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McCurdy v. Davey

United States District Court, N.D. California

January 2, 2020

JAMES C. MCCURDY, Petitioner,
v.
DAVE DAVEY, Warden, Respondent.

          ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS; DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY; DIRECTIONS TO CLERK

          BETH LABSON FREEMAN United States District Judge

         Petitioner filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the revocation of his probation. Dkt. No. 1. After the Petition was dismissed in part, see Dkt. No. 23, Respondent filed an answer on the merits (“Answer”). Dkt. No. 35. Petitioner filed a traverse (“Traverse”). See Dkt. No. 47 (titled “Denial and Exception”). For the reasons set forth below, the Petition is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 11, 2011, Petitioner pleaded no contest to felony transportation of a controlled substance. See Dkt. No. 17-1, Ex. A at 153:23. A seven-year suspended sentence was imposed, and Petitioner was placed on five years' probation. See Dkt. No. 17-1, Ex. B at 165:21-25. On June 4, 2014, Petitioner's probation was revoked and he was committed to prison for seven years. See Dkt. No. 17-1, Ex. D at 3:15-18.

         Petitioner did not appeal the revocation of his probation. Instead, Petitioner filed a petition for resentencing in Sonoma County Superior Court, as well as habeas petitions in Sonoma County Superior Court, the California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District, and the California Supreme Court. See generally, Dkt. No. 17-1, Exs. E-I. Each of the state-court petitions was denied. See generally, id. The Sonoma County Superior Court summarily stated that Petitioner's petition for resentencing was denied because the defendant was not eligible, and Petitioner's habeas petition was denied because “no issues of merit [were] raised.” Dkt. No. 17-1, Ex. F. The California Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court denied Petitioner's habeas petitions without comment. See Dkt. No. 17-1, Exs. G, I.

         When presented with a state court decision that is unaccompanied by a rationale for its conclusions, a federal court must conduct an independent review of the record to determine whether the state court decision is objectively reasonable. See Delgado v. Lewis, 223 F.3d 976, 982 (9th Cir. 2000). This “[i]ndependent review is not a de novo review of the constitutional issue, but rather, the only method by which [a federal court] can determine whether a silent state court decision is objectively unreasonable.” Himes v. Thompson, 336 F.3d 848, 853 (9th Cir. 2003). “[W]here a state court's decision is unaccompanied by an explanation, the habeas petitioner's burden still must be met by showing there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98 (2011). Accordingly, this Court will conduct an independent, but still deferential, review of the record.

         Petitioner filed the instant habeas petition on February 11, 2016. See Dkt. No. 1 (“Original Petition”). The Original Petition stated four claims, which the Court found cognizable and served on Respondent. See Dkt. No. 9. Respondent moved to dismiss the Original Petition as untimely and unexhausted. See Dkt. No. 17. The Court found that three of Petitioner's claims were untimely, and dismissed those claims. See Dkt. No. 23. The Court ordered Petitioner to file an amended petition stating only the surviving claim: that Petitioner received ineffective assistance of counsel during probation revocation proceedings. See id. at 7. Petitioner timely amended, see Dkt. No. 28 (“Operative Petition”), and the Court stayed proceedings so that Petitioner could exhaust the ineffective assistance claim, see Dkt. No. 30. Following a motion from Petitioner, the Court reopened proceedings on January 25, 2019. See Dkt. No. 32.

         II. STATEMENT OF FACTS

         In the absence of a reasoned state court opinion, the following facts are taken from the Operative Petition, the exhibits attached to the Original Petition, and the exhibits attached to Respondent's motion to dismiss and Answer. Unless otherwise specified, the facts are given in chronological order.

         On July 11, 2011, in Napa County, Petitioner pleaded no contest to felony transportation of a controlled substance. See Dkt. No. 17-1, Ex. A at 153:23. A seven-year suspended sentence was imposed, and Petitioner was placed on five years' probation. See Dkt. No. 17-1, Ex. B at 165:21-25.

         On October 31, 2013, Petitioner's case was transferred to Sonoma County. See Dkt. No. 17-1, Ex. C. The transfer appears to have been requested on the basis that petitioner had moved to Santa Rosa. See id. at 354:4-6. In the Operative Petition, Petitioner argues that this transfer “breached [his] plea agreement.” Operative Pet. at 6. However, Petitioner was present at the transfer hearing, and responded to the transfer by saying, “Awesome. Thank you.” Dkt. No. 17-1, Ex. C at 354:26.

         On January 15, 2014, after the transfer was completed, the Sonoma County Superior Court (“Sonoma Court”) summarily revoked Petitioner's probation. See Dkt. No. 36, Ex. L at 3, Ex. P at 2. Petitioner had been “convicted of a new crime in Napa County” and “had been charged with a new crime in Sonoma County.” Dkt. No. 36, Ex. P at 2.

         Subsequently, the Sonoma Court held four hearings concerning the revocation of Petitioner's probation. At the first, held April 8, 2014, Petitioner's counsel requested additional time to conduct settlement discussions with the prosecution. See Dkt. No. 36, Ex. M. The Sonoma Court informed petitioner that he had a right to a “probation hearing in a reasonable time, ” and asked if Petitioner agreed to waive that right in favor of a one-week extension. Id. In the Traverse, Petitioner argues that the extension of time violated his rights. See Traverse at 3. However, during the April 8, 2014 hearing, the Sonoma Court directly asked Petitioner if he agreed to waive his rights and consented to an extension of time, and Petitioner directly informed the Sonoma Court that he did so agree. See Dkt. No. 36, Ex. M.

         At the second hearing, held April 15, 2014, the prosecution requested an extension of time to review Petitioner's file and conduct settlement discussions. See Dkt. No. 36, Ex. N. Petitioner's counsel stated that Petitioner was “prepared to give the People as much time as it takes to have a thoughtful discussion.” Id. at 3:26-27; see also Id. at 5:3-5 (“I'm trying to find a way not to waste anyone's time and have a thoughtful discussion, however that needs to happen.”). Petitioner was again asked directly by the Sonoma Court ...


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