Clark v. Roper

Filing 46

OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Petition of Michael A. Clark, for Writ of Habeas Corpus, [Doc. No. 1], pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254 is DENIED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a Certificate of Appealability will not issue in that, as Petitioner has not made a substantial showing of the denial of a federal constitutional right. A separate judgment in accordance with this Memorandum and Order is entered this same date. Signed by Honorable Henry E. Autrey on 2/8/08. (MJM)

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Clark v. Roper Doc. 46 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI EASTERN DIVISION MICHAEL A. CLARK, Petitioner, v. PAT SMITH and JEREMIAH W. "JAY" NIXION1 Respondents, ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) Case No. 4:04CV1364 HEA OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER This matter is before the Court on Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254. [Doc. No. 1]. The Court referred this matter to Magistrate Judge Frederick R. Buckles for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636. Judge Buckles has filed his Report and Recommendation that the Petition be denied. Petitioner has filed written objections. When a party objects to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, this Court must conduct a de novo review of the portions of the report, findings, or recommendations to which the party objected. See United States v. Lothridge, 324 F.3d 599, 600 (8th Cir.2003) Pat Smith is Acting Superintendent of the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic Correctional Center. He is therefore substituted as the proper party Respondent. Furthermore, because Petitioner is challenging a sentence to be served in the future, the Attorney General of Missouri, Jeremiah W. "Jay" Nixon, is added as a proper party respondent. See Rule 2(b), Rules Governing Section 2254. 1 Dockets.Justia.com (citing 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1)). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636, the Court will therefore conduct a de novo review of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which petitioner objects. For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus is denied. Standard of Review The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 28 U.S.C. 2254 (AEDPA) applies to all petitions for habeas relief filed by state prisoners after the statute's effective date of April 24, 1996. When reviewing a claim that has been decided on the merits by a state court, AEDPA limits the scope of judicial review in a habeas proceeding as follows: An application for writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim (1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding. 28 U.S.C. 2254(d). -2- In reviewing a state court conviction, a federal court also presumes that a state court's factual determinations are correct; this presumption may be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. 2254(e)(1). In construing AEDPA, the United States Supreme Court, in Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000), held that: Under the `contrary to' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the U.S. Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the U.S. Supreme Court] has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Under the `unreasonable application' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the U.S. Supreme Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case. Williams, 529 U.S. at 412-13. Furthermore, the Williams Court held that "a federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly." Williams, 529 U.S. at 409. See also, Bell-Bey v. Roper, 499 F.3d 752, 756 (8th Cir. 2007)("To be unreasonable, the state court's application of Supreme Court precedent must have been `objectively unreasonable,' a standard that is more demanding than simply being `incorrect or erroneous.' Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520-21(2003)."). "`Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court,' refers to `the holdings, -3- as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme] Court's decisions.'" Evenstad v. Carlson,470 F.3d 777, 782-83 (8th Cir.2006) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 262, 412 (2000)). To obtain habeas relief, a habeas petitioner must be able to point to the Supreme Court precedent he thinks the state courts acted contrary to or applied unreasonably. Id. at 283 (citing Buchheit v. Norris, 459 F.3d 849, 853 (8th Cir.2006); Owsley v. Bowersox, 234 F.3d 1055, 1057 (8th Cir.2000)). Thus, where there is no federal law on a point raised by a habeas petitioner, a federal court cannot conclude either that a state court decision is "`contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law' under 28 U.S.C. 2254(d)(1)." Id. at 784. "When federal circuits disagree as to a point of law, the law cannot be considered `clearly established' under 28 U.S.C. 2254(d)(1). Id. at 783 (citing Tunstall v. Hopkins, 306 F.3d 601, 611 (8th Cir.2002)). See also Carter v. Kemna, 255 F.3d 589, 592 (8th Cir.2001) (holding that in the absence of controlling Supreme Court precedent, a federal court cannot reverse a state court decision even though it believes the state court's decision is "possibly incorrect"). Discussion Petitioner's objections are merely vague references to the standards applied in habeas cases rather than to specific findings of fact and conclusions of law set out in -4- Judge Buckles' Report and Recommendation. 2 The over generalizations that the Report and Recommendation is "grossly flawed; clearly erroneous; and employs an unreasonable application of federal law in general" fails to establish that the conclusions reached by Judge Buckles are not correct. Judge Buckles very carefully and thoroughly analyzes Petitioner's grounds for relief and the applicable law. This Court has reviewed the record. Based on that review, the Court concludes that Judge Buckles correctly applied the law to the facts of this particular matter and reached the proper conclusion that Petitioner is not entitled to relief. Conclusion Petitioner's objections to the Report and Recommendation are without merit and are denied in their entirety. The Court will adopt the Recommendation of Judge Buckles that the Petition be denied. Certificate of Appealablity The federal statute governing certificates of appealability provides that "[a] certificate of appealability may issue . . . only if the applicant has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right." 28 U.S.C. 2253(c)(2). A Petitioner devotes a significant portion of his Objections discussing the difficulties he has with access to his legal papers and the fact that his legal file was lost/destroyed. While this argument may be relevant to the grievance proceedings Petitioner has activated, any complaints Petitioner has regarding access to his personal property are more appropriately raised through different channels and are not objections per se to the Report and Recommendation. -5- 2 substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right requires that "issues are debatable among reasonable jurists, a court could resolve the issues differently, or the issues deserve further proceedings." Cox v. Norris, 133 F.3d 565, 569 (8th Cir. 1997). Based on the record, and the law as discussed herein, the Court finds that Petitioner has not made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right. Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Petition of Michael A. Clark, for Writ of Habeas Corpus, [Doc. No. 1], pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254 is DENIED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a Certificate of Appealability will not issue in that, as Petitioner has not made a substantial showing of the denial of a federal constitutional right. A separate judgment in accordance with this Memorandum and Order is entered this same date. Dated this 8th day of February, 2008. ____________________________ HENRY EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE -6-

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