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Neal Wayne Caplinger v. Warden Wengler

July 11, 2011


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


Currently pending before the Court in this habeas corpus matter is Respondent's Motion for Summary Dismissal.*fn1 Also pending is Petitioner's Motion to Deny Respondent's Motion for Summary dismissal, which the Court construes as Petitioner's response to Respondent's Motion. The Court finds that decisional process would not be aided by oral argument, and it will resolve this matter on the record after consideration of the parties' written submissions. D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d).

For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Respondent's Motion, and this case will be dismissed.


Petitioner Neal Caplinger pled guilty in state court to one count of second degree kidnapping. The Idaho Court of Appeals recited the relevant facts as follows:

Caplinger kidnapped J.C. and sexually assaulted her at his apartment before she was able to escape and notify police. Caplinger was charged with first degree kidnapping, I.C. §§ 18-4501, -02; rape, I.C. § 18-6101; penetration by foreign object, I.C. § 18-6608; and being a persistent violator, I.C. § 19-2514. Caplinger entered a binding guilty plea pursuant to I.C.R. 11 to an amended charge of second degree kidnapping, I.C. §§ 18-4501, -03, and the state dismissed the remaining charges. The district court sentenced Caplinger to a unified term of fifteen years, with a minimum period of confinement of five years. The district court also entered a separate order requiring Caplinger to have no contact with his victim for fifteen years. (State's Lodging B-4, p. 1.)

On direct appeal, Caplinger claimed that the district court's order that he have no contact with the victim for fifteen years was invalid because the court did not issue the order as part of its oral pronouncement of sentence. (State's Lodging B-1, pp. 1-3.) The Idaho Court of Appeals rejected this argument after concluding that Idaho law did not require a district court to include a no contact order in the oral pronouncement of sentence because the order was "not a punishment for [Caplinger's] offenses, but a prophylactic measure to protect the victim." (Id. at 2-3.) Caplinger's Petition for Review in the Idaho Supreme Court was denied (State's Lodging B-7), and he did not pursue post-conviction relief.

Caplinger filed his Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in this Court on April 28, 2010, alleging that his rights under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments were violated because (1) the trial court imposed the fifteen-year no contact order after pronouncing sentence, (2) Caplinger was not present when the order was imposed, and (3) the trial court refused to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea after the court "breached" the binding plea agreement. (Petition, p. 2.)

United States Magistrate Judge Larry M. Boyle conducted an initial review of the Petition, as required by Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases, and ordered Respondent to file a response. (Dkt. 6.) Respondent has now done so by submitting the pending Motion for Summary Dismissal. (Dkt. 11.) In his Motion, Respondent claims that Caplinger has not fairly presented the same federal constitutional bases for his claims in the Idaho Supreme Court that he has raised in his Petition, and because the time to do so has now passed, the claims must be dismissed as procedurally defaulted. (Dkt. 11-1, pp. 5-10.) Caplinger has filed a response, and the matter was then reassigned to this District Judge based on the lack of the parties' consent to proceed before a Magistrate Judge. (Dkt. 14.)

The Court has reviewed the parties' written submissions and the record, and it is now prepared to issue its ruling.


A habeas petitioner must exhaust his remedies in the state courts before a federal court can grant relief on constitutional claims. O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999). This means that the petitioner must invoke one complete round of the state's established appellate review process, fairly presenting all constitutional claims to the state courts so they have a full and fair opportunity to correct alleged constitutional errors at each level of appellate review. Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27 (2004). In a state that has the possibility of discretionary review in the highest appellate court, like Idaho, the petitioner must have presented all of his federal claims at least in a petition seeking review before that court. Boerckel, 526 U.S. at 845.

The mere similarity between a state law claim and a federal claim does not constitute fair presentation of the federal claim, and general references in state court to broad constitutional principles, such as due process, equal protection, and the right to a fair trial, are likewise insufficient. See Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365-66 (1995) (similarity of claims is insufficient); see also Hiivala v. Wood, 195 F.3d 1098, 1106 (9th Cir. 1999) (appeal to broad principles insufficient).

When a habeas petitioner has not fairly presented a constitutional claim to the highest state court, and it is clear that the state court would now refuse to consider it because of the state's procedural rules, the claim is said to be "procedurally defaulted." Gray v. Netherland, 518 U.S. 152, 161 (1996). A habeas claim is also procedurally defaulted when the petitioner actually raised the claim in state court, but the state court denied or dismissed the claim after invoking a state law ground ...

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