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Evans v. Williams

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

August 16, 2019

Bernardo Evans, Petitioner,
v.
Randall Williams, Respondent.

          ORDER

          JOSEPH F. ANDERSON, JR. COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Bernardo Evans, (“Petitioner”), is currently incarcerated at McDougal Correctional Institution in the custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”). Petitioner, proceeding pro se, filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (ECF No. 1). On September 10, 2018, Randall Williams (“Respondent”) filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and filed a return with a memorandum of law in support. (ECF Nos. 24 & 25). On September 11, 2018, by order filed pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975), Petitioner was advised of the summary judgment procedure and the possible consequences if he failed to adequately respond to the motion. (ECF No. 26). On December 11, 2018, Petitioner responded. (ECF No. 37). On December 18, 2018, Respondent replied to Petitioner's response. (ECF No. 39). On that same day, Respondent filed a Motion to Strike the Response in Opposition. (ECF No. 40). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c) (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 Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment and dismiss the petition because (1) Grounds 1.2, 1.4, 2, and 3 are procedurally barred and because (2) Petitioner cannot succeed on the merits for his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel under Grounds 1.1 and 1.3. (ECF No. 45). 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.

         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). Thus, the Court must only review those portions of the Report to which Plaintiff has made a specific written objection. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 316 (4th Cir. 2005).

         “An objection is specific if it ‘enables the district judge to focus attention on those issues— factual and legal—that are at the heart of the parties' dispute.'” Dunlap v. TM Trucking of the Carolinas, LLC, No. 0:15-cv-04009-JMC, 2017 WL 6345402, at *5 n.6 (D.S.C. Dec. 12, 2017) (citing One Parcel of Real Prop. Known as 2121 E. 30th St., 73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th Cir. 1996)). A specific objection to the Magistrate's Report thus requires more than a reassertion of arguments from the Complaint or a mere citation to legal authorities. See Workman v. Perry, No. 6:17-cv-00765-RBH, 2017 WL 4791150, at *1 (D.S.C. Oct. 23, 2017). A specific objection must “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).

         “Generally stated, nonspecific objections have the same effect as would a failure to object.” Staley v. Norton, No. 9:07-0288-PMD, 2007 WL 821181, at *1 (D.S.C. Mar. 2, 2007) (citing Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991)). The court reviews portions “not objected to—including those portions to which only ‘general and conclusory' objections have been made—for clear error.” Id. (emphasis added) (citing Diamond, 416 F.3d at 315; Camby, 718 F.2d at 200; Orpiano, 687 F.2d at 47). Petitioner was advised of his right to object to the Report, which was entered on the docket on June 28, 2019. (ECF No. 45). Petitioner filed timely objections to the Report (“Objections”) on July 11, 2019. (ECF No. 48). Thus, this matter is ripe for review.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         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. Once the moving party makes this showing, however, the opposing party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but rather must, by affidavits or other means permitted by the Rule, set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). 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).

         III. DISCUSSION

          Petitioner asserts three grounds for relief. However, Ground 1 can be broken up into four parts.

         1. Ineffective assistance of counsel for:

a. (1.1) failure to investigate;
b. (1.2) failure to present or obtain trial expert concerning ...

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