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Vanzant v. Yordy

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 10, 2018

KEITH YORDY, Respondent.



         Pending before the Court is a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Idaho state prisoner Bradley Joseph Vanzant (“Petitioner”), challenging Petitioner's Ada County conviction for possession of a controlled substance. (Dkt. 3.) Respondent has filed a Motion for Summary Dismissal, arguing that Claim 1 is noncognizable and that Petitioner's remaining claims are procedurally defaulted. (Dkt. 13.) The Motion is now ripe for adjudication.

         The Court takes judicial notice of the records from Petitioner's state court proceedings, which have been lodged by Respondent. (Dkt. 12.) See Fed. R. Evid. 201(b); Dawson v Mahoney, 451 F.3d 550, 551 n.1 (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. 10.) 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 is unnecessary. See D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d). Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order granting Respondent's Motion and dismissing this case with prejudice.


         In the Fourth Judicial District Court in Ada County, Idaho, Petitioner pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine, in violation of Idaho Code § 37-2732(c). (State's Lodging B-4 at 1.) He received a unified sentence of six years in prison with three and one-half years fixed. Petitioner filed an Idaho Criminal Rule 35 motion for reduction of sentence, which was denied. (State's Lodging A-4, A-7.)

         Petitioner filed a direct appeal, arguing that his sentence was excessive under Idaho law and that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his Rule 35 motion. (State's Lodging B-1.) The Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Idaho Supreme Court denied review. (State's Lodging B-4, B-6.)

         Petitioner next filed a petition for state post-conviction relief, arguing that his guilty plea was involuntary and that Petitioner's trial counsel and direct appeal counsel rendered ineffective assistance. (State's Lodging C-1 at 4-6.) The Ada County Public Defender's Office was appointed to represent Petitioner in the post-conviction proceedings. (Id. at 39.) The public defender's office later withdrew, and new counsel appeared on behalf of Petitioner. (Id. at 44.)

         The trial court held a hearing on the state's motion to dismiss, concluding that the claims identified in the state's motion were conclusory and not supported by admissible evidence. (State's Lodging C-2 at 13.) However, because two of Petitioner's claims had not been cited by the state in its motion to dismiss, the court gave Petitioner twenty days to “file additional affidavits and/or briefs laying out specifics as to these two issues and these two issues only.” (Id. at 14.)

         Petitioner's post-conviction counsel did not submit additional evidence or briefing. As a result, Petitioner filed a “Motion for Conflict Free Counsel, ” asserting that his post-conviction attorney would not adequately assist him. (Id. at 84.) Petitioner sought new counsel, stating “there is absolutely no type of attorney [c]lient relationship between the Petitioner” and his attorney. (Id.) The trial court denied Petitioner's motion and dismissed the post-conviction petition. (Id. at 88-104 and 89 at n.2.)

         Petitioner, through new counsel, appealed the dismissal of the petition, arguing only that the post-conviction court erred by denying Petitioner's motion for conflict-free counsel. (State's Lodging D-1, D-3.) Petitioner did not appeal any of the substantive claims raised in his post-conviction conviction. The Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the petition, and the Idaho Supreme Court denied review. (State's Lodging D-4, D-7.)

         Petitioner's instant federal habeas petition asserts the following claims: (1) the state district court violated Petitioner's right to due process by denying his motion for conflict-free counsel, during post-conviction proceedings, without holding a hearing; (2) Petitioner's guilty plea was involuntary and resulted from ineffective assistance of trial counsel; and (3) Petitioner's trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing (a) to call witnesses, (b) to challenge the drug amount discrepancies, (c) to review audio and video recordings of the arrest, and (d) to file a motion to suppress. (Dkt. 3; see also Dkt. 7 at 2.)

         The Court previously reviewed the Petition and allowed Petitioner to proceed on his claims to the extent those claims “(1) are cognizable in a federal habeas corpus action, (2) were timely filed in this Court, and (3) were either properly exhausted in state court or subject to a ...

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