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Shepherd v. Lazaroff

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

May 8, 2017

ELIJAH SHEPHERD, Petitioner,
v.
ALAN LAZAROFF, Warden, Respondent.

          ORDER AND DECISION

          JOHN R. ADAMS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter appears before the Court on Petitioner Elijah Shepherd's objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (“R & R”) recommending dismissal of Shepherd's habeas corpus action. Doc. 16. For the following reasons, Shepherd's objections are OVERRULED, and the Court ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and DISMISSES the underlying habeas petition. Doc. 16.

         The R & R adequately states the factual and procedural background of this case. Shepherd has demonstrated no error in that background, so the Court will not reiterate those sections herein.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         If a party files written objections to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, a judge must perform a de novo review of “those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) governs this Court's review of the instant case. See Harpster v. Ohio, 128 F.3d 322, 326 (6th Cir. 1997). The relevant portion of the habeas statute provides:

(d) An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim-(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)(1) and (2). As the Magistrate Judge accurately stated:

Clearly established