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Ridgley v. State

March 17, 2010

LEE A. RIDGLEY, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF IDAHO, RESPONDENT.



Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Boundary County. Hon. Charles W. Hosack, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Horton, Justice

2010 Opinion No. 24

The district court order dismissing post-conviction relief petition is affirmed.

This is an appeal from the district court‟s summary dismissal of a petition for post-conviction relief. The Idaho Court of Appeals reversed the district court‟s dismissal in part and this Court granted the State‟s petition for review. We affirm the district court‟s order of dismissal.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On February 26, 2002, sixteen days after his wife died, Lee Ridgley pled guilty to lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor under the age of sixteen. Before sentencing, Ridgley moved to withdraw his plea on the grounds that appointed counsel had not adequately represented and advised him prior to entry of the guilty plea, but the district court denied his motion. In an unpublished opinion, the Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed the district court‟s decision.

On April 4, 2005, Ridgley filed a petition for post-conviction relief. Ridgley‟s petition alleged that his defense counsel‟s performance was deficient because counsel had met with him for less than one hour before Ridgley pled guilty, failed to provide Ridgley with a copy of the police report, failed to contact potential witnesses, failed to watch or listen to tapes of interviews of the victim, failed to advise Ridgley of potential defenses, and failed to take steps to determine whether Ridgley‟s severe grief and depression rendered him incompetent or unable to make a rational decision about pleading guilty.

The State answered the petition and, in its answer, moved for summary dismissal, arguing that the issues presented in Ridgley‟s petition were "essentially identical" to the issues advanced in support of Ridgley‟s earlier motion to withdraw his plea. After Ridgley requested a trial setting on his petition, the State renewed its motion for summary dismissal, again asserting that the bases for post-conviction relief advanced in the petition were identical to those that had been decided previously. The district court then issued notice of its intention to summarily dismiss the action pursuant to I.C. § 19-4906. In that notice, the district court observed that Ridgley had included a transcript of the testimony produced at the hearing on his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. In light of the evidence produced at that hearing-that Ridgley had told his attorney that he wished to plead guilty-the district court stated that there was an insufficient showing of deficient performance by trial counsel. The district court further observed that there was "a total lack of evidence that, but for counsel‟s alleged deficiencies, [Ridgley] would have insisted on going to trial."

Ridgley thereafter filed a response to the notice, supported by his affidavit and two other affidavits. These responsive filings focused on the final claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, i.e., counsel‟s failure to take steps to evaluate Ridgley‟s mental condition prior to his plea of guilty. In his affidavit, Ridgley averred that he informed his attorney that he was suffering from severe depression and did not understand the proceedings. He further averred that his attorney did not discuss with him the possibility of obtaining an evaluation to determine his competence. He also asserted that, if successful in obtaining post-conviction relief, he intended to go to trial. Ridgley‟s attorney‟s first affidavit advanced his opinion that trial counsel‟s performance was objectively unreasonable and appended a report prepared by a psychologist, Dr. Jonelle Timlin. Dr. Timlin prepared this report approximately nine months after Ridgley pled guilty. After reviewing Ridgley‟s response, the district court summarily dismissed Ridgley‟s petition.

Ridgley appealed the district court‟s decision. The court of appeals affirmed the district court‟s dismissal of the first five claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. However, the court of appeals reversed the grant of summary dismissal regarding counsel‟s failure to request a competency evaluation prior to Ridgley‟s plea. This Court granted the State‟s petition for review.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

While this Court gives serious consideration to the views of the court of appeals when considering a case on review from that court, this Court reviews the district court‟s decision directly. State v. Rogers, 140 Idaho 223, 226, 91 P.3d 1127, 1130 (2004).

Post-conviction proceedings are governed by the Uniform Post-Conviction Procedure Act, I.C. § 19-4901 et seq. A petition for post-conviction relief is a civil proceeding, governed by the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure. Pizzuto v. State, 146 Idaho 720, 724, 202 P.3d 642, 646 (2008). However, "[t]he "application must contain much more than a short and plain statement of the claim that would suffice for a complaint under I.R.C.P. 8(a)(1).‟" State v. Payne, 146 Idaho 548, 560, 199 P.3d 123, 135 (2008) (quoting Goodwin v. State, 138 Idaho 269, 271, 61 P.3d 626, 628 (Ct. App. 2002)). The application must be supported by a statement that "specifically set[s] forth the grounds upon which the application is based." Rhoades v. State,148 Idaho 247, 249-51, 220 P.3d 1066, 1068-69 (2009). "The application must present or be accompanied by admissible evidence supporting its allegations, or the application will be subject to dismissal." Payne, 146 Idaho at 561, 199 P.3d at 136 (citing I.C. § 19-4903).

"Idaho Code § 19-4906 authorizes summary dismissal of an application for post-conviction relief, either pursuant to motion of a party or upon the trial court‟s own initiative. Summary dismissal of an application is the procedural equivalent of summary judgment under I.R.C.P. 56." State v. Yakovac, 145 Idaho 437, 444, 180 P.3d 476, 483 (2008). "When reviewing the grant of a motion for summary judgment, this Court applies the same standard used by the district court in ruling on the motion." Citibank (South Dakota), N.A. v. Carroll,148 Idaho 254, 257, 220 P.3d 1073, 1076 (2009) (citing Van v. Portneuf Med. Ctr., 147 Idaho 552, 556, 212 P.3d 982, 986 (2009)). Likewise, when reviewing a district court‟s order of summary dismissal in a post-conviction relief proceeding, we apply the same standard as that applied by the district court. Thus, when reviewing such a dismissal, this Court must determine whether a genuine issue of fact exists based on the pleadings, depositions and admissions together with any affidavits on file. Yakovac, 145 Idaho at 444, 180 P.3d at 483.

"[I]f the petitioner‟s alleged facts are uncontroverted by the State . . . [they] must be regarded as true." Phillips v. State, 108 ...


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