Moore v. Okuley
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF ALASKA
MATTHEW MARK MOORE,
ORDER AND OPINION
[Re: Objections at docket 34]
I. MATTER PRESENTED
Petitioner Matthew Mark Moore (“Moore”) filed objections at docket 34 to an
order issued by Magistrate Judge Smith at docket 33. Respondent Marc Okuley
(“Okuley”) filed his response to the objections at docket 36. The objections are now ripe
for disposition by this court.
Moore was convicted in the Superior Court at Nome of attempted first and
second degree sexual assault and burglary. He was sentenced to imprisonment for 12
years with four years suspended leaving eight years to serve in prison. He is before this
court seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
Pursuant to this court’s standard practice,1 and after appointing counsel for
Moore, this case was referred to Magistrate Judge Smith for the purpose of hearing and
deciding all procedural and discovery motions and resolving other pre-trial matters as
well as preparation of a report and recommendation on the merits of the petition.2 The
referral authorized Magistrate Judge Smith to proceed with the case under the powers
allowed to magistrate judges by 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Rule 8(b) of the Rules Governing
2254 Cases in The United States District Court (“Habeas Rules”).
Counsel appointed for Moore filed a supplemental petition for a writ of habeas
corpus.3 The supplemental petition advances five claims for relief. Claim One contends
that Moore’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated by the state trial judge’s
denial of his request for appointment of a new lawyer. Claim Two contends that
Moore’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated when the state trial judge failed
to adequately inquire into the conflict between Moore and his lawyer. Claim Three
contends that Moore’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated when he was
required to proceed with a lawyer of proven incompetence who also lacked the ability to
communicate with Moore. Claim Four contends that Moore’s Sixth Amendment right to
a jury trial was violated when his sentence was increased based on facts that should
have been determined by a jury, not the judge. Claim Five contends that Moore’s Fifth
Amendment right to due process was violated because his sentence was increased
based on crimes committed when he was a juvenile.
Okuley filed a motion for summary adjudication.4 In that motion, Okuley
contends that Moores’s claims relating to his sentence (Claims Four and Five) are
barred by a procedural default. Okuley also contends that both the right to counsel
claims (Claims One, Two, and Three) and his sentencing claims fail on the merits.
Okuley takes the position that the undisputed facts support his contentions. Moore filed
a response to Okuley’s motion,5 but also simultaneously filed a motion for a continuance
to permit him to further develop a factual record pursuant to Habeas Rule 11 and
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f).6 Okuley opposed the motion for a continuance,7
and after reviewing the motion papers the magistrate judge denied the motion for a
continuance.8 Her order is the subject of the pending objections.
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Moore’s motion for a continuance is a non-dispositive motion that falls within the
ambit of the authority given to magistrate judges by 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) upon a
district judge’s referral of the case. This court may reconsider and set aside such an
order “where it has been shown that the magistrate judge’s order is clearly erroneous or
contrary to law.”9
A. Is Order Contrary to Law?
Moore argues, in effect, that Judge Smith’s order is contrary to law, because her
order allows Okuley to proceed with the underlying motion for summary adjudication on
the merits and not merely with respect to possible procedural bars. Moore urges that
this is inconsistent with Habeas Rule 4 and the teaching of two Ninth Circuit cases,
O’Bremski v. Maass10 and White v. Lewis.11
Habeas Rule 4 does not require a respondent to proceed with an answer to the
exclusion of an initial response by motion, for the rule explicitly provides: “If the petition
is not dismissed [upon initial review by the court], the judge must order the respondent
to file an answer, a motion or other response. . . .” The decision in O’Bremski provides
no support for the argument that permitting summary disposition of a habeas corpus
petition on the merits is necessarily inconsistent with Habeas Rule 4. To the contrary,
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).
