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Bickham v. Stevenson

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

March 29, 2016

Adam Bickham, #181091, Petitioner,
Robert Stevenson, Warden, Respondent.


JOSEPH F. ANDERSON, Jr., District Judge.


Adam Bickham ("Petitioner") is an inmate at the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, South Carolina. Petitioner, represented by counsel, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on February 25, 2015. (ECF No. 1). On July 27, 2015, Respondent filed a motion for summary judgment along with a return and memorandum. (ECF No 19; ECF No. 20). On September 14, 2015, Petitioner filed a response in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 24). Respondent filed a reply on September 24, 2015. (ECF No. 25). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), D.S.C., the case was referred to the Magistrate Judge.

The Magistrate Judge assigned to this action[1] prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation ("Report") and opines that this Court should grant the Respondent's motion for summary judgment and dismiss the petition in this action without an evidentiary hearing. (ECF No. 26). Petitioner was advised of his right to object to the Report, which was entered on the docket on January 21, 2016. On February 8, 2016, Petitioner filed a statement of objection to the report. (ECF No. 27). Thus, this matter is ripe for the Court's review.

The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objections are made, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, a district court is only required to conduct a de novo review of the specific portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report to which an objection is made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); Carniewski v. W. Virginia Bd. of Prob. & Parole, 974 F.2d 1330 (4th Cir. 1992). In the absence of specific objections to portions of the Report of the Magistrate, this Court is not required to give an explanation for adopting the recommendation. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983).

The Report sets forth in detail the relevant facts and standards of law on this matter, and this Court incorporates those facts and standards without a recitation.


Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A material fact is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Spriggs v. Diamond Auto Glass, 242 F.3d 179, 183 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A dispute of material fact is "genuine" if sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party exists for the trier of fact to return a verdict for that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49.

The moving party bears the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If the moving party meets that burden and a properly supported motion is before the court, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. All inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, but he "cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another." Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985).


In addition to the standard that the Court must employ in considering motions for summary judgment, the Court must also consider Petitioner's claims under the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Under § 2254(d), this Court may not grant habeas corpus relief unless the underlying state adjudication:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). "[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." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 410 (2000). An incorrect application of federal law is not always objectively unreasonable. Id. at 413. "Thus, to grant [a] habeas petition, [the court] must conclude that the state court's adjudication of [the petitioner's] claims was not only incorrect, but that it was objectively unreasonable." McHone v. Polk, 392 F.3d 691, 719 (4th Cir. 2004).

Further, courts afford deference to state courts' resolutions of the habeas claims of state prisoners. See Bell v. Cone, 543 U.S. 447, 455 (2005). Factual findings "made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct, " and a petitioner has "the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). To clarify, in order to obtain habeas relief from this Court, "a sate prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011). "[E]ven a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable." Id. The Court recognizes that this standard is very difficult to meet, but that is because it was meant to be difficult to meet. Id .; see Richardson v. Branker, 668 F.3d 128, 137-44 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting Harrington extensively and reversing a district court's grant of a writ based on ineffective assistance of counsel claims).

Section 2254(e)(1) requires that this Court give a presumption of correctness to the state court factual determinations and provides that Petitioner can only rebut this presumption by clear and convincing evidence. Accordingly, Petitioner is entitled to relief under § 2254(d) only if he can prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the state ...

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