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Brown v. Gray

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

February 25, 2014

HARRY PURVIS BROWN, Petitioner,
v.
LEWIS GRAY, Respondent.

ORDER

LOUISE W. FLANAGAN, District Judge.

Petitioner, a state inmate, petitions this court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. This matter came before the court on the motion for summary judgment (DE 5) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 of respondent Lewis Gray ("respondent"). Also before the court is petitioner's motion to appoint counsel (DE 10). The issues raised were fully briefed and are ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, the court grants respondent's motion for summary judgment and denies petitioner's motion to appoint counsel.

STATEMENT OF CASE

On April 19, 2006, petitioner pleaded guilty, in the Craven County Superior Court, to felony possession of five or more counterfeit instruments with the intent to injure or defraud, pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-119(b). Petitioner also admitted to having attained the status of a habitual felon pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-7.1. Resp't's Ex. 1. The trial court sentenced petitioner in the mitigated range to a term of one hundred ten (110) to one hundred forty-one (141) months imprisonment. Id . Exs. 1, 2. Petitioner did not file a direct appeal.

On October 11, 2012, petitioner filed a pro se pleading captioned "Motion for Retroactive Status" in the Craven County Superior Court Id . Ex. 3. On October 15, 2012, the superior court construed petitioner's filing as a motion for appropriate relief ("MAR"), and denied the motion finding that the "the motion set[] forth no probable grounds for the relief requested, either in law or fact." Id . Ex. 4. On October 31, 2012, petitioner filed a second MAR in the superior court, which was denied on December 11, 2012. Id . Exs. 5, 6.

On January 23, 2013, petitioner filed this pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the December 1, 2009, amendments to the North Carolina Structured Sentencing Act ("SSA") and the 2011 amendments to the Justice Reinvestment Act ("JRA"). Respondent subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, which was fully briefed. On August 6, 2013, petitioner filed a motion to appoint counsel.

DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Appoint Counsel

There is no constitutional right to counsel in habeas corpus actions. Pennsylvania v. Finley , 481 U.S. 551, 555 (1987). Under 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(a)(2)(B), a court may appoint counsel in a habeas corpus proceeding if it determines that "the interests of justice so require." At this point, the court does not perceive issues of great legal complexity, and therefore the interests of justice do not mandate the appointment of counsel. Accordingly, petitioner's motion to appoint counsel is DENIED.

B. Motion For Summary Judgment

1. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate when there exists no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby , 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of initially coming forward and demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party then must affirmatively demonstrate that there exists a genuine issue of material fact requiring trial. Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). There is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 250.

The standard of review for habeas petitions brought by state inmates, where the claims have been adjudicated on the merits in the state court, is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). That statute states that habeas relief cannot be granted in cases where a state court considered a claim on its merits unless the decision was contrary to or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court, or the state court decision was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) and (2). A state court decision is "contrary to" Supreme Court precedent if it either arrives at "a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law" or "confronts facts that are materially indistinguishable from a relevant Supreme Court precedent and arrives at a result opposite" to that of the Supreme Court. Williams v. Taylor , 529 U.S. 362, 406 (2000). A state court decision "involves an unreasonable application" of Supreme Court law "if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's cases but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the state prisoner's case." Id. at 407. A state court decision also may apply Supreme Court law unreasonably if it extends existing Supreme Court precedent to a new context where it does not apply, or unreasonably refuses to extend existing precedent to a new context where it should apply. Id . The applicable statute

does not require that a state court cite to federal law in order for a federal court to determine whether the state court's decision is an objectively reasonable one, nor does it require a federal habeas court to offer an independent opinion as to whether it believes, based upon its own reading of the controlling Supreme Court precedents, that ...

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