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Taylor v. Blades

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 3, 2018

CHRISTOPHER M. TAYLOR, Petitioner,
v.
RANDY E. BLADES, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Honorable Candy W. Dale, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Pending before the Court is an Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, filed by Idaho state prisoner Christopher M. Taylor, challenging Petitioner's Jerome County conviction. (Dkt. 18.) Respondent has filed a Motion for Partial Summary Dismissal, arguing that Petitioner's claims, with the exception of Claim B(2), [1] are procedurally defaulted. (Dkt. 24.) That 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. 25.) 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) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73. (Dkt. 23.) Having carefully reviewed the record, including the state court record, the Court finds 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 for Partial Summary Dismissal and dismissing Claim A, Claim B(1), and Claim B(3) with prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         The facts underlying Petitioner's conviction are set forth clearly and accurately in State v. Taylor, Docket No. 39844, Op. 610 (Idaho Ct. App. 2013) (unpublished), which is contained in the record at State's Lodging B-4. The facts will not be repeated here except as necessary to explain the Court's decision.

         In the Fifth Judicial District Court in Jerome County, Idaho, Petitioner pleaded guilty[2] to one count of aggravated battery on a peace officer, with sentencing enhancements for use of a deadly weapon and for being a persistent violator, and one count of aggravated assault on a peace officer, with a persistent violator sentencing enhancement. (Id. at 1.) In exchange for Petitioner's guilty pleas, the state dismissed additional charges. (State's Lodging A-1 at 172-73.) Petitioner received concurrent fixed life sentences, and the trial court later denied his motion for reduction of sentence under Idaho Criminal Rule 35. Petitioner appealed only the imposition of his fixed life sentences. (State's Lodging B-1.) The Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Idaho Supreme Court denied review. (State's Lodging B-4; State's Lodging B-7.)

         Petitioner then filed a petition for state post-conviction relief, which was dismissed by the Idaho state district court. (State's Lodging C-1 at 3-12, 21-23, 58-66.) Petitioner appealed, and the Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed. (State's Lodging D-4.) The remittitur in the post-conviction appeal was initially issued because Petitioner had not filed a petition for review within the time period required. However, the Idaho Supreme Court later granted Petitioner's request to submit an untimely petition for review. (State's Lodging D-5 through D-10.) The petition for review asserted that Petitioner's trial attorney advised him to plead guilty while incorrectly informing Petitioner that his maximum potential sentence was an indeterminate life term. (State's Lodging D-10.) The Idaho Supreme Court denied the petition and issued the final remittitur. (State's Lodging D-11, D-12.)

         While Petitioner's post-conviction proceedings were still pending, he filed the instant federal habeas case. The Court initially dismissed the case without prejudice for failure to exhaust, but later reopened the case after Petitioner's state court proceedings were completed and after the Ninth Circuit's decision in Mena v. Long, 813 F.3d 907, 908 (9th Cir. 2016). (Dkt. 6, 9, 10, 14.) Petitioner was allowed to proceed on his Amended Petition. (Dkt. 20.)

         In that Amended Petition, Petitioner asserts two claims, one of which has three sub-claims. In Claim A, Petitioner argues that his fixed life sentences violate the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment. (Dkt. 18 at 6-9.)

         In Claim B, Petitioner asserts ineffective assistance of trial and direct appeal counsel. Claim B(1) alleges ineffective assistance of trial counsel for “encourag[ing] [Petitioner] to plead guilty pursuant to a plea bargain that offered no advantage whatsoever over proceeding to trial” and for failing to object to “what constitutes an illegal sentence under state and federal law, ” thus failing to preserve the issue for appeal. (Id. at 9-10.) In Claim B(2), Petitioner asserts ineffective assistance of trial counsel for advising Petitioner that, pursuant to the plea agreement, the worst sentence Petitioner faced was “an indeterminate life term” instead of the correct maximum sentence—life in prison without the possibility of parole. (Id. at 10.) Finally, Claim (B)(3) alleges that Petitioner's direct appeal counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to argue on appeal that Petitioner's sentences were improperly enhanced. (Dkt. 18 at 11-12.)

         The Court previously reviewed the Amended 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 legal excuse for any failure to exhaust in a proper manner.” (Dkt. 20 at 2.)

         DISCUSSION

         The Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases (“Habeas Rules”) authorize the Court to summarily dismiss a petition for writ of habeas corpus when “it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any attached exhibits, ” as well as those records subject to judicial notice, “that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Habeas Rule 4; see Fed. R. Evid. 201(b); Dawson, 451 F.3d at 551 n.1. Where appropriate, a respondent may file a motion for summary dismissal, rather than an answer. White v. Lewis, 874 F.2d 599, 602 (9th Cir. 1989).

         Respondent argues that Claims A, B(1), and B(3) are procedurally defaulted and that no legal excuse for the default exists. ...


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