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Nuñez v. Idaho Attorney General

March 15, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Edward J. Lodge U. S. District Judge


Pending before the Court in this habeas corpus matter is Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docket No. 19.) Petitioner has filed a Response (Docket No. 23), and the Motion is now at issue.*fn1

The Court finds that the parties have adequately presented the facts and legal argument in their briefing, and it will resolve this matter on the written record without oral argument. D. Idaho L. Civil R. 7.1(d). The Court will grant Respondent's Motion, and the case shall be dismissed.


The Idaho Court of Appeals recited the relevant facts in this case as follows:

On July 2, 2002, a state highway patrolman stopped a 1996 Camaro with an Arizona license plate for speeding on U.S. 93 near Twin Falls. Nunez [Petitioner] was the driver. He was unable to directly communicate with the officer in English, but communicated through his passenger, Thomas Perez.

Nunez failed to produce a driver's license or any other valid identification, and a registration check confirmed that neither Nunez nor Thomas Perez was the registered owner of the Camaro. Nunez did produce a "work-type identification card" that lacked vital statistics. Perez produced proof of insurance of the vehicle and an Arizona driver's license that identified him, but he was unable to produce a valid vehicle registration for the Camaro. Perez indicated that his "old lady" owned the vehicle but he was unable to give the trooper her name. According to the State's brief in the district court (citing evidence submitted at Nunez's preliminary hearing), Perez's address did not match the address of the registered owner and the officer's attempts to contact the registered owner were fruitless. Unable to ascertain Nunez's identity and the ownership of the vehicle, the trooper and another officer who had arrived at the scene decided to impound the vehicle until ownership of it could be confirmed, and called the federal border patrol to inquire about the citizenship status of Nunez and Perez. The officers had Nunez and Perez step out of the vehicle, patted them down for weapons, and informed them that if the officers could contact the registered owner of the Camaro and confirm that Perez or Nunez had permission to drive it, then the car would be returned. During the impound inventory examination, the officers discovered nearly six pounds of methamphetamine in the Camaro. The trooper cancelled the border patrol request and instead asked that Idaho State Police detectives meet with them. Perez told the detectives through an interpreter that he had been paid $2,000 by a man in Phoenix to transport the drugs with Nunez and that Nunez had made prior deliveries. (State's Lodging D-6, pp.1-2.)

After a jury trial in state district court, Petitioner was convicted of trafficking in methamphetamine. (State's Lodging A-1, pp. 108-09.) The jury also found Petitioner to be a persistent violator of the law, which subjected him to a sentencing enhancement, and the district court sentenced him to 25 years in prison, with the first 15 years fixed. (State's Lodging A-1, pp. 129-30.) On appeal, Petitioner challenged only the length of his sentence, and the Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed. (State's Lodging B-4.) The Idaho Supreme Court declined to review the case. (State's Lodging B-7.)

Petitioner next filed an application for post-conviction relief, raising numerous claims, including claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel for not filing a motion to suppress the methamphetamine as the product of an unlawful search of the Camaro. (State's Lodging C-1, pp. 1-12.) The district court summarily dismissed several claims and then held an evidentiary hearing on a single claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. (State's Lodging C-1, pp. 97-106.) On appeal, the Idaho Court of Appeals concluded that Petitioner's counsel could not have been ineffective in failing to file a motion to suppress because Petitioner lacked standing to challenge a search of the car. (State's Lodging D-6, p. 6.) The Idaho Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for review. (State's Lodging D-9.)

Petitioner filed his Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in this Court on April 24, 2009, raising four claims. (Docket No. 1.) The Court has since dismissed Claims 2, 3, and 4, but it ordered Respondent to file an answer to Claim 1, which the Court has construed as essentially the same claim of ineffective assistance of counsel that the Idaho Court of Appeals denied in the post-conviction appeal. (Docket No. 12, pp. 14-15.) Respondent has now submitted his Answer, together with a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docket Nos. 14, 15.) Petitioner has responded to the Motion, and the matter is now ripe for the Court's ruling.


The Rules of Civil Procedure apply to habeas corpus actions except where application of the rules would be inconsistent with established habeas practice and procedure. Rule 11 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases. Under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Summary judgment procedure is applicable to habeas proceedings, see Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 80-81 (1977), but a motion for summary judgment must be reviewed in light of the substantive law and standards governing federal habeas proceedings.

Those standards are found in the provisions of the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). Under AEDPA, the Court cannot grant habeas relief on any federal claim that the state court adjudicated on the merits 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 ...

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