Huggins v. Martel

Filing 43

ORDER by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers denying 40 Respondent's Motion to Vacate the Stay. (Attachments: # 1 Certificate/Proof of Service) (fs, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/6/2013)

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1 2 3 4 5 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 9 MICHAEL JAMES HUGGINS, 12 13 14 No. C 06-07254 YGR Petitioner, 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 ORDER RE MOTION TO VACATE STAY v. KEVIN CHAPPELL, Warden of San Quentin State Prison, Respondent. 15 / 16 17 18 INTRODUCTION Petitioner Michael James Huggins is a condemned inmate at San Quentin State Prison. On 19 September 27, 2012, the Court granted Petitioner's motion to stay these proceedings pending a 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 competency determination. On January 10, 2013, the Court granted the parties' joint motion to continue the competency determination pending the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Ryan v. Gonzales, No. 10-930, cert. granted 132 S. Ct. 1738 (2012). On January 8, 2013, the Supreme Court issued a decision, Ryan v. Gonzales, ___ U.S. ___, 133 S. Ct. 696. Based on Ryan, Respondent now moves to vacate the stay; Petitioner opposes the motion. Pursuant to Civil Local Rules 7-1(b) and 7-6, the Court finds that this matter is appropriate 27 for submission on the papers without oral argument. Having considered the parties' filings, the 28 Court DENIES Respondent's motion to vacate the stay. 1 DISCUSSION 2 The Court's earlier decision staying the case pending a competency determination was based 3 on Petitioner's showing that his competency was at issue, including a psychiatrist report diagnosing 4 5 6 7 Petitioner with several mental health conditions, and the Ninth Circuit's decision in Rohan ex. rel Gates v. Woodford ("Gates"), 334 F.3d 803, 817 (9th Cir. 2003). Gates held that a capital prisoner "has a statutory right to competence in his federal habeas proceedings. . . ." Id. at 817. In addition, Gates authorized indefinite stays, until an incompetent petitioner regained competency. Id. at 819; 8 see also Blair v. Martel, 645 F.3d 1152, 1154 (9th Cir. 2011). 9 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 12 13 14 15 On January 8, 2013, the Supreme Court decided Ryan v. Gonzales, abrogating Gates and holding that an incompetent capital prisoner has no right to an indefinite stay of habeas proceedings. 133 S. Ct. 696, 706-709. The Court further held that while the decision to grant a temporary stay is within the discretion of the district court, an indefinite stay is inappropriate if there is no reasonable hope the petitioner will regain competence in the foreseeable future. Id. Respondent argues that, pursuant to Ryan, the stay in this case should be lifted. He maintains 16 that, even though Petitioner's competency has not been determined, Petitioner cannot demonstrate 17 that he could reasonably provide any substantial assistance to his counsel on any of his anticipated 18 federal habeas claims, thus rendering the question of Petitioner's competence irrelevant to these 19 proceedings. 20 Respondent is incorrect, and his motion to vacate the stay is premature. The Court has 21 already stated that there are claims that could benefit from Petitioner's assistance. See Order Re 22 Motion for Competency Determination and Stay of Habeas Proceedings, filed September 27, 2012. 23 Moreover, the stay currently in place is not the indefinite stay of an incompetent prisoner disallowed 24 by Ryan. Rather, it is a temporary stay pending a determination of Petitioner's competency. 25 Petitioner has alleged, and the Court has found, that: 1) Petitioner has made an adequate showing of 26 incompetency, such that a determination of his competence is warranted; and 2) there are claims that 27 could benefit from Petitioner's assistance. As the Court made clear in its earlier Order, the Court is 28 not finding at this juncture that Petitioner is actually incompetent. Accordingly, the Court has determined that the proper course at this juncture is to allow the 2 1 2 current stay to remain pending a determination of whether Petitioner is actually incompetent. The 3 Ryan Court made clear that while indefinite stays were not permitted, district courts did not need 4 5 6 7 "unsolicited advice from [the Supreme Court] on how to manage their dockets" and that the decision to grant a stay is "'generally left to the sound discretion of district courts.'" 133 S. Ct. at 708 (citing Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007)). If Petitioner is competent, the stay will be lifted and the case will proceed. If Petitioner is incompetent, it will remain to be determined whether his 8 competency is restorable. If so, pursuant to Ryan, a temporary stay of proceedings pending the 9 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 12 13 restoration of competency is permissible. See 133 S. Ct. 696, 706-709. The Court also notes that in at least one other capital habeas case in this District, Stanley v. Chappell, 07-4727 (EMC), a stay pending a competency determination has remained in place even after the Ryan decision. Respondent's motion is therefore DENIED. CONCLUSION 14 15 For the foregoing reasons, 16 1. Respondent's motion to vacate the stay is DENIED. 17 2. The parties are ORDERED to meet and confer and, within sixty (60) days of the date 18 of this Order, the parties shall file a joint case management statement proposing a schedule and 19 procedures for determination of Petitioner's competency. 20 3. Petitioner's counsel is ORDERED to be mindful of the fact that, once the stay is 21 lifted, the Amended Petition will have to be filed. Accordingly, Petitioner's counsel should proceed 22 diligently on preparation of the Amended Petition as well as on the issues surrounding Petitioner's 23 competency. 24 25 26 27 IT IS SO ORDERED. DATED: March 6, 2013 YVONNE GONZALEZ ROGERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 28 3

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