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Gaxiola v. Almager

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


November 29, 2006

ARTURO DELGADO GAXIOLA, PETITIONER,
v.
V. M. ALMAGER, WARDEN, RESPONDENT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court

ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION [Doc. No. 19]

Presently before the Court is petitioner's motion for reconsideration of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. [Doc. No. 19.] On October 1, 2001, this Court dismissed the petition with prejudice. [Doc. No. 12.] Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6),*fn1 petitioner now moves this Court to reconsider its dismissal in light of a new Ninth Circuit case.

The Court finds that petitioner has followed the correct procedural posture in bringing this motion. Rule 60(b), rather than a successive petition, "is the appropriate rule to invoke when one wishes a court to reconsider claims it has already decided." Hamilton v. Newland, 374 F.3d 822, 825 (9th Cir. 2004).

Petitioner specifically asks this Court to reconsider its rejection of petitioner's claim for ineffective assistance of counsel, in light of the opinion in Buckley v. Terhune, 441 F.3d 688 (9th Cir. 2006). The Court previously rejected petitioner's claim because petitioner could not establish any prejudice from counsel's allegedly ineffective assistance. [Doc. No. 12, at 7-8.]

The Court finds Buckley unavailing to petitioner, as it does not change the law on the requirement of prejudice in claims for ineffective assistance of counsel. Instead, in Buckley, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the grant of Buckley's writ because the California state court had violated § 2254 when it found that Buckley "well knew" the potential sentence for the offense to which he had pled guilty. 441 F.3d at 691. Although Buckley had signed a felony disposition statement providing that he could be sentenced "for a maximum possible term of 15 year(s)," the district attorney subsequently added a paragraph describing the "maximum term of 15 years to life." Id. at 691-92. The state court's finding was contrary to federal law because the interpretation of state-court plea agreements was a matter of state law, California law required interpretation of plea agreements as contracts, and the state court failed to apply California contract law. Id. at 696. Although this petitioner likewise claims to believe that he would receive a 15-year sentence for pleading guilty, the similarities between this case and Buckley end there. Nothing in Buckley justifies reconsideration of this Court's prior finding that the state court's proper explanation of the petitioner's potential sentence cured any erroneous predictions by defense counsel.

Petitioner also seeks to analogize to Buckley by claiming that petitioner's handwritten request to withdraw his guilty plea creates ambiguity in the plea agreement.*fn2 Such an analogy is unavailing because, as Buckley clearly explains, California contract law requires a court first to determine whether the agreement's language is ambiguous. 441 F.3d at 695. Here, petitioner has made no allegation of ambiguity in the language of his plea agreement. If this Court were to grant petitioner's motion on the basis of extrinsic evidence, without a finding of ambiguity, it would commit clear legal error. Id. at 696.

Therefore, for the reasons stated herein, the Court DENIES petitioner's motion for reconsideration.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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