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Pinkard v. Cohen

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division

August 12, 2014

Brandon Pinkard, #280309 Petitioner,
v.
LeVern Cohen, Warden, Ridgeland Correctional Institution, Respondent.

ORDER

R. BRYAN HARWELL, District Judge.

Petitioner, a state prisoner proceeding through counsel, initiated this suit by filing a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on November 4, 2013. See Petition, ECF No. 1. Petitioner is currently incarcerated at Ridgeland Correctional Institution in Ridgeland, South Carolina. On January 27, 2014, Respondent filed a motion for summary judgment and a return and memorandum in support. See ECF Nos. 12-13. After receiving an extension of time, Petitioner timely responded to this motion on March 17, 2014, see ECF No. 16, and Respondent replied to Petitioner's response on March 27, 2014, see ECF No. 17. The matter is now before the court for review of the Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of United States Magistrate Judge Shiva V. Hodges, filed on June 20, 2014.[1] See R & R, ECF No. 18. In her R & R, the Magistrate Judge recommends that Respondent's motion for summary judgment be granted. See id. at 17. Petitioner timely filed objections to the R & R. See Obj., ECF No. 19.

For the reasons stated below, the Court adopts the Magistrate Judge's R & R, as modified, and grants Respondent's motion.

BACKGROUND

The Magistrate Judge thoroughly discussed the facts and procedural background of this case, with citations to the record, in her R & R. See ECF No. 18 at 1-5. Respondent did not file any objections to the R & R, and Petitioner specifically indicated that he "has no objection to the procedural background and history set forth by the Report." See ECF No. 19 at 1 n.1. Accordingly, finding no clear error, the Court adopts the facts and procedural history as set forth in the R & R.

In his § 2254 petition, Petitioner raised two Grounds for relief. See Pet., ECF No. 1 at 6, 8. Respondent agreed that Petitioner's state remedies were properly exhausted for both of these grounds as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A), and that they were ripe for determination in federal court. See ECF No. 13 at 9-13. In his response to Respondent's motion, however, Petitioner withdrew his Ground Two claim. See ECF No. 16 at 3. Petitioner's sole remaining ground, Ground One, asserts that he is entitled to a writ of habeas corpus because:

Ground 1: The Petitioner's right to the effective assistance of counsel, as guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, was violated by trial counsel's failure to sufficiently evaluate and convey the State's plea offer to Petitioner.

See ECF No. 1 at 6. Petitioner also alleged supporting facts for this ground, which were quoted substantially verbatim in the R & R. See ECF No. 18 at 5-6; see also ECF No. 1 at 6.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the district court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the district court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the R & R to which specific objection is made, and the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

The court is obligated to conduct a de novo review of every portion of the Magistrate Judge's report to which objections have been filed. Id. However, the court need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only "general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations." Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982) ("[D]e novo review [is] unnecessary in... situations when a party makes general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendation."). The Court reviews only for clear error in the absence of a specific objection. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310 (4th Cir.2005). Furthermore, in the absence of specific objections to the R & R, this Court is not required to give any explanation for adopting the recommendation. See Diamond, 416 F.3d at 315; Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198 (4th Cir. 1983).

DISCUSSION

I. Habeas Standard

Because Petitioner filed his petition after the effective date of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), review of his claims is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320 (1997); Breard v. Pruett, 134 F.3d 615, 618 (4th Cir. 1998). Under the AEDPA, federal ...


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