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Vasquez v. Beard

United States District Court, S.D. California

August 3, 2016

JUAN VASQUEZ, Petitioner,
JEFFREY BEARD, Secretary, Respondent.


          Hon. Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge

         Presently before the Court is Petitioner Juan Vasquez's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. (Pet., ECF No. 1.) Also before the Court is Magistrate Judge David H. Bartick's Report and Recommendation, (R&R, ECF No. 12), advising the Court to deny the Petition, and Petitioner's Objections to the R&R, (Objections, ECF No. 15). Having considered the facts and the law, the Court (1) OVERRULES Vasquez's Objections, (2) ADOPTS the R&R in its entirety, (3) DENIES Vasquez's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, and (4) DENIES a Certificate of Appealability.


         Judge Bartick's R&R contains a thorough and accurate recitation of the factual and procedural history underlying the instant motion. (R&R 2-4, ECF No. 12.) This Order incorporates by reference the background as set forth in the R&R.


         I. Review of the Report and Recommendation

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) set forth a district court's duties in connection with a magistrate judge's R&R. The district court must "make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made, " and "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 673-76 (1980); United States v. Remsing, 874 F.2d 614, 617 (9th Cir. 1989). However, in the absence of timely objection, the Court "need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note (citing Campbell v. U.S. Dist. Court, 501 F.2d 196, 206 (9th Cir. 1974)).

         II. Cognizable Claim for Federal Relief

         Under federal law, a prisoner seeking relief on claims related to imprisonment may file a petition for habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A federal court "shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus [on] behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Federal courts reviewing § 2254 petitions are bound by a state's interpretation of its own laws. Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 72 (1991).

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) controls the review of federal habeas petitions. Premo v. Moore, 562 U.S. 115, 120-21 (2011). AEDPA establishes a "highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, " requiring "that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt." Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002). A federal court can grant habeas relief only when the result of a claim adjudicated on the merits by a state court "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, " or "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 100 (2011).

         A state court's decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law if it (1) applies a rule that contradicts governing Supreme Court authority, or (2) "confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from" a Supreme Court decision but reaches a different result. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)). An "unreasonable" application of precedent "must have been more than incorrect or erroneous"; it "must have been 'objectively unreasonable.'" Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520-21 (2003). An unreasonable application of federal law is not the same as an incorrect application of federal law. Richter, 562 U.S. at 101-02 (reversing the court of appeals for conducting what was essentially a de novo review of federal issues adjudicated by a state court). Rather, if "fair-minded jurists could disagree" on an application of federal law, habeas relief is not allowed. Id. (citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). This standard is intended to be "difficult to meet, " because habeas relief is meant to '"guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, ' not [to be] a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal." Id. at 102-03 (citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332 n.5 (1979)).

         Further, even if a reviewing federal court determines a constitutional error has occurred, relief is only authorized if the petitioner can show that the error had "a substantial and injurious effect or influence" on his conviction or sentence. Bains v. Cambra, 204 F.3d 964, 977-78 (9th Cir. 2000).

         With regard to state courts' factual determinations, federal courts are not tasked with determining whether a "state court's determination was incorrect but whether that determination was unreasonable-a substantially higher threshold." Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007); see also Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 410 (2000). Federal courts are required to presume the correctness state a state court's factual determinations "unless applicants rebut this presumption with 'clear and convincing evidence.'" Schriro, 550 U.S. at 473-74 (quoting § 2254(e)(1)).

         When the state court issues a summary denial of arguments first presented in a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to the California Supreme Court, the habeas petitioner has the burden of showing "there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief." Richter, 562 U.S. at 98. When a lower state court has reviewed the claims in question, however, the reviewing federal court should "look through" to the last reasoned opinion on the matter. See Cannedy v. Adams,706 F.3d 1148, 1157 (9th Cir. 2013) (reasoning that "because the California Supreme Court summarily denied the petition, [the court] must 'look through' that judgment to the last reasoned state-court decision on the merits, " which would be the California Court of Appeal) amended on denial ofreh 'g,733 F.3d 794 (9th Cir. 2013); see also Ylst v. Nimnemaker,501 U.S. 797, 803 (1991) ("Where there has been one reasoned state judgment rejecting a federal claim, later unexplained orders upholding that ...

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