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Herrera v. Gipson

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 25, 2014

ROBERTO HERRERA, Petitioner,
v.
CONNIE GIPSON, Respondent.

ORDER

KIMBERLY J. MUELLER, District Judge.

Respondent's motion for reconsideration of the magistrate judge's order granting an evidentiary hearing on petitioner's claim that his guilty plea was involuntary is pending before the court. The motion was submitted without argument. Having considered the papers filed by the parties, the record in this action, and for the reasons set forth below, the court DENIES the motion for reconsideration.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 9, 2010, in Lassen County Superior Court, petitioner pled guilty to and was convicted of battery by a prisoner on a non-confined person and possessing and carrying a sharp instrument while confined in a penal institution. Lodg. Doc. 2 at 43-52.

On or around October 21, 2010, petitioner filed a request for a certificate of probable cause with the state trial court on several grounds, including that petitioner's guilty plea was involuntary. Lodg. Doc. 1 at 45. On November 5, 2010, the trial court denied petitioner's request for a certificate of probable cause without comment. Id. at 48.

On May 9, 2011, petitioner presented his constitutional claim that his plea was involuntary to the California Court of Appeal. Lodg. Doc. 4. The Court of Appeal denied petitioner's claim on August 2, 2011. People v. Herrera, No. C066207, 2011 WL 3300160 (Cal.Ct.App. Aug. 2, 2011).

On October 26, 2011, petitioner presented his claim to the California Supreme Court in a petition for writ of habeas corpus and requested an evidentiary hearing. Lodg. Doc. 5. On February 29, 2012, the California Supreme Court denied the petition without comment. Lodg. Doc. 6.

On February 27, 2012, petitioner filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus, challenging his 2010 conviction. ECF No. 1.

On February 8, 2013, the magistrate judge held a status conference during which he directed the parties to file supplemental briefs addressing whether an evidentiary hearing is required. ECF Nos. 46, 47.

On January 23, 2014, following the parties' briefing, the magistrate judge issued an order setting an evidentiary hearing on petitioner's claim that his guilty plea was involuntary. ECF No. 60. The magistrate judge reasoned petitioner's claim had not been adjudicated on the merits in state court, and, even assuming it was, the decision was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the circumstances leading up to petitioner's plea colloquy. Id. Based on this conclusion, the magistrate judge found an evidentiary hearing appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2). Id.

On February 24, 2014, respondent filed a motion for reconsideration of the magistrate judge's order setting the evidentiary hearing. ECF No. 67. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is DENIED.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS ON A MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a) directs district judges to consider timely objections to nondispositive pretrial orders issued by magistrate judges and to "modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law." See also Local Rule 303(f); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). "A finding is clearly erroneous' when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing [body] on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.'" Concrete Pipe and Prods. of Cal., Inc. v. Constr. Laborers Pension Trust, 508 U.S. 602, 622 (1993) (quoting United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)). "[R]eview under the clearly erroneous' standard is significantly deferential...." Concrete Pipe and Prods. of Cal., 508 U.S. at 623. "To succeed [on a motion for reconsideration], a party must set forth facts or law of a strongly convincing nature to induce the court to reverse its prior decision." Enriquez v. City of Fresno, No. CV F 10-0581 AWI DLB, 2011 WL 1087149, at *1, 3 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 23, 2011). Furthermore, when filing a motion for reconsideration, a party must show "what new or different facts or circumstances are claimed to exist which did not exist or were not shown upon such prior motion, or what other grounds exist for the motion." E.D. Cal. Local Rule 230(j)(3). "A motion for reconsideration may not be used to raise arguments or present evidence for the first time when they could reasonably have been raised earlier in the litigation.'" Marlyn Nutraceuticals, Inc. v. Mucos Pharma GmbH & Co. (Marlyn ), 571 F.3d 873, 880 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Kona Enters., Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th Cir. 2000)).

III. ANALYSIS

A. The Magistrate Judge's Order

In his order filed January 23, 2014, the magistrate judge first considered whether the state court's acceptance of petitioner's guilty plea was a reasoned decision on the merits of petitioner's constitutional claim that his guilty plea was involuntary. ECF No. 60 at 13. He found petitioner's claim that his plea was involuntary is a new claim that was not raised in the state trial court, concluding, "[u]nder these circumstances, the trial court's acceptance of petitioner's guilty plea was not a decision on the merits of any claim presented by petitioner that his guilty plea was involuntary." Id.

The magistrate judge also found that, even assuming the trial court's acceptance of petitioner's guilty plea was a ruling on the merits, the state trial court's decision was "based on an unreasonable determination of the facts" under § 2254(d)(2) in light of the circumstances leading up to petitioner's plea colloquy. Id. at 13-14. He reasoned the state trial court "essentially ignored evidence/circumstances which indicated that the coercive circumstances petitioner had repeatedly explained to the court were still motivating his guilty plea." Id. Thus, the magistrate judge concluded § 2254(d) does not govern petitioner's federal claim and the claim is reviewed de novo. Id.

Finally, the magistrate judge found petitioner satisfied the due diligence requirement for an evidentiary hearing under § 2254(e)(2) and established a colorable claim for relief. Id. at 14-18. In that regard, the magistrate judge explained that, under the circumstances presented in this action, "there is certainly reason to doubt the sincerity of the colloquy at petitioner's third change of plea hearing." Id. at 16.

B. The Motion for Reconsideration

On February 24, 2014, respondent filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing the magistrate judge erred in finding no state court reached the merits of petitioner's involuntary plea claim. ECF No. 67 at 7. Respondent contends "[t]he trial judge found Petitioner's plea was voluntary by accepting it" and the same court "found no merit to a claim of involuntariness by denying [p]etitioner leave to appeal on that ground." Id.

i. Evidentiary Hearings in Federal Habeas Cases

The decision whether to grant an evidentiary hearing is grounded in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), which provides in relevant part:

(d) 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.
(e)(1) In a proceeding instituted by an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court, a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct. The applicant shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.
(2) If the applicant has failed to develop the factual basis of a claim in State court proceedings, the court shall not hold an evidentiary hearing on ...

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