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Ross v. Houston

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

May 14, 2013

MICHAEL L. ROSS, Petitioner,
v.
ROBERT HOUSTON, Director Of Department of Correction For the State of Nebraska, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

RICHARD G. KOPF, Senior District Judge.

The court has conducted an initial review of the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (filing no. 1) to determine whether the claims made by Petitioner are, when liberally construed, potentially cognizable in federal court. Liberally construed, Petitioner asserts two claims.

Claim One: Petitioner was denied the effective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments because his trial counsel (1) stipulated that Petitioner had been convicted of a felony in 2003, and (2) failed to request a hearing regarding evidence improperly admitted under Federal Rule of Evidence 404. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF pp. 17-32.)
Claim Two: Petitioner was denied due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment because (1) the Nebraska Supreme Court incorrectly applied federal law, specifically Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), (2) the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to support Petitioner's conviction, (3) the evidence used at trial was inadmissable under Federal Rule of Evidence 404, and (4) the Nebraska Supreme Court added evidence that was not used at trial in order to find that the evidence at trial was sufficient to support his conviction. ( Id. at CM/ECF pp. 32-49.)

The court preliminarily decides that Petitioner's claims One and Two, as set forth in this Memorandum and Order, are potentially cognizable in federal court. However, the court cautions Petitioner that no determination has been made regarding the merits of his claims or any defenses thereto or whether there are procedural bars that will prevent Petitioner from obtaining the relief sought.

Also pending is Petitioner's Motion to Appoint Counsel. (Filing No. 3.) "[T]here is neither a constitutional nor statutory right to counsel in habeas proceedings; instead, [appointment of counsel] is committed to the discretion of the trial court." McCall v. Benson, 114 F.3d 754, 756 (8th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). As a general rule, counsel will not be appointed unless the case is unusually complex or the petitioner's ability to investigate and articulate the claims is unusually impaired or an evidentiary hearing is required. See, e.g., Morris v. Dormire, 217 F.3d 556, 558-59 (8th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 984 (2000); Hoggard v. Purkett, 29 F.3d 469, 471 (8th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted); see also Rule 8(c) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (requiring appointment of counsel if an evidentiary hearing is warranted). Upon review of the pleadings and Petitioner's Motion, there is no need for the appointment of counsel at this time.

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that:

1. Upon initial review of the Petition (filing no. 1), the court preliminarily decides that Petitioner's claims are potentially cognizable in federal court.

2. The Clerk of the court is directed to mail copies of this Memorandum and Order and the Petition (filing no. 1) to Respondents and the Nebraska Attorney General by regular first-class mail.

3. By June 27, 2013, Respondent shall file a motion for summary judgment or state court records in support of an answer. The Clerk of the court is directed to set a pro se case management deadline in this case using the following text: June 27, 2013: deadline for Respondent to file state court records in support of answer or motion for summary judgment.

4. If Respondent elects to file a motion for summary judgment, the following procedures shall be followed by Respondent and Petitioner:

A. The motion for summary judgment shall be accompanied by a separate brief, submitted at the time of the filing of the motion.
B. The motion for summary judgment shall be supported by such state court records as are necessary to support the motion. Those records shall be contained in a separate filing entitled: "Designation of State Court Records in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment."
C. Copies of the motion for summary judgment, the designation, including state court records, and Respondent's brief shall be served upon Petitioner except that Respondent is only required to provide Petitioner with a copy of the specific pages of the record which are cited in Respondent's brief. In the event that the designation of state court records is deemed insufficient by Petitioner, Petitioner may file a motion with the court requesting additional documents. Such motion shall set forth the documents requested and the reasons the documents are relevant to the cognizable claims.
D. No later than 30 days following the filing of the motion for summary judgment, Petitioner shall file and serve a brief in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. Petitioner shall submit no other documents unless directed to do so by the court.
E. No later than 30 days after the filing of Petitioner's brief, Respondent shall file and serve a reply brief. In the event that Respondent elects not to file a reply brief, he should inform the court by filing a notice stating that he will not file a reply brief and that the motion is therefore fully submitted for decision.
F. If the motion for summary judgment is denied, Respondent shall file an answer, a designation and a brief that complies with terms of this order. ( See the following paragraph.) The documents shall be filed no later than 30 days after the denial of the motion for summary judgment. Respondent is warned that the failure to file an answer, a designation and a brief in a timely fashion may result in the imposition of sanctions, including the release of Petitioner.

5. If Respondent elects to file an answer, the following procedures shall be followed by Respondent and Petitioner:

A. By June 27, 2013, Respondent shall file all state court records which are relevant to the cognizable claims. See, e.g., Rule 5(c)-(d) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts. Those records shall be contained in a separate filing entitled: "Designation of State Court Records In Support of Answer."
B. No later than 30 days after the filing of the relevant state court records, Respondent shall file an answer. The answer shall be accompanied by a separate brief, submitted at the time of the filing of the answer. Both the answer and brief shall address all matters germane to the case including, but not limited to, the merits of Petitioner's allegations that have survived initial review, and whether any claim is barred by a failure to exhaust state remedies, a procedural bar, non-retroactivity, a statute of limitations, or because the petition is an unauthorized second or successive petition. See, e.g., Rules 5(b) and 9 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts.
C. Copies of the answer, the designation, and Respondent's brief shall be served upon Petitioner at the time they are filed with the court except that Respondent is only required to provide Petitioner with a copy of the specific pages of the designated record which are cited in Respondent's brief. In the event that the designation of state court records is deemed insufficient by Petitioner, Petitioner may file a motion with the court requesting additional documents. Such motion shall set forth the documents requested and the reasons the documents are relevant to the cognizable claims.
D. No later than 30 days following the filing of Respondent's brief, Petitioner shall file and serve a brief in response. Petitioner shall submit no other documents unless directed to do so by the court.
E. No later than 30 days after the filing of Petitioner's brief, Respondent shall file and serve a reply brief. In the event that Respondent elects not to file a reply brief, he should inform the court by filing a notice stating that he will not file a reply brief and that the merits of the petition are therefore fully submitted for decision.
F. The Clerk of the court is directed to set a pro se case management deadline in this case using the following text: July 26, 2013: check for Respondent to file answer and separate brief.

6. No discovery shall be undertaken without leave of the court. See Rule 6 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts.

7. Petitioner's Motion to Appoint Counsel (filing no. 3) is denied.


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