915 F.2d 418 (9th Cir. 1990)
874 F.2d 599 (9th Cir. 1989).
O’Bremski supports the proposition that it is consistent with Rule 4 to allow a motion
asserting that a petition fails on the merits. In O’Bremski, after concluding that it was
permissible to address the merits even though petitioner had not exhausted his state
remedies, the Ninth Circuit addressed two claims: (1) the Oregon Board of Parole failed
to act as an impartial tribunal, and (2) the Parole Board was equitably estopped from
rescinding one release date and setting a later one. The district court had granted a
motion to dismiss the two claims on the merits pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b). After
faulting the district court for granting the motion in reliance on Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b), the
Ninth Circuit went on to uphold the dismissal of the claims based on Habeas Rule 4,
concluding: “Because we conclude that there are no unresolved questions of fact in this
case and that Obremski’s [sic] claims are not colorable under federal law, we affirm the
district court’s dismissal for failure to state a claim.”12
The other Ninth Circuit decision cited by Moore, White v. Lewis, does not
foreclose the possibility of presenting a motion to dismiss on the merits, although it is
clear that in White all the court held was that a state procedural default claim could be
presented by motion.13 This court does not read the three district court cases cited by
Moore14 to provide persuasive support for Moore’s position.
The Advisory Committee Notes to Habeas Rule 4 lend support to the proposition
that a summary motion to dismiss on the merits may be made consistently with the rule.
To begin with the 2004 notes point out that the rule has been amended to expressly
authorize a response by motion rather than answer. More to the point of whether such
a motion must be confined to procedural matters only, the 1976 notes conclude with this
statement: “Or the judge may want to dismiss some allegations in the petition, requiring
the respondent to answer only those claims which appear to have some arguable
O’Bremski, 915 F.2d at 421.
White, 874 F.2d at 602-603.
Bernal-Ibanos v. Adler, 2010 WL 599925 (E.D. Cal 2010); Hillery v. Pulley, 533 F.
Supp. 1189 (E.D. Cal. 1982); and Ukwabatu v. Morton, 997 F. Supp. 605 (D.N.J. 1998).
Moore also relies on Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(f) to support the proposition that he is
entitled to a continuance. This court finds Magistrate Judge Smith’s discussion of why
Rule 56(f) should not be applied in the context of habeas corpus proceedings
persuasive. The similar discussion by respondent in his opposition to the motion at bar
is also correct in this court’s view. This court concludes that Fed. R. Civ. P.56(f) does
not apply to this habeas case.
Moore has failed to show that Magistrate Judge Smith’s order denying his motion
for a continuance is contrary to law. Thus, unless Moore shows that her order is clearly
erroneous, he is not entitled to relief from this court.
B. Is Order Clearly Erroneous?
It is important to note the carefully cabined extent of Judge Smith’s order. In
denying the motion for a continuance, she did not rule that Moore will necessarily lose
the right to expand the record upon which the merits of some or all of his claims are
ultimately determined. As Judge Smith explained:
This Court acknowledges that Petitioner wants to preserve his opportunity
to add facts outside the state record before the Court decides the merits of
any claims in his petition. But Petitioner will have an opportunity to ask for
an evidentiary hearing or include additional facts in the record for any
claims that survive this initial review. During the review of Respondent’s
Motion for Summary Adjudication, this court will review the state court
record in detail to determine whether factual deference under § 2254(d)(2)
and (e)(1) applies as Respondent asserts or whether de novo review is
appropriate as Petitioner asserts. Furthermore, pursuant to Rule 7 and
Rule 8 of the habeas Rules, the Court will consider whether an evidentiary
hearing or expansion of the record is required, applying § 2254(e) if
appropriate. If this Court concludes that summary dismissal of any claim
is not warranted at this stage, it will order a briefing schedule, in which
case Petitioner will have an opportunity to move for an evidentiary hearing
or request discovery related to any remaining claim if he believes it
appropriate and if the Court has not already done so.
This court finds nothing in Moore’s papers which explains why Judge Smith’s
cautious attempt to winnow claims which may be subject to summary disposition from
those which are not is “clearly erroneous.” Moreover, Moore’s supplemental petition
shows that there is a very great deal of information already available in the record. That
information requires close scrutiny before a decision can be made on whether the
record is sufficient to allow a fair and just adjudication of Moore’s claims. This court
concludes that the magistrate judge’s order is not clearly erroneous.
For the reasons above, the objections at docket 34 are OVERRULED. The order
by the magistrate judge at docket 33 is AFFIRMED.
DATED at Anchorage, Alaska, this 14th day of May 2010.
/s/ JOHN W. SEDWICK
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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