United States District Court, D. South Carolina
OPINION AND ORDER
Bruce Howe Hendricks United States District Judge
Petitioner, Tyrone Patrick, (“Petitioner”), proceeding pro se, filed this application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (ECF No. 1.) In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d), D.S.C., the action was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West, for pretrial handling and a Report and Recommendation (“Report”). Magistrate Judge West recommends that Respondent’s Motion for Summary Judgment be granted and Petitioner’s § 2254 petition be dismissed. (ECF No. 31.) The Report and Recommendation sets forth in detail the relevant facts and standards of law on this matter and the Court incorporates them without recitation.
Petitioner filed this action against Respondent alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. On January 27, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report. Petitioner filed his Objections on February 12, 2016 (ECF No. 34), and on February 16, 2016, Respondent filed his Objections (ECF No. 38). Having carefully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the Magistrate Judge has accurately and adequately summarized the disputed and undisputed facts relevant to this action. The Court has reviewed the parties’ objections, but finds them to be without merit. Therefore, it will enter judgment accordingly.
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 Report 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 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). In the absence of a timely filed, specific objection, the Magistrate Judge’s conclusions are reviewed only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).
The Magistrate Judge wrote an extraordinarily thorough seventy-page Report to address Respondent’s motion for summary judgment. She exhaustively recounted the procedural history of the case before articulating the grounds raised in Petitioner’s habeas petition. (ECF No. 31 at 1-24.) The Magistrate Judge then thoughtfully and skillfully addressed Respondent’s motion, finding that Petitioner’s claims were not procedurally defaulted and analyzing the habeas claims on their merits. (Id. at 34-69.) As noted above, both Petitioner and Respondent filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report which the Court has carefully reviewed. The Court will address the objections in turn. Respondent objects that the Magistrate Judge erred in: (1) using Petitioner’s Response to the motion for summary judgment to determine the grounds to be resolved, rather than his petition and attachment served on Respondent; (2) finding that Ground One and Grounds Four through Nine are not procedurally defaulted; and (3) failing to cite to the full findings by the post-conviction review (“PCR”) judge when discussing the ruling. (ECF No. 38 at 1.)
The Magistrate Judge devoted four pages of the Report to outlining Petitioner’s grounds for habeas relief, explaining in detail why she cited to the grounds raised in Petitioner’s Response rather than the petition and attachment referenced by Respondent. (ECF No. 31 at 21-24.) She noted the excessive length of the petition and attachment-over 540 pages (ECF No. 8; 8-1; 8-1; 8-3; 8-4; 8-5; 8-6)-and Respondent’s failure to provide any specific citations to the attachment. (ECF No. 22- 23, n.10.) The Magistrate Judge then explained:
Rather than expend excessive court resources to verify the accuracy of Respondent’s list, in an effort to liberally construe Petitioner’s pro se pleadings to the extent possible and out of an abundance of caution, the undersigned quotes verbatim, with only minor non-substantive changes, the ten Grounds for relief that Petitioner, himself, lists as being at issue in this case in the “Table of Contents” portion of his Response . . . .
(Id. at 22-23.) While Respondent now provides more specific citations in his objections (ECF No. 38 at 5), the Court finds it was entirely reasonable and proper for the Magistrate Judge to rely on Petitioner’s Response given the information available to her at the time, the excessiveness of Petitioner’s submissions, and the Court’s limited resources. This objection is therefore overruled.
After outlining Petitioner’s grounds for relief, the Magistrate Judge considered Respondent’s argument that Ground One and Grounds Four through Nine are procedurally barred. (ECF No. 31 at 35-39.) She detailed Petitioner’s tremendous efforts to present each of his grounds to the PCR court, noting that “Petitioner clearly expressed his concern over exhaustion of each claim and was assured that the issues raised in his PCR application were ‘part of the record’ of the PCR proceeding.” (Id. at 38.) Recognizing that Petitioner’s pro se submissions in state court were not authorized where he was represented by legal counsel, the Magistrate nevertheless found persuasive that these submissions “included the substance of his PCR issues and extensive factual and legal arguments relating to them.” (Id.) She concluded that “Petitioner did as much as he possibly could as a pro se litigant to bring his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and involuntary plea before the highest court with jurisdiction to decide them.” (Id. at 36-38.) She also noted that although the PCR court did not specifically address each of the issues raised in the petition, it included a separate “catch-all paragraph” in the final judgment that collectively addressed “any and all allegations that were raised in the application or at the hearing, ” and found that none were meritorious. (Id. at 37; ECF No. 21-1 at 98.) For these reasons, the Magistrate Judge found that “none of Petitioner’s Grounds was procedurally defaulted in the PCR court as Respondent contends.” (Id. at 38.)
Respondent’s objections on this issue are unavailing. Contrary to Respondent’s assertions, the Magistrate Judge did not find the grounds were preserved on appeal “simply because Petitioner noted in his PCR hearing that he wanted all issues raised and preserved.” (ECF No. 38 at 3.) Rather, the Magistrate Judge provided a comprehensive analysis on this issue and, as summarized above, gave several thoughtful reasons for addressing the merits of Petitioner’s Grounds. The Court agrees with the Magistrate’s recommendation that Petitioner’s claims are not procedurally defaulted and this objection is therefore overruled.
Finally, the Court recognizes that the Magistrate Judge did indeed make a scrivener’s error in her citation to the PCR court’s judgment-she failed to precisely ...