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Wright v. State

United States District Court, D. Idaho

April 11, 2014

BURTON L. WRIGHT, Petitioner,


RONALD E. BUSH, Magistrate Judge.

Pending before the Court is Petitioner Burton L. Wright's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. (Dkt. 3.) Respondents have filed a Motion for Summary Dismissal. (Dkt. 29.) Petitioner has responded to the Motion. (Dkt. 31, 32). Respondents have filed a Reply. (Dkt. 39.) The Court takes judicial notice of the records from Petitioner's state court proceedings, lodged by Respondent on October 7, 2013; October 16, 2013; January 10, 2014; February 20, 2014; and April 1, 2014. (Dkt. 17, 20, 28, 36, 49.) See Fed.R.Evid. 201(b); Dawson v. Mahoney, 451 F.3d 550, 551 (9th Cir. 2006).

The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all proceedings in this case in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Dkt. 13.) 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 oral argument in unnecessary. D. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 7.1(d). Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order granting Respondents' Motion and dismissing this case with prejudice.


The facts underlying Petitioner's conviction are set forth clearly and accurately in Wright v. State of Idaho, Case No. 37331, Unpublished Op. No. 371 (Idaho Ct. App. February 25, 2011), which is contained in the record at State's Lodging C-4. The facts will not be repeated here, except as necessary to determine the procedural issues at hand.

Petitioner pleaded guilty in the Fifth Judicial District in Gooding County, Idaho, to one count of felony injury to a child, in violation of Idaho Code § 18-1501(1), as a result of events leading to the death of Petitioner's 17-year-old son in an alcohol-related car accident. (State's Lodging C-4 at 2.) In exchange for Petitioner's guilty plea, three other charges were dismissed. (State's Lodging A-13, A-14.) Throughout plea negotiations and sentencing, Petitioner disputed evidence that he and his son were both drinking alcohol and that they engaged in a car race, admitting only that "he knew or should have known that his son might consume alcohol that evening and that, given this knowledge, he should have prevented his son from driving." (State's Lodging C-4 at 2.)

Petitioner was sentenced to a unified sentence of ten years in prison with five years fixed. ( Id. ) The judgment of conviction and sentence was issued on September 11, 2007. (State's Lodging A-16.) Petitioner did not file a direct appeal.

On January 9, 2008, Petitioner filed a motion to correct his sentence under Idaho Criminal Rule 35. (State's Lodging A-19.) The trial court denied the motion on January 29, 2008. (State's Lodging A-20.) Petitioner did not appeal.

On October 14, 2008, Petitioner filed a postconviction petition in state court, claiming that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to obtain a mental health evaluation of Petitioner prior to sentencing. (State's Lodging B-1 at 1-3.) The trial court summarily dismissed the petition. ( Id. at 134-48.) Petitioner appealed, and the Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed. (State's Lodging C-4.) Petitioner filed a petition for rehearing in the court of appeals, which was denied, as well as a petition for review with the Idaho Supreme Court. (State's Lodging C-5, C-7, C-8.) The Idaho Supreme Court denied the petition for review on July 1, 2011, and the remittitur issued the same day. (State's Lodging C-10, C-11.)

On December 4, 2011, Petitioner filed a state petition for writ of habeas corpus. (State's Lodging E-1.) On March 8, 2012, the state district court dismissed the petition prior to service of process because under Idaho law, a habeas petition may not be used "as a substitute for, or in addition to, a direct appeal of a criminal conviction or proceedings under Idaho criminal rule 35 or the uniform post-conviction procedures act, chapter 49, title 19, Idaho Code, and the statutes of limitations imposed therein." Idaho Code § 19-4203(4). (State's Lodging E-2.) Petitioner did not appeal this dismissal. (State's Lodging E-3.)

Petitioner has served the fixed portion of his sentence. At a parole hearing in March 2012, Petitioner admitted for the first time that he provided his son with alcohol on the night of the accident and was also drinking alcohol himself. (State's Lodging D-1 at 2.) Petitioner told the parole commission that he was following his son home in another car when the accident occurred.

The commission granted Petitioner a tentative parole date of March 13, 2013. ( Id. at 3.) However, in June 2012, Petitioner was issued a Disciplinary Offense Report (DOR) for an unauthorized financial obligation. (State's Lodging D-2.) Without permission, Petitioner had started a business and had begun to compete with his work-center employer. ( Id. ) As a result of the DOR, the parole commission voided Petitioner's tentative parole date. (State's Lodging D-3.) Petitioner requested reconsideration, apologizing for breaking the rules but stating that the accusations in the DOR were false. The commission denied the request for reconsideration in February 2013. (State's Lodging D-4.)

