United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, ECF NO. 16 -
ADOPTED IN PART
F. Leeson, Jr. United States District Judge
Christopher Rudolph filed a petition for writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his
conviction in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas of
Attempted Rape, Attempted Involuntary Deviate Sexual
Intercourse (“IDSI”), and Burglary. Magistrate
Judge Richard A. Lloret issued a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) recommending that the habeas corpus
claims be denied. Petitioner has filed objections to the
R&R. After de novo review, this Court adopts the R&R
in part and denies habeas relief.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
R&R with objections
objections to a report and recommendation have been filed
under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), the district court must
make a de novo review of those portions of the report to
which specific objections are made. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(C); Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106
n.3 (3d Cir. 1989). “District Courts, however, are not
required to make any separate findings or conclusions when
reviewing a Magistrate Judge's recommendation de novo
under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b).” Hill v.
Barnacle, 655 F. App'x. 142, 147 (3d Cir. 2016). The
“court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in
part, the findings and recommendations” contained in
the report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).
Habeas corpus petitions under 28 U.S.C. § 2254
to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
(“AEDPA”), “state prisoners must give the
state courts one full opportunity to resolve any
constitutional issues by invoking one complete round of the
State's established appellate review process”
before seeking federal habeas review. O'Sullivan v.
Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999). An unexhausted or
procedurally defaulted claim cannot provide the basis for
federal habeas relief unless the petitioner “can
demonstrate cause for the default and actual prejudice as a
result of the alleged violation of federal law, or
demonstrate that failure to consider the claims will result
in a fundamental miscarriage of justice.” See
Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 732-33, 750 (1991)
(explaining that a “habeas petitioner who has defaulted
his federal claims in state court meets the technical
requirements for exhaustion [because] there are no state
remedies any longer ‘available' to him”). The
Supreme Court has held that the ineffectiveness of counsel on
collateral review may constitute “cause” to
excuse a petitioner's default. See Trevino v.
Thaler, 133 S.Ct. 1911 (2013); Martinez v.
Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012).
AEDPA “imposes a highly deferential standard for
evaluating state-court rulings and demands that state-court
decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.”
Felkner v. Jackson, 562 U.S. 594, 598 (2011)
(internal quotations omitted); See also 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(d); Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S.
111, 123 (2009) (holding that there is a “doubly
deferential judicial review that applies to a
Strickland claim evaluated under the §
2254(d)(1) standard” because the question before a
federal court is not whether the state court's
determination was correct, but whether the determination was
unreasonable); Hunterson v. Disabato, 308 F.3d 236,
245 (3d Cir. 2002) (“[I]f permissible inferences could
be drawn either way, the state court decision must stand, as
its determination of the facts would not be
unreasonable.”). Additionally, “a federal habeas
court must afford a state court's factual findings a
presumption of correctness and that  presumption applies to
the factual determinations of state trial and appellate
courts.” Fahy v. Horn, 516 F.3d 169, 181 (3d
Cir. 2008). The habeas petitioner has the “burden of
rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and
convincing evidence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel
establish trial counsel's ineffectiveness,  a petitioner must
show: (1) counsel's performance fell below an objective
standard of reasonableness; and (2) the performance was
prejudicial to the defense. Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). There is a strong
presumption that counsel is effective and the courts,
guarding against the temptation to engage in hindsight, must
be “highly deferential” to counsel's
reasonable strategic decisions. Id. at 689
(explaining that courts should not second-guess counsel's
assistance and engage in “hindsight to reconstruct the
circumstances of counsel's challenged conduct”).
The mere existence of alternative, even more preferable or
more effective, strategies does not satisfy the first element
of the Strickland test. See Marshall v.
Hendricks, 307 F.3d 36, 86 (3d Cir. 2002). To establish
prejudice under the second element, the petitioner must show
that there is “a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different.” Roe v.
Flores-Ortega, 528 U.S. 470, 482 (2000) (quoting
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694). The court must
consider the totality of the evidence and the burden is on
the petitioner to prove ineffectiveness. Strickland,
466 U.S. at 687, 695.
Court has conducted de novo review and overrules
Rudolph's objections for the reasons discussed herein and
for those set forth in R&R. Magistrate Judge Lloret
reviewed the claims Rudolph raised in his habeas corpus
petition,  and determined that except for the
challenge to the trial judge's two orders issued in 2012,
Rudolph procedurally defaulted his claims. Notwithstanding
the procedural bar to review, the Magistrate Judge addressed
the merits of Rudolph's claims and concluded that they
were meritless. This Court has conducted de novo review of
all of Rudolph's claims, but writes separately to address
only a few of his objections. See Hill, 655 F.
App'x. at 147.
Rudolph's constitutional claims regarding the
Pennsylvania Burglary statute and Pennsylvania Constitution,
as well as his ...