Watkins v. Jackson
OPINION AND ORDER Denying 15 Motion Expand the Record. Signed by District Judge Sean F. Cox. (JMcC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 2:17-CV-11121
HON. SEAN F. COX
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WILLIE O. SMITH,
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE MOTION TO EXPAND THE RECORD
Before the Court is habeas petitioner Antonio Watkins’ motion to expand the record. In his
motion, petitioner actually requests an evidentiary hearing and the appointment of counsel. The
Court DENIES the motion without prejudice.
A. The motion for an evidentiary hearing.
Petitioner has requested an evidentiary hearing.
If a habeas petition is not dismissed at a previous stage in the proceeding, the judge, after the
answer and the transcript and record of state court proceedings are filed, shall, upon a review of
those proceedings and of the expanded record, if any, determine whether an evidentiary hearing is
required. If it appears that an evidentiary hearing is not required, the judge shall make such
disposition of the petition as justice shall require. 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254, Rule 8(a); Hence v. Smith,
49 F. Supp. 2d 547, 549 (E.D. Mich. 1999)(Gadola, J.).
When deciding whether to grant an evidentiary hearing, a federal court must consider
whether such a hearing could enable the habeas petitioner to prove the petition’s factual allegations,
which, if true, would entitle the petitioner to federal habeas relief on his claim or claims. Schriro v.
Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 474 (2007). “[B]ecause the deferential standards prescribed by § 2254
control whether to grant habeas relief, a federal court must take into account those standards in
deciding whether an evidentiary hearing is appropriate.” Id. If the record refutes the habeas
petitioner’s factual allegations or otherwise precludes habeas relief, a district court is not required
to hold an evidentiary hearing. Id. Stated differently, a habeas petitioner is not entitled to an
evidentiary hearing on his claims if they lack merit. See Stanford v. Parker, 266 F. 3d 442, 459-60
(6th Cir. 2001). Under the provisions of the AEDPA, evidentiary hearings are not mandatory in
habeas cases. See Vroman v. Brigano, 346 F. 3d 598, 606 (6th Cir.2003). An evidentiary hearing
may be held only when the habeas petition “alleges sufficient grounds for release, relevant facts are
in dispute, and the state courts did not hold a full and fair evidentiary hearing.” Sawyer v. Hofbauer,
299 F.3d 605, 610 (6th Cir.2002). An evidentiary hearing is not required where the record is
complete or if the petition raises only legal claims that can be resolved without the taking of
additional evidence. Ellis v. Lynaugh, 873 F. 2d 830, 840 (5th Cir. 1989); United States v. Sanders,
3 F. Supp. 2d 554, 560 (M.D. Pa. 1998).
The request for an evidentiary hearing will be denied without prejudice because the Court
has not yet received an answer or the state court record from respondent. Without these materials,
the Court is unable to determine whether an evidentiary hearing on petitioner’s claims is needed.
Following receipt of these materials, the Court will then determine whether an evidentiary hearing
is necessary to resolve petitioner’s claims.
B. The motion for the appointment of counsel.
Petitioner requested the appointment of counsel.
The Court will deny the motion for the appointment of counsel. There is no constitutional
right to counsel in habeas proceedings. Cobas v. Burgess, 306 F. 3d 441, 444 (6th Cir. 2002). The
decision to appoint counsel for a federal habeas petitioner is within the discretion of the court and
is required only where the interests of justice or due process so require. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F. 2d
636, 638 (6th Cir. 1986). “Habeas corpus is an extraordinary remedy for unusual cases” and the
appointment of counsel is therefore required only if, given the difficulty of the case and petitioner’s
ability, the petitioner could not obtain justice without an attorney, he could not obtain a lawyer on
his own, and he would have a reasonable chance of winning with the assistance of counsel. See
Thirkield v. Pitcher, 199 F. Supp. 2d 637, 653 (E.D. Mich. 2002). Appointment of counsel in a
habeas proceeding is mandatory only if the district court determines that an evidentiary hearing is
required. Lemeshko v. Wrona, 325 F. Supp. 2d 778, 787 (E.D. Mich. 2004). If no evidentiary
hearing is necessary, the appointment of counsel in a habeas case remains discretionary. Id.
Counsel may be appointed, in exceptional cases, for a prisoner appearing pro se in a habeas
action. Lemeshko, 325 F. Supp. 2d at 788. The exceptional circumstances justifying the appointment
of counsel to represent a prisoner acting pro se in a habeas action occur where a petitioner has made
a colorable claim, but lacks the means to adequately investigate, prepare, or present the claim. Id.
In the present case, petitioner has filed a 44 page petition for writ of habeas corpus, in which
he raises six claims for relief. Petitioner has also attached to his petition numerous exhibits in
support of his claims. Petitioner therefore has the means and ability to present his claims to the
court. Furthermore, until this Court reviews the pleadings filed by petitioner and respondent and
the Rule 5 materials, the Court is unable to determine whether an evidentiary hearing is necessary
or required. Thus, the interests of justice at this point in time do not require appointment of counsel.
18 U.S.C. § 3006A(a)(2)(B); 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254, Rules 6(a) and 8(c). The motion for the
appointment of counsel is denied without prejudice.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the motion to expand the record [Dkt. # 15] is DENIED
WITHOUT PREJUDICE. The Court will reconsider petitioner’s motion if, following receipt of
the responsive pleading and Rule 5 materials, the Court determines that an evidentiary hearing
and/or the appointment of counsel are necessary.
Dated: July 27, 2017
s/Sean F. Cox
Sean F. Cox
U. S. District Judge
I hereby certify that on July 27, 2017, the foregoing document was served on counsel of record via
electronic means and upon Antonio Watkins via First Class mail at the address below:
IONIA MAXIMUM CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
1576 W. BLUEWATER HIGHWAY
IONIA, MI 48846
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