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Coutts v. State

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

August 8, 2019

JAMES ALLEN COUTTS, Petitioner,
v.
STATE OF NEBRASKA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on preliminary review of Petitioner Coutts' Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Filing No. 1) brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The purpose of this review is to determine whether Petitioner's claims, when liberally construed, are potentially cognizable in federal court. Condensed and summarized for clarity, Petitioner's claims are:

Claim One[1]: The Petitioner was denied due process of law because throughout all critical stages of the proceedings, including the bench trial and at sentencing, he was not competent. In particular, Petitioner suffered from severe mental illnesses (such as Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Furthermore, Petitioner was (a) denied proper psychiatric medications and psychiatric care and (2) at times he was under the influence of strong psychiatric medications such Depakote, Celexa and Elavil.
Claim Two: Petitioner was denied effective assistance of trial counsel because throughout all critical stages of the proceedings Petitioner was not competent (for the reasons articulated in Claim One) and trial counsel allowed the proceedings to continue without a determination of the competency of Petitioner at each critical stage of the proceedings.
Claim Three: Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to properly raise a defense or argue in mitigation that the alleged assault occurred when Petitioner was suffering severe mental illnesses and had been denied proper psychiatric medications and care prior to the alleged assault in the jail.[2]

         The court determines that these claims, when liberally construed, are potentially cognizable in federal court. However, the court cautions Petitioner that no determination has been made regarding the merits of these claims or any defenses to them or whether there are procedural bars that will prevent Petitioner from obtaining the relief sought.

         IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that:

         1. Upon initial review of the habeas corpus petition (Filing No. 1), the court preliminarily determines that Petitioner's claims, as they are set forth in this Memorandum and Order, are potentially cognizable in federal court.

         2. By September 23, 2019, Respondent must 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: September 23, 2019: deadline for Respondent to file state court records in support of answer or motion for summary judgment.

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

A. The motion for summary judgment must be accompanied by a separate brief, submitted at the time the motion is filed.
B. The motion for summary judgment must be supported by any state court records that are necessary to support the motion. Those records must 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 must be served on Petitioner except that Respondent is only required to provide Petitioner with a copy of the specific pages of the record that are cited in Respondent's motion and brief. In the event that the designation of state court records is deemed insufficient by Petitioner or Petitioner needs additional records from the designation, Petitioner may file a motion with the court requesting additional documents. Such motion must 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 must file and serve a brief in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. Petitioner may not submit other ...

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