the motion and provisionally appoints the Federal
challenges a 2006 conviction imposed by the Sixth Judicial
District Court for Humboldt County (“state
court”) pursuant to a jury verdict on two counts of
first-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon for the death
of his estranged wife and her boyfriend. In May 1999, police
responded to shots fired at an apartment building in
Winnemucca, Nevada. They found Miller outside the apartment
building suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the
head and the decedents' bodies were inside the
apartment. In spite of Miller's apparent suicide
attempt, he was found competent to stand trial. The state
court entered a judgment of conviction and sentenced Miller
to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of
initiated this case on November 7, 2019, by filing a petition
for writ of habeas corpus (ECF No. 1-1) under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. On November 21, 2019, the Court issued an order
to show cause (“OSC”) (ECF No. 6) directing
Miller to file an amended petition and to show cause in
writing within 30 days why certain claims should not be
dismissed as unexhausted. The OSC found that amendment was
necessary because the original petition was illegible,
unorganized, and contained duplicative claims. (Id.
at 2-3.) In addition, Miller's statements of exhaustion
were incomplete, internally inconsistent, and incorrect.
(Id. at 4-5.) Thus, the OSC specifically ordered
Miller to file “a factually detailed ‘response to
order to show cause,' showing cause why Grounds 3, 17,
18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, and 26 should not be dismissed
without prejudice because of Miller's failure to exhaust
such claims.” (Id. at 6.)
Court also denied Miller's first request for appointed
counsel in a separate order. (ECF No. 5.) This motion
indicated that additional facts supporting Miller's
request were attached to the form; however, nothing was
attached. The Court found that Miller showed sufficient
ability to write and articulate his grounds for relief and
his speculative assertion regarding the necessity of
discovery did not justify a grant of discovery or counsel at
that early stage of the case.
date, Miller has not responded to the OSC. However, he filed
an amended petition (ECF No. 7) and renewed his request for
counsel (ECF No. 11).
is no constitutional right to appointed counsel in a federal
habeas corpus proceeding. Luna v. Kernan, 784 F.3d
640, 642 (9th Cir. 2015) (citing Lawrence v.
Florida, 549 U.S. 327, 336-37 (2007)). However, an
indigent petitioner seeking habeas relief may request the
appointment of counsel to pursue that relief. 18 U.S.C.
§ 3006A(a)(2)(B). The court has discretion to appoint
counsel when the interests of justice so require. 18 U.S.C.
§ 3006A(a)(2). The interests of justice so require
“when the complexities of the case are such that denial
of counsel would amount to a denial of due process.”
Brown v. United States, 623 F.2d 54, 61 (9th Cir.
1980). In the absence of such circumstances, a request for
counsel in a § 2254 proceeding is addressed to the sound
discretion of the district court. Id. (citing
Dillon v. United States, 307 F.2d 445, 447 (9th Cir.
renewed motion, Miller provides a statement of facts
supporting his assertion that his case is complex. He
represents that his state post-conviction counsel currently
possesses nine full boxes of documents on his case. He
further states that he graduated high school but has no
meaningful knowledge of the law and the substantive and
procedural issues in this case are too complex for his
comprehension and abilities. Upon review of the amended
petition, the Court is persuaded that this case is factually
and procedurally complex. The amended petition states
multiple cognizable grounds for relief but, like the original
petition, this pleading is also unorganized with duplicative
allegations and claims. Miller realleges claims that the
Court identified as unexhausted in the original petition, yet
he did not submit a detailed factual response to the OSC as
ordered. (ECF No. 11.)
addition, the amended petition indicates that Miller will
rely in part on medical records and expert testimony to
support his habeas claims. In past cases before the Court,
inmates have not always been able to effectively review and
present their medical records while incarcerated due to
departmental restrictions on access, possession, and
transmittal of those records by inmates. Such restrictions
thus may hinder Miller's ability while proceeding pro
se to litigate claims based upon medical issues.
the nature of Miller's grounds for relief, his failure to
respond to the OSC, and his lengthy sentence of two
consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole,
the Court finds that appointment of counsel is in the
interests of justice.
Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3006A, provides that a
habeas petitioner must demonstrate financial eligibility in
all circumstances where the court appoints counsel.
Id. § 3006A(a) (counsel “shall be
provided for any financially eligible person”
(emphasis added)). Although the Court denied his application
to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”)
based on the amount of money in his inmate trust account and
average monthly deposits (ECF No. 4), Miller asserts that his
ability to pay the five dollar filing fee does not mean he
can afford counsel to litigate this case. The Court agrees.
For the purposes of appointing counsel under § 3006A,
the Court finds that Miller's IFP application
sufficiently demonstrated financial eligibility.