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Naughton v. Wenerowicz

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


June 7, 2010

JAMES NAUGHTON, HM-1570, PETITIONER,
v.
MICHAEL WENEROWICZ, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert C. Mitchell, United States Magistrate Judge

Report and Recommendation

I. Recommendation

It is respectfully recommended that the petition of James Naughton for a writ of habeas corpus be dismissed and because reasonable jurists could not conclude that a basis for appeal exists, that a certificate of appealability be denied.

II. Report

James Naughton, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford has presented a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.*fn1 Naughton is presently serving a five to ten year sentence imposed following his plea of guilty to charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, sexual offenses involving a minor and corruption of minors at No. 7535 of 2007 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. This sentence was imposed on April 4, 2008.*fn2

Although the petitioner states in paragraph 8 of the petition that he filed an appeal, in reality he failed to do so, but on September 11, 2008, he filed a post-conviction petition.*fn3 That petition was withdrawn on June 29, 2009.*fn4 A notice of appeal was also filed in the Court of Common Pleas on June 23, 2009.*fn5

The petitioner now comes before this Court seeking to challenge his conviction on the grounds that his plea was not knowingly and intelligently entered due to his marijuana intoxication and lack of sleep when he entered the plea.

It is provided in 28 U.S.C. §2254(b) that:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted unless it appears that the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State, or that there is either an absence of available State corrective process or the existence of circumstances rendering such process ineffective to protect the rights of the prisoner.

This statute represents a codification of the well-established concept which requires that before a federal court will review any allegations raised by a state prisoner, those allegations must first be presented to that state's highest court for consideration. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973); Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court of Kentucky, 410 U.S. 484 (1973); Doctor v. Walters, 96 F.3d 675 (3d Cir. 1996).

It is only when a petitioner has demonstrated that the available corrective process would be ineffective or futile that the exhaustion requirement will not be imposed. Preiser v. Rodriguez, supra.; Walker v. Vaughn, 53 F.3d 609 (3d Cir. 1995).

If it appears that there are available state court remedies, the court must determine whether a procedural default has occurred. If a procedural default has occurred, the court must determine whether cause or prejudice exists for the default, or whether a fundamental miscarriage of justice would result from a failure to consider the claims. Carter v. Vaughn, 62 F.3d 591 (3d Cir. 1995).

In construing § 2254(d)(1), the Court in Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-413 (2000) stated:

Under § 2254(d)(1), the writ may issue only if one of the following two conditions is satisfied - the state-court adjudication resulted in a decision that (1) "was contrary to ... clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," or (2) "involved an unreasonable application of ... clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." Under the "contrary to" clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by this Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than this Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Under the "unreasonable application" clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from this Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.

In Hameen v. Delaware, 212 F.3d 226, 235 (3d Cir. 2000), the Court determined:

The Court in Williams v. Taylor held that "[u]nder the 'contrary to' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than this Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams v. Taylor, further held that "[u]nder the 'unreasonable application' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." The "unreasonable application" inquiry requires the habeas court to "ask whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law was objectively unreasonable." Thus, under the "unreasonable application" clause, "a federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable." The Court in Williams v. Taylor made it clear that the "contrary to" and "unreasonable application"clauses have independent meaning.

In the instant case, it is clear that the petitioner never presented the issue which he seeks to raise here to the appellate courts of the Commonwealth nor was he in any manner hindered in his attempts to do so. For this reason, he has failed to exhaust the remedies available to him in the Courts of the Commonwealth and his petition is therefore subject to dismissal here.

Accordingly, it is recommended that the petition of James Naughton for a writ of habeas corpus be dismissed and because reasonable jurists could not conclude that a basis for appeal exists, that a certificate of appealability be denied.

Within fourteen (14) days after being served, any party may serve and file written objections to the Report and Recommendation. Failure to file timely objections may constitute a waiver of any appellate rights.

Respectfully submitted,


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