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Chavarin v. Holbrook

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 12, 2019

ARNULFO CHAVARIN, [1]Petitioner,
v.
DAVID HOLBROOK, [2]Respondent.

          ORDER

          KENDALL J. NEWMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Petitioner is a state prisoner, proceeding without counsel and in forma pauperis. Respondent moves to dismiss the petition on the grounds that petitioner fails to identify the claims he raises in this action. Petitioner filed an opposition, and respondent filed a reply. As set forth below, respondent's motion to dismiss is granted, but petitioner is granted leave to file an amended petition.

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         A. Legal Standards

         Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases allows a district court to dismiss a petition if it “plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court. . . .” Id. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has referred to a respondent's motion to dismiss as a request for the court to dismiss under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases. See, e.g., O'Bremski v. Maass, 915 F.2d 418, 420 (1991). Accordingly, the court reviews respondent's motion to dismiss pursuant to its authority under Rule 4.

         Rule 2(c) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases states that the petition “shall set forth in summary form the facts supporting each of the grounds . . . specified [in the petition].” Rule 2(c), 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254. See also Boehme v. Maxwell, 423 F.2d 1056, 1058 (9th Cir. 1970) (district court's dismissal of federal habeas proceeding affirmed where petitioner made conclusory allegations instead of factual allegations showing that he was entitled to relief).

         B. Discussion

         The instant petition violates Rule 2(c). Petitioner alleged he is raising four grounds for relief. In ground one, he stated, “see attached points & authorities” and “attached statement of facts.” (ECF No. 1 at 5.) In ground two, he stated “see attached briefs.” (ECF No. 1 at 7.) In ground three, petitioner wrote: “Direct Appeal only.” (ECF No. 1 at 8.) In ground four, he wrote, “Direct Appeal Only, ” and “see: Direct Appeal briefs only.” (ECF No. 1 at 10.) Petitioner included no allegations in his petition that would assist respondent, or the court, in determining what four claims petitioner is bringing in this action.

         As argued by respondent, such generalized references to the attachments fail to specifically identify each of the four claims petitioner intends to bring before this court. Although petitioner states he raises four claims, petitioner only raised two claims on direct appeal (insufficiency of evidence and sentencing error[3] claims) (ECF No. 1 at 18-19, 38-77), and only raised one claim (insufficiency of the evidence)[4] in his petition for review before the California Supreme Court (ECF No. 1 at 57-77). Thus, the petition is unclear as to the claims petitioner intends to pursue in this federal action.

         In his opposition, petitioner again fails to identify the claims he seeks to pursue. Rather, he asks the court to liberally interpret his pleadings with leniency and understanding, and states he is at a loss without counsel. In addition, petitioner states that the prison law library is not adequate and has not been operating as required. (ECF No. 16 at 1.)

         While courts are required to liberally construe pro se pleadings, the petition must identify the claims he intends to pursue on habeas. Hines v. Napolitano, 2007 WL 2859745 (S.D. Cal. Sept. 26, 2007) (the court is not required to ferret out grounds for relief). In order to satisfy Rule 2(c), petitioner must point to a “real possibility of constitutional error.” Cf. Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 75 n.7 (1977) (internal quotation marks omitted). Because the petition directs the reader to briefing that identifies only two claims, yet petitioner generically alleges he raises four claims, it is unclear both to respondent and the court exactly what claims petitioner intends to pursue. The form petition specifically provides sections for petitioner to identify the specific claim or ground upon which relief is sought. A petition should be sufficiently specific to permit the respondent to assert appropriate objections and defenses. Harris v. Allen, 739 F.Supp. 564, 565 (W.D. Okla.1989). Here, petitioner's failure to identify each ground for relief in the petition prevents respondent from being able to assert appropriate objections and defenses.

         Accordingly, the undersigned grants respondent's motion, but grants petitioner leave to file an amended petition. In such amended petition, petitioner must specifically identify each ...


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