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Hall v. Fox

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 22, 2017

JAMES EARL HALL, Petitioner,
v.
ROBERT FOX, Respondent.

          ORDER

          DEBORAH BARNES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Before the court is petitioner's petition, motion to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”), and motion to appoint counsel. (ECF Nos. 1; 2; 6.) For the reasons set for the below, this court will grant petitioner's request to proceed IFP, dismiss the petition, provide petitioner an opportunity to amend the petition, and deny petitioner's motion to appoint counsel.

         BACKGROUND

         Petitioner initiated this action in November of 2016 by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (ECF No. 1.) Therein, petitioner challenges his 1998 conviction and sentence rendered by the Placer County Superior Court.

         APPLICATION TO PROCEED IFP

         Examination of the affidavit accompanying petitioner's motion to proceed IFP reveals he is unable to afford the costs of this action. Accordingly, leave to proceed IFP is granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a).

         SCREENING

         I. Legal Standards

         The court is required to screen all actions brought by prisoners who seek any form of relief, including habeas relief, from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a habeas petition or portion thereof if the prisoner raises claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious” or fail to state a basis on which habeas relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). This means the court must dismiss a habeas petition “[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief[.]” Rule 4 Governing Section 2254 Cases.

         Rule 11 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases provides that “[t]he Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to the extent that they are not inconsistent with any statutory provisions or these rules, may be applied to a proceeding under these rules.” Drawing on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, when considering whether a petition presents a claim upon which habeas relief can be granted, the court must accept the allegations of the petition as true, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), and construe the petition in the light most favorable to the petitioner, see Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), but “[i]t is well-settled that ‘[c]onclusory allegations which are not supported by a statement of specific facts do not warrant habeas relief.'” Jones v. Gomez, 66 F.3d 199, 204 (9th Cir. 1995) (quoting James v. Borg, 24 F.3d 20, 26 (9th Cir. 1994)). See also Corjasso v. Ayers, 278 F.3d 874, 878 (9th Cir. 2002) (“Pro se habeas petitioners may not be held to the same technical standards as litigants represented by counsel.”); Porter v. Ollison, 620 F.3d 952, 958 (9th Cir. 2010) (“[T]he petitioner is not entitled to the benefit of every conceivable doubt; the court is obligated to draw only reasonable factual inferences in the petitioner's favor.”)

         Rule 2(c) of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases requires every habeas petition to (1) specify all the grounds for relief available to the petitioner; (2) state the facts supporting each ground; and (3) state the relief requested. Although, as stated above, pro se petitions receive less scrutiny for precision than those drafted by lawyers, a petitioner must give fair notice of his claims by stating the factual and legal elements of each claim in a short, plain, and succinct manner. See Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 644, 648 (2005) (“In ordinary civil proceedings ... Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only 'a short and plain statement[.] ... Rule 2(c) of the Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases requires a more detailed statement.”) Allegations in a petition that are vague, conclusory, or palpably incredible, and that are unsupported by a statement of specific facts, are insufficient to warrant relief and are subject to summary dismissal. Jones v. Gomez, 66 F.3d 199, 204-05 (9th Cir.1995); James v. Borg, 24 F.3d 20, 26 (9th Cir.1994).

         II. Discussion

         Petitioner claims two grounds for habeas relief in his petition: (1) That two prior convictions arising out of a single act do not constitute two strikes under the three strikes law; and (2) That the great bodily injury sentence enhancements as to counts 2 and 7 were applied unlawfully. (ECF No. 1.)

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”) imposes “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) (quoting Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333 n. 7 (1997)). Section 2241(c) provides that habeas corpus shall not extend to a prisoner unless he is “in custody in violation of the Constitution.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) states, “[A] district court shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to a 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.” See also Rule 1 to the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Court. “[F]ederal habeas corpus relief does not lie for errors of ...


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