United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Stephen C. Stanko, Petitioner,
Bryan P. Stirling and Michael Stephan, Respondents.
V. Hodges, United States Magistrate Judge.
C. Stanko (“Petitioner”) is a state prisoner
sentenced to death. This matter is before the court on
Petitioner's request for counsel [ECF No. 1] and motion
to proceed in forma pauperis [ECF No. 2]. Respondents have
filed a response [ECF No. 7], to which Petitioner replied
[ECF No. 8].
Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
careful review of Petitioner's motion for leave to
proceed in forma pauperis and supporting affidavit, the court
finds Petitioner should be relieved of the obligation to
prepay the full filing fee. Petitioner's motion to
proceed in forma pauperis [ECF No. 2] is granted.
Motion for Appointment of Counsel
to 18 U.S.C. § 3599(a)(2), indigent death-sentenced
prisoners are “entitled to the appointment of one or
more attorneys” to pursue federal habeas corpus
remedies. Further, “the right to counsel necessarily
includes a right for that counsel meaningfully to research
and present a defendant's habeas claims.”
McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 858 (1994). Thus,
§ 3599 contemplates the appointment of qualified counsel
prior to the filing of a petition for writ of habeas corpus.
In addition, § 3599 sets forth the required
qualifications for appointed counsel in capital cases:
(c) If the appointment is made after judgment, at least one
attorney so appointed must have been admitted to practice in
the court of appeals for not less than five years, and must
have had not less than three years experience in the handling
of appeals in that court in felony cases.
(d) With respect to subsection . . . (c), the court, for
good cause, may appoint another attorney whose background,
knowledge, or experience would otherwise enable him or her to
properly represent the defendant, with due consideration to
the seriousness of the possible penalty and to the unique and
complex nature of the litigation.
18 U.S.C. § 3599(c)-(d).
addition, pursuant to the District of South Carolina's
plan for implementing the Criminal Justice Act
(“CJA”), this court maintains a panel of
qualified attorneys available to represent indigent
defendants. See In re Amendments to the Plan of the
United States District Court for the District of South
Carolina for Implementing the Criminal Justice Act, No.
3:18-mc-00199-CIV (D.S.C. June 1, 2018) (“CJA
Plan”). Recognizing the particular complexity of
capital cases, the CJA Plan instructs the court to utilize
the expert services available through the Administrative
Office of the United States (“AO”), which include
capital habeas units and federal community defender offices,
where appropriate. CJA Plan § XIV(B)(4). Further,
“[a]ll attorneys appointed in federal capital cases
must be well qualified, by virtue of their training,
commitment, and distinguished prior capital defense
experience at the relevant stage of the proceeding, to serve
as counsel in this highly specialized and demanding
litigation” and “must have sufficient time and
resources to devote to the representation, taking into
account their current caseloads and the extraordinary demands
of federal capital cases.” Id. §
regarding appointment of counsel in capital habeas matters,
the CJA Plan provides the following guidance:
3. Out-of-District Counsel, including federal defender
organization staff, who possess the requisite expertise may
be considered for appointment as co-counsel in § 2254
cases to achieve cost and other efficiencies together with
high quality representation.
. . . .
6. Counsel in capital § 2254 cases should have
distinguished prior experience in the area of federal
post-conviction proceedings and in ...