Watkins v. Muniz, et al.

Filing 31

ORDER Granting 29 Motion to Withdraw as Attorney of Record, signed by Magistrate Judge Sheila K. Oberto on 8/8/17. Attorney Carolyn D. Phillips terminated. (Gonzalez, R)

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1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 3 4 ERIC MARK WATKINS, 5 Petitioner, 6 7 8 v. (Doc. 29) Respondents. 10 12 ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO WITHDRAW AS ATTORNEY OF RECORD W.L. MUNIZ, Warden, and XAVIER BECERRA, 9 11 No. 1:16-cv-00749-AWI-SKO HC On May 31, 2016, Petitioner Eric Mark Watkins, a state prisoner proceeding pro se filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner contended that he had completed the seven-year term to which he was sentenced in 2002. Respondent filed a motion to 13 14 15 dismiss the petition on July 18, 2016, alleging that the petition was too vague and conclusory to state a cognizable claim. Petitioner responded with a motion for appointment of counsel, 16 providing documentation of a developmental disability that limits his ability to read, write, and 17 understand legal materials. After taking notice of Petitioner’s many unsuccessful attempts to 18 prosecute a habeas petition, on the Court appointed the Federal Defendant as counsel for 19 Petitioner. 20 On April 23, 2017, Petitioner filed a response conceding that no evidence existed to 21 22 support Petitioner’s claim that he had completed his sentence but had not been released from 23 prison. After reviewing the record and applicable law, the Magistrate Judge filed findings and 24 recommendations in which she recommended that the Court dismiss the petition for failure to 25 state a cognizable claim. Neither party objected to the findings and recommendations. The 26 District Court adopted the findings and recommendations on June 28, 2017, and dismissed the 27 /// 28 1 1 petition, denied a certificate of appealability, and ordered the Clerk of Court to close the case. 2 Judgment was entered the same day. 3 On June 28, 2017, the Federal Defender moved to withdraw as Petitioner’s attorney, 4 declaring that she had advised Petitioner that she was unaware of a non-frivolous issue on which 5 6 to raise an appeal, but that Petitioner was free to file an appeal on his own behalf if he chose. On 7 July 5, 2017, the Magistrate Judge entered an order providing Petitioner with 21 days to oppose 8 counsel’s motion to withdraw. Petitioner filed no opposition. 9 10 11 A petitioner in habeas corpus proceedings has no absolute right to appointment of counsel. See, e.g., Anderson v. Heinze, 258 F.2d 479, 481 (9th Cir. 1958); Mitchell v. Wyrick, 727 F.2d 773, 774 (8th Cir. 1984). Nonetheless, in this case, the Court appointed counsel in the interest of 12 13 14 justice to ensure that if Petitioner had a cognizable claim for habeas relief but was unable to represent himself as a result of his disability, his claim was fully investigated and prosecuted by 15 experienced counsel. See 18 U.S.C. § 3006(a)(2)(B); Rule 8(c), Rules Governing Section 2254 16 Cases. After Petitioner’s appointed counsel met with Petitioner and reviewed the factual 17 background of his claim in light of applicable law, Petitioner moved to dismiss his claim as 18 19 factually unsupported. The case having been dismissed and no basis for appeal being apparent, counsel has satisfied the terms of her appointment. 20 Conclusion and Order 21 The terms of appointment having been satisfied and the above-captioned case having been 22 23 dismissed and closed, the Federal Defender is hereby RELEASED from her appointment as 24 counsel for Petitioner. 25 26 IT IS SO ORDERED. 27 Dated: 28 August 8, 2017 /s/ Sheila K. Oberto UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 2 .

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