United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
HEATON CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
Megan Hammers, a state prisoner appearing pro se,
has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254. She challenges the constitutionality of
her Oklahoma state court conviction for child abuse,
asserting the ineffective assistance of her trial counsel.
The petition asserts four alleged deficiencies in her
counsel's conduct: (1) failure to prepare petitioner for
trial or to provide petitioner with her child's medical
records, (2) failure to hire and present an expert witness,
(3) failure to present certain other witnesses, and (4)
failure to object to certain testimony.
matter was referred to U.S. Magistrate Judge Shon T. Erwin
for initial proceedings consistent with 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B) and (C). Judge Erwin has issued a Report and
Recommendation (the Report) recommending that the petition be
denied. Petitioner has since filed an objection to the
Report, asking for an extension of time and the appointment
of counsel to assist in obtaining evidence to support ground
two and asserting a pro forma objection as to the
recommended disposition of the other grounds.
request for an opportunity to develop further evidence now is
not a valid basis for objection. Where a claim has been
adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings, this
court's habeas review is limited “to the record
that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on
the merits.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S.
170, 181 (2011). It is clear that petitioner's claim of
ineffective assistance of counsel was presented to and
considered by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. This
court's review is therefore limited to the record before
it, and there is no basis for supplementing the record as to
does not otherwise present a valid basis for avoiding the
Report's conclusions. As to the other three grounds for
relief, petitioner has not attempted to take issue with the
substance of the Report, but indicates that she is objecting
to the recommended disposition of those grounds “[i]n
order to preserve [them] for appellate review.” But to
preserve issues for appellate review, objections to the
Report must be specific enough to enable the district court
to address those issues. United States v. One Parcel of
Real Property, 73 F.3d 1057, 1059-1061 (10th Cir. 1996).
If they do not do so, any factual or legal objections are
deemed waived. Id.; see also Casanova v.
Ulibarri, 595 F.3d 1120, 1123 (10th Cir. 2010). Here, in
the absence of any serious effort to come to grips with the
issues in the Report, the waiver rule applies.
a basis for objection had been preserved here, the court
would nonetheless conclude the Report is correct in its
recommended disposition. Any review by this court is very
limited in nature and deferential to the determination
reached in the state court system. Under 28 U.S.C. §
2254(d), habeas relief will not be granted as to claims which
were adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the
petitioner establishes (1) that the state court decision was
contrary to clearly established federal law as determined by
the holding of the U.S. Supreme Court, or (2) that it
“involved an unreasonable application of” such
law. Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 100 (2011).
Petitioner does not appear to claim that the state court
disposition was contrary to clearly established law as
determined by the Supreme Court, but instead attempts to show
the state court's application of those principles was
unreasonable. In particular, she claims the state court
improperly applied the standards for ineffective assistance
claims set out by Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S.
constitutionally deficient performance by counsel, a
petitioner must establish both that counsel's performance
fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and that
there was prejudice as a result. Id. at 688, 692. A
court considering an ineffective assistance claim applies a
“strong presumption” that counsel's
representation was within the “wide range of reasonable
professional assistance.” Id. at 689. With
respect to the prejudice element, a petitioner must
demonstrate “a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different.” Id. at
694. It is not enough to show that counsel's errors had
some conceivable effect on the outcome of the proceeding.
Rather, the errors must be “so serious as to deprive
the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is
reliable.” Id. at 687. The Strickland
standard for judging counsel's representation is a
“most deferential one” and that is true even for
a court reviewing the performance in the first instance.
Harrington, 562 U.S. at 105. But of course
this court is not reviewing the matter in the first
instance, but rather is assessing whether the state
court's determination of the matter involved an
“unreasonable application of” the
purposes of §2254(d), “an unreasonable
application of federal law is different from an
incorrect application of federal law.”
Harrington, 562 U.S. at 101 (quoting Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 410 (2000)). The state court
determination is granted “deference and latitude that
are not in operation when the case involves review under the
Strickland standard itself. Id. “The
state court's determination that a claim lacks merit
precludes federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded
jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state
court's decision.” Id. (quoting
Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)).
Stated otherwise, the petitioner must show that the state
court's ruling was “so lacking in justification
that there was an error well understood and comprehended in
existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded
disagreement.” Id. at 103. And even a
“strong case for relief does not mean the state
court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable.”
Id. at 102. In short, showing an entitlement to
habeas relief in these circumstances is extremely hard to do.
these standards to petitioner's motion, the court
concludes she has failed to show a basis for habeas relief.
This is a situation where any court's review of
counsel's conduct would be highly deferential. But where,
as here, the state courts have already adjudicated the
ineffective assistance claim, the review is doubly
deferential. See Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S.
111, 123 (2009). Having evaluated petitioner's
submissions in light of the evidence and circumstances
referenced in the Report, the court cannot say that the state
court determination was so lacking in justification that
fairminded jurists could not have reached it.
Report [Doc. #20] is ADOPTED and the petition for writ of
habeas corpus [Doc. #1] is DENIED. A ...