Watkins v. Muniz, et al.
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)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
ERIC MARK WATKINS,
ORDER GRANTING MOTION
TO WITHDRAW AS
ATTORNEY OF RECORD
W.L. MUNIZ, Warden, and XAVIER
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
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,
providing documentation of a developmental disability that limits his ability to read, write, and
understand legal materials. After taking notice of Petitioner’s many unsuccessful attempts to
prosecute a habeas petition, on the Court appointed the Federal Defendant as counsel for
On April 23, 2017, Petitioner filed a response conceding that no evidence existed to
support Petitioner’s claim that he had completed his sentence but had not been released from
prison. After reviewing the record and applicable law, the Magistrate Judge filed findings and
recommendations in which she recommended that the Court dismiss the petition for failure to
state a cognizable claim. Neither party objected to the findings and recommendations. The
District Court adopted the findings and recommendations on June 28, 2017, and dismissed the
petition, denied a certificate of appealability, and ordered the Clerk of Court to close the case.
Judgment was entered the same day.
On June 28, 2017, the Federal Defender moved to withdraw as Petitioner’s attorney,
declaring that she had advised Petitioner that she was unaware of a non-frivolous issue on which
to raise an appeal, but that Petitioner was free to file an appeal on his own behalf if he chose. On
July 5, 2017, the Magistrate Judge entered an order providing Petitioner with 21 days to oppose
counsel’s motion to withdraw. Petitioner filed no opposition.
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
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
experienced counsel. See 18 U.S.C. § 3006(a)(2)(B); Rule 8(c), Rules Governing Section 2254
Cases. After Petitioner’s appointed counsel met with Petitioner and reviewed the factual
background of his claim in light of applicable law, Petitioner moved to dismiss his claim as
factually unsupported. The case having been dismissed and no basis for appeal being apparent,
counsel has satisfied the terms of her appointment.
Conclusion and Order
The terms of appointment having been satisfied and the above-captioned case having been
dismissed and closed, the Federal Defender is hereby RELEASED from her appointment as
counsel for Petitioner.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
August 8, 2017
Sheila K. Oberto
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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