United States District Court, D. South Carolina
F. Anderson, Jr. United States District Judge.
Tommy McKnight (“Petitioner”), a state prisoner
proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis,
filed a petition seeking habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §2254 (“Petition”) on July 6, 2018.
(ECF No. 1). On October 9, 2018, Respondent Aaron S. Joyner
filed a motion for summary judgment (“Motion”).
(ECF No. 20). Thereafter, Petitioner filed a Motion for
Stay/Abeyance on March 18, 2019 and Respondent filed a
response on March 25, 2019. (ECF No. 33, 34). On April 5,
2019, Petitioner filed a Motion for Extension of Time to
submit a document. (ECF No. 37). This matter is before the
Court on Respondent Aaron S. Joyner's
(“Respondent”) Motion as to the Petition and
Petitioner's Motions for Stay/Abeyance and Extension of
Time. (ECF No. 20, 33, 37).
reviewing the pleadings, the Magistrate Judge assigned to
this action prepared a thorough Report and
Recommendation (“Report”) and recommends that
Petitioner's Motions be denied. (ECF No. 42, 33, 37).
Further, the Magistrate Judge recommends Respondent's
Motion be granted, and the Petition be denied. (ECF No. 20,
1). 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. (ECF No. 42).
was advised of his right to file objections to the Report,
which was filed by the Magistrate Judge on June 13, 2019.
(ECF No. 42). Petitioner's objections to the Magistrate
Judge's Report and Recommendation were due on August 1,
2019. (ECF No. 42). Petitioner filed his objections on August
5, 2019 and the Court accepted his late filing pursuant to
the prisoner mailbox rule.
Review of Magistrate Judge's Report.
district court is required to conduct a de novo
review only of the specific portions of the Magistrate
Judge's Report to which objections are made. See
28 U.S.C. § 636(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); see also
Carniewski v. W.Va. Bd. of Prob. & Parole, 974 F.2d
1330 (4th Cir. 1992). In the absence of specific objections
to portions of the Report, the Court is not required to give
an explanation for adopting the Report. 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 specific written objections. Diamond
v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 316
(4th Cir. 2005).
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 Judge'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).
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).
an objection is “nonspecific, unrelated to the
dispositive portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendation, or merely restate[s] . . . claims, ”
the Court need not conduct any further review of that
objection. Field v. McMaster, 663 F.Supp.2d 449, 452
(D.S.C. 2009); see also McNeil v. S.C. Dept. of
Corrections, No. 5:12-2880-MGL, 2013 WL 1102881, at *1
(D.S.C. Mar. 15, 2013) (finding petitioner's objections
to be without merit where the objections were
“non-specific, unrelated to the dispositive portions of
the Magistrate Judge's Report, and consist[ed] of a
reassertion of the arguments” made in the petition);
Arbogast v. Spartanburg Cty., No.
07:11-cv-00198-GRA, 2011 WL 5827635, at *2 (D.S.C. Nov. 17,
2011) (finding that plaintiff's objections were not
specific where the objections were “general and
conclusory in that they merely reassert[ed] that his
conviction was wrongful.”).
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Only disputes over facts that
might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law
will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). “[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute
about a material fact is ‘genuine,' that is, if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.
summary judgment stage, the Court must view the evidence in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all
justifiable inferences in its favor. Id. at 255.
However, “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect
the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that
are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.”
Id. at 248. The moving party has the burden of
proving that summary judgment is appropriate. Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). 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.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel.
entitled to relief on claims of ineffective assistance of
trial counsel, a defendant must generally show (1)
counsel's performance fell below objective standards of
reasonableness, and (2) prejudice. Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 694 (1984). There is a
"strong presumption" counsel's "conduct
falls within the wide range of reasonable assistance."
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689. Strickland
requires a defendant to overcome the presumption that the
challenged action taken by counsel might be considered sound
trial strategy. Id. To prove prejudice, a defendant
must show there is a reasonable probability, but for
counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the trial
would have been different. Strickland, 466 U.S. at
of ineffective assistance of counsel claims in federal habeas
proceedings is not simply a new review of the merits; rather,
it is centered upon whether the state court decision was
reasonable. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). The Supreme Court has
cautioned "'[s]urmounting Strickland's
high bar is never an easy task[, ]'" and
establishing a state court's application of
Strickland was unreasonable under § 2254(d) is
all the more difficult. Harrington v. Richter, 562
U.S. 86, 105 (2011) (citation omitted). Each step in the
review process requires deference to counsel and to the state
court that previously reviewed counsel's actions. A
petitioner must satisfy the highly deferential standards of
§ 2254(d) and Strickland "in tandem,"
making the standard "doubly" difficult.