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Richard Allen Arnold v. Director of Correctionsrehabilitation

January 18, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorablelarryalanburns United States District Judge


Richard Arnold, a prisoner in state custody, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in this Court challenging an October 2002 conviction for murder, attempted murder, and related charges. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Civil Local Rule 72.1(c) and (d), the petition was referred to Magistrate Judge Louisa Porter for a report and recommendation. Judge Porter issued her R&R on March 24, 2010, and for the reasons given below, the Court ADOPTS it in its entirety.

I. Legal Standard

In reviewing an R&R, "[t]he district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to. The district court may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." In other words, "the district judge must review the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations de novo if objection is made, but not otherwise." United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc). Because Arnold is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his pleadings liberally and affords him the benefit of any doubt. See Karim-Panahi v. L.A. Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). That said, "[p]ro se litigants must follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants." King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987).

II. Discussion

Arnold's habeas petition (or what remains of it) consists of three claims: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel and the denial of an evidentiary hearing; (2) denial of the right to confront adverse witnesses; and (3) denial of the right to present a complete defense. The R&R reviews the legal standards for federal habeas relief, and there is no need to cover them here. (See R&R at 3.)

A. Request for Counsel

At the outset, the Court DENIES Arnold's request for counsel to assist him with his habeas petition. The Sixth Amendment right to counsel does not extend to federal habeas corpus actions by state prisoners. Chaney v. Lewis, 801 F.2d 1191, 1196 (9th Cir. 1986); see also Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 756--57 (1991). It is true that financially eligible habeas petitioners may obtain representation whenever the Court "determines that the interests of justice so require," 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(a)(2)(B), but the hurdle is a high one: the facts of the particular case must indicate that "appointed counsel is necessary to prevent due process violations." Chaney, 801 F.2d at 1196. Additionally, the appointment of counsel may be necessary if the petitioner has such limited education that he or she is incapable of presenting his or her claims. Hawkins v. Bennett, 423 F.2d 948, 950 (8th Cir. 1970). The Court finds that Arnold's due process rights are not in jeopardy, and that he has proven himself to be sufficiently capable of pursuing habeas relief on his own. His previous requests for the appointment of counsel have been denied, and his present request is DENIED as well.

B. Request for an Evidentiary Hearing

Arnold's entitlement to an evidentiary hearing arises in two respects. First, he argues that he is entitled to an evidentiary hearing now, so that his habeas petition itself may be adjudicated fairly. The R&R reasons that a hearing isn't precluded by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2), but that there is no basis for one under Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293 (1963). The Court agrees. An evidentiary hearing isn't required "on issues that can be resolved by reference to the state court record," Totten v. Merkle, 137 F.3d 1172, 1176 (9th Cir. 1998), and, as the R&R concludes after a thorough review of the record in this case, "Arnold does not explain how an evidentiary hearing would produce material facts not already presented to the state courts." (R&R at 6.) Arnold's request for an evidentiary hearing is therefore DENIED.

Second, Arnold argues that his post-trial denial of an evidentiary hearing was a violation of his due process rights. The Court is again satisfied with the R&R's treatment of this argument. While predicated on Arnold's due process rights, it appears to actually implicate the trial court's application of state law, and state law claims can't be the basis of federal habeas relief. Langford v. Day, 110 F.3d 1380, 1389 (9th Cir. 1996). Morever, even if Arnold's claim here does implicate his due process rights, there is no indication in the record that the trial court's denial of an evidentiary hearing rose to the level of the deprivation identified in United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 653 (1984), on which Arnold relies. The Court therefore DENIES Arnold's claim that his due process rights were violated by the trial court's denial of an evidentiary hearing.

C. Ground Two - Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

While Arnold indicates in his objection to the R&R that he objects to its findings and conclusions with respect to his ineffective assistance of counsel claim, he does not specify what those objections are. In any event, the Court is satisfied with the R&R's analysis of this claim. Under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), counsel is legally ineffective only if his performance was unreasonable under prevailing professional standards and was plausibly the but-for cause of a ...

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