In the instant Petition, Petitioner asserts seven claims. ( See Dkt. 3.) Claim One asserts that Petitioner is innocent. Claim Two asserts ineffective assistance of counsel. Claim Three alleges malicious prosecution and violations of the Eighth Amendment. Claim Four asserts that the prosecution breached Petitioner's plea agreement. Claim Five asserts that trial counsel should have requested a competency hearing. Claim Six alleges that the trial judge was biased. Finally, Claim Seven asserts that Petitioner was denied his right to due process when he was denied parole and stripped of his tentative release date.


1. Motions for Extensions of Time and for Leave to File Oversize Brief (Dkt. 23, 26, 38), and Motion to Seal (Dkt. 37)

As an initial matter, the Court finds good cause to grant Respondents' two motions for extensions of time; thus, the Motion for Summary Dismissal is deemed timely. Petitioner's objection that the Court lacks authority to extend the deadline, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b)(2), is misplaced. ( See Dkt. 31.) Rule 6(b)(2) prohibits a federal court from extending time for motions made under certain rules, but a motion for summary dismissal under the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases is not among them.

The Court will also grant Respondents' Motion for Leave to File Excess Pages, as well as their Motion to Seal State's Lodging B-3, Petitioner's psychological report submitted in support of his state petition for postconviction relief. ( See Notice of Lodging Third Supplemental State Court Records, Dkt. 36.)

2. Motion to Add Memorandum (Dkt. 14), and Motion to Introduce Citations (Dkt. 35)

Petitioner has moved to add a memorandum into the record "to support and clarify" the claims in the Petition and to add as a respondent Jason Ellis, the current warden of the prison where Petitioner is confined. This motion will be granted in part. The new warden will not be substituted as a respondent because, as explained below, the Petition is subject to summary dismissal and the inclusion of Mr. Ellis as a respondent is unnecessary. However, the Court will grant the motion to the extent it seeks only to clarify the claims in the Petition. The Court will also grant Petitioner's Motion to Introduce Citations. The Court has considered all of Petitioner's submissions, along with the entire record in this case.

3. Motion for Reconsideration (Dkt. 15)

Petitioner has also filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's denial, in its Initial Review Order (Dkt. 9), of Petitioner's motion for summary judgment. The Court has 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 does not find sufficient cause to reconsider its denial of Petitioner's summary judgment motion. Respondents have not answered the petition on the merits. Rather, the Court must first determine whether the Petition is subject to summary dismissal. As explained below, the Petition will be dismissed. Therefore, Petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration will be denied.

4. Request for Interlocutory Injunction and Relation Back (Dkt. 22)

The Court will deny Petitioner's motion for an interlocutory injunction and motion to "redesignate Dkt. 15 under Rule 15(c)(1)(B) and relation back.'" (Dkt. 22 at 1.) The request to treat Petitioner's previous memorandum (Dkt. 15) as an amendment to the petition-rather than a clarification of the claims in the initial Petition-will be denied because the amendment would be futile. First, nearly all of the claims asserted in the proposed amendment either (1) are based on alleged violations of state law or the Fourth Amendment, claims which are not cognizable on federal habeas review, see Lewis v. Jeffers, 497 U.S. 764, 780 (1990) ("Federal habeas corpus relief does not lie for errors of state law."); Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 494 (1976) (holding that a federal court cannot grant habeas relief on Fourth Amendment grounds so long as petitioner had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in state court); or (2) invoke federal criminal statutes or rules governing federal criminal procedure, which do not apply in this civil habeas corpus proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Second, Petitioner's remaining claim in the memorandum-that the grand jury indictment clause of the United States Constitution applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment-is foreclosed by Hurtado v. California, 110 U.S. 516 (1884) (holding that due process does not require a state grand jury indictment). This Court has no authority to overrule decisions of the United States Supreme Court.

Petitioner's request for an injunction will be denied because, as explained below, the Petition is subject to summary dismissal, and Petitioner thus has no probability of success on the merits of his claims. See Winter v. Natural Res. Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008) (setting forth the requirements for a preliminary injunction).

5. Motion for Judicial Notice (Dkt. 46)

Petitioner asks that the Court take judicial notice of certain "facts, " such as the alleged conduct of state officers during the course of the criminal proceedings against Petitioner. However, these are not the sort of adjudicative facts "whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned" and are therefore not properly subject to judicial ...

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