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Ridgley v. Smith

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

January 27, 2014

LELAND A. RIDGLEY, Petitioner,
JOHANNA SMITH, Warden, Respondent.


B. LYNN WINMILL, Chief District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Petitioner Leland A. Ridgley's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Dkt. 3). Respondent has filed an Answer and Brief in Support of Dismissal (Dkt. 20), and Petitioner has filed a Reply (Dkt. 22). The Court takes judicial notice of the records from Petitioner's state court proceedings, lodged by Respondent on June 26, 2012; April 25, 2013; and May 9, 2013 (Dkt. 12, 19, 21). See Fed.R.Evid. 201(b); Dawson v. Mahoney, 451 F.3d 550, 551 (9th Cir. 2006).

Also pending is Petitioner's request that the Court reconsider its March 5, 2013 Order granting Respondent's motion for partial summary dismissal and dismissing all claims in the Petition except Claims 1(a)-(c).

Having carefully reviewed the record, including the state court record, the Court finds that the parties have adequately presented the facts and legal arguments in the briefs and record and that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Therefore, the Court will decide this matter on the written motions, briefs and record without oral argument. D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d). Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order denying Petitioner's motion for reconsideration, denying the Petition, and dismissing this case with prejudice.


The facts underlying the conviction, as well as the procedural background of Petitioner's criminal proceedings, are set forth clearly and accurately in Ridgley v. State, 227 P.3d 925 (Idaho 2010). Petitioner is currently serving a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.

Petitioner pleaded guilty in the First Judicial District in Boundary County, Idaho, to one count of lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor under the age of sixteen, in return for the dismissal of other charges. Petitioner entered his plea on February 26, 2002, only sixteen days after the death of his wife.[1] Id. at 927-28. However, 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 In an unpublished opinion, the Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision.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.

Id. at 928.

The Idaho Supreme Court disagreed with the court of appeals with respect to the competency issue and affirmed the district court's judgment, albeit on different grounds than those given by the district court. Id. at 930-33.

Petitioner also pursued a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus on similar grounds, which was dismissed by the district court. (State's Lodging E-1, pp. 16-41.) The Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal, and the Idaho Supreme Court denied review. (State's Lodging E-2; F-3.)

Petitioner next filed the instant Petition, asserting several grounds for relief. On March 5, 2013, the Court granted Respondent's motion for partial summary dismissal and dismissed as procedurally defaulted all of Petitioner's claims except his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel based on counsel's failure to (a) address Petitioner's severe depression or to seek a competency evaluation before the guilty plea, (b) adequately investigate the case, and (c) adequately communicate with Petitioner. (Dkt. 16.)


Petitioner asks the Court reconsider its previous ruling dismissing Claims 1(d), 2, 3, and 4 as procedurally defaulted. Courts have the "inherent procedural power to reconsider, rescind, or modify an interlocutory order for cause seen by it to be sufficient." City of Los Angeles v. Santa Monica Baykeeper, 254 F.3d 882, 885 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks and emphasis omitted). Although courts have authority to reconsider prior orders, they "should be loathe to do so in the absence of extraordinary circumstances such as where the initial decision was clearly erroneous and would work a manifest injustice.'" Christianson v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp. 486 U.S. 800, 817 (1988) (quoting Arizona v. California, 460 U.S. 605, 618 n. 8 (1983)).

The Court stated in its March 5, 2013 Memorandum Decision and Order that Petitioner, who filed a state habeas petition with in state court, did not petition for review of the Idaho Court of Appeals decision affirming the dismissal of that petition. Petitioner correctly states that he did file such a petition for review. The Court was mistaken because the petition for review was not lodged with the Court. Respondent has now supplemented the lodging of state court records to include the petition for review, Petitioner's brief in support of his petition for review, and the Idaho Supreme Court's order denying the petition. ( See Dkt. 19.)

However, the fact that Petitioner filed a petition for review regarding his state habeas petition does not alter the Court's conclusion with respect to procedural default. The Court's analysis on this issue was as follows:

Finally, Petitioner raised numerous issues in a state habeas corpus petition, but the Idaho Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's dismissal on the ground that Petitioner was attempting to challenge his conviction and sentence improperly in a state habeas action rather than through a direct appeal and post-conviction proceeding. (State's Lodging E-2.) Petitioner does not assert that this procedural rule is not firmly established or consistently followed by the Idaho state courts. See, e.g., Dionne v. State, 459 P.2d 1017, 1019 (Idaho 1969) (holding that the proper mechanism for challenging a conviction or sentence is via direct appeal or post-conviction action). In any case, Petitioner did not file a petition for review in the Idaho Supreme Court.

(Dkt. 16 at 7).

The Court incorrectly stated that Petitioner did not petition for review with respect to his state habeas petition only after it had already held that Claims 2, 3, and 4 were procedurally defaulted because Petitioner (1) had not raised any federal claims in his direct appeal, and (2) had not filed a petition for review of the Idaho Court of Appeals' decision on direct appeal. ( Id. at 6.) Additionally, Claim 1(d), a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel based on counsel's waiver of a preliminary hearing, was procedurally defaulted because it was not raised on appeal from the trial court's dismissal of Petitioner's postconviction petition. ( Id. at 6-7.) Finally, that the Court was mistaken in its belief that Petitioner had not petitioned for review with respect to his state habeas petition does not change the fact that the Idaho Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of that petition based on an adequate and independent state procedural bar. ( Id. at 7.)

Therefore, although Petitioner is correct that he did, in fact, petition the Idaho Supreme Court for review of the Idaho Court of Appeals' decision upholding the dismissal of his state habeas petition, all of the claims except Claims 1(a), 1(b), and 1(c) are still procedurally defaulted. The Court sees no cause to reconsider its prior Order.


1. Standard of Law

Federal habeas corpus relief may be granted on claims adjudicated on the merits in a state court judgment when the federal court determines that the petitioner "is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). A federal habeas court reviews the state court's "last reasoned decision" in ...

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