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Ratliff v. Warden, Lee Correctional Institution

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 16, 2018

Richard David Ratliff, #236967, Petitioner,
v.
Warden, Lee Correctional Institution, Respondent.

          ORDER

          Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Richard David Ratliff (“Petitioner” or “Ratliff”), a prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Ratliff alleges that his constitutional rights have been violated based on multiple instances of ineffective assistance of counsel during his state trial and appeal.

         The Respondent filed a motion for summary judgment on March 24, 2017. Pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), this Court advised Petitioner of the summary judgment and dismissal procedures and the possible consequences if he failed to adequately respond to the Respondent's motion. Petitioner filed a response on April 3, 2017. However, over the course of the next few months, Petitioner filed multiple motions asking the Magistrate Judge to extend his time to more fully respond. These motions were granted. On June 9, 2017, Petitioner filed his response in opposition to the Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment, to which the Respondent replied

         The Magistrate Judge assigned to this action[1] prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation (“Report”) and opines that this Court should grant Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment and dismiss Ratliff's Petition. (ECF No. 24). 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.

         Essentially, the Magistrate Judge determined that all but one - the Seventh Ground - of Petitioner's grounds for relief have been procedurally bypassed. As to the Seventh Ground, the Magistrate Judge determined that the state court's dismissal of Petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim did not involve an unreasonable application of federal law.[2]

         Plaintiff was advised of his right to object to the Report, which was entered on the docket on August 31, 2017. (ECF No. 44). Petitioner filed objections to the Report on October 6, 2017, (ECF No. 50), and Respondent filed a response to Petitioner's objections on October 11, 2017. (ECF No. 52). Thus, this matter is ripe for the Court's review.

         The district court is to construe a pro se petitioner's objections to a report and recommendation broadly rather than in a narrow manner. See Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 48 (4th Cir. 1982) (holding that the fact “that Orpiano was acting pro se should have encouraged the district court to read his objections broadly rather than in [a] narrow manner”). However, a district court is not required to conduct de novo review “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 recommendations.” Id. at 47.

         II. Discussion

         Within his petition for writ of habeas corpus, Ratliff attempts to set forth seven grounds for relief.[3] In each ground for relief, Petitioner argues ineffective assistance of counsel. The Magistrate Judge's Report thoroughly outlines the applicable legal standards and properly analyzes the claims for relief before concluding that summary judgment should be granted and the petition should be dismissed. (ECF No. 44).

         The Magistrate Judge suggests that the first six grounds are procedurally barred and not preserved for review. See, e.g. Pickard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 278 (1971) (“We simply hold that the substance of a Federal habeas corpus claim must first be presented to het state courts.”). The Magistrate Judge did, however, address Petitioner's Ground Seven on the merits under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 558 (1984). The Magistrate Judge, agrees with the PCR court's finding that the trial counsel did not err in failing to object to the admission of the State's evidence on a different basis.

         The Magistrate Judge opines that trial counsel's performance was not deficient under Strickland. Ultimately, the Magistrate Judge finds that the state courts' decisions did not result “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” nor were they “based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         Petitioner has submitted a fifteen-page handwritten response to the Report. Despite his numerous arguments and assertions, Petitioner fails to make any specific objections to the Magistrate's Report. Most of Petitioner's assertions are an attempt to reargue his § 2254 Petition (ECF No. 1) and his response to Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 42). Petitioner does not specifically point to any mistakes or error in the Report.

         As stated above, in absence of specific objections that direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations, the Court is not required to give an explanation for adopting the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. See Orpiano, 87 F.2d at 48. The Court has made a substantial effort to read Petitioner's arguments broadly for objections as advised by the Fourth Circuit in Orpiano. However, none of the arguments can be construed ...


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