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Alvaro Quezada v. Al K. Scribner

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


October 13, 2011

ALVARO QUEZADA, PETITIONER,
v.
AL K. SCRIBNER, RESPONDENT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Ronald S.W. Lew Senior, U.S. District Court Judge

ORDER re: Respondent's Motion for Review of United States Magistrate Judge's Partial Denial of Respondent's Motion to Depart From Mandate [98]

On October 4, 2011, Respondent Al K. Scribner's ("Respondent") Motion for Review of United States Magistrate Judge's Partial Denial of Respondent's Motion to Depart From Mandate came on for regular calendar before the Court [98]. The Court having reviewed all papers submitted pertaining to this Motion and having considered all arguments presented to the Court NOW FINDS AND RULES AS FOLLOWS:

The Court hereby OVERRULES Respondent's Motion and AFFIRMS the Magistrate Judge's order.

I. BACKGROUND

This Action stems from a Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Petitioner Alvaro Quezada ("Petitioner") on September 10, 2004 [1]. This Court originally denied Petitioner's Writ of Habeas Corpus on November 21, 2007. However, on August 18, 2010, the Ninth Circuit remanded Petitioner's Writ back to this Court and issued a mandate for an evidentiary hearing regarding the admissibility of new evidence pertaining to Petitioner's Brady violation claim [65]. In response, Respondent filed a Motion with Magistrate Judge Marc L. Goldman to stop the hearing and depart from the Ninth Circuit's Mandate pursuant to Supreme Court precedent [92].*fn1 Magistrate Judge Goldman, however, issued an Order partially denying Respondent's Motion, finding that Pinholster does not apply to Petitioner's Brady violation claim because the Superior Court did not reject the Brady violation claim on the merits [97].*fn2

On September 2, 2011, Respondent filed this present Motion for Review of the Magistrate's Partial Denial of Respondent's Motion to Depart from Mandate [98].

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"When a pretrial matter not dispositive of a party's claim or defense is referred to a magistrate judge" and the magistrate judge issues an order stating the decision, a party may object to the magistrate judge's order by filing a motion for the district judge to overrule the magistrate judge. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 72(a). In reviewing the order from the magistrate judge, "[t]he district judge in the case must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or contrary to law." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 72(a).

To conclude that a magistrate judge is "clearly erroneous, the district court must arrive at a 'definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.'" Folb v. Motion Picture Indus. Pension & Health Plans, 16 F. Supp. 2d 1164, 1168 (C.D. Cal. 1998)(quoting Federal Sav. & Loan Ins. Corp. v. Commonwealth Land Title Ins. Co., 130 F.R.D. 507 (D.D.C. 1990)).

III. DISCUSSION

The Court finds that the Magistrate Judge did not clearly err in concluding that the Superior Court disposed of Petitioner's Brady violation claim solely on procedural grounds.

Upon review, the Court finds that the language of the Superior Court's decision is in accordance with the Magistrate Judge's ruling that the Superior Court did not rule on the merits. More specifically, the Superior Court was explicit in rejecting Petitioner's Brady violation claim as untimely and hence procedurally barred. At the beginning of its ruling, the Superior Court stated in pertinent part that:

Petitioner contends that he has met a timeliness exception by virtue of recent discovery of new evidence. . . . As discussed subsequently, [Petitioner] fails to demonstrate the 'constitutional magnitude' necessary to be granted an exception.

This petition is not timely."

Resp. Mot. at Ex. B. at 22 (emphasis added).

The Court finds that this excerpt makes it clear that the Superior Court denied Petitioner's Brady habeas claim as untimely and not within the "constitutional magnitude" exception to timeliness.*fn3

Respondent argues that the Superior Court's decision should be viewed as containing two alternate rulings, one on procedural grounds and one on the merits. To support its argument, Respondent highlights various passages that allegedly indicate that the Superior Court made a ruling on the merits. When read in isolation, the passages highlighted by Respondent may be misinterpreted as an analysis on the merits given that the standard for proof for the "constitutional magnitude" exception to timeliness is similar to a discussion of the merits of a habeas claim.*fn4 The Court finds, however, that when read in the context of the Superior Court's decision as a whole, these passages can only be interpreted to be a discussion of the "constitutional magnitude" exception to timeliness. More specifically, all these passages follow the Superior Court's explicit statement that the "constitutional magnitude" exception will be "discussed subsequently." Resp. Mot. at Ex. B. at 22

In sum, the Court finds that the language of the Superior Court's decision supports the Magistrate Judge's ruling.

IV. CONCLUSION

Accordingly, the Court finds that the Magistrate Judge was not clearly erroneous in deciding that the Superior Court made a ruling solely on procedural grounds and that Pinholster does not apply. As such, the Court OVERRULES Respondent's objections to the Magistrate Judge's order and AFFIRMS the Magistrate Judge's order.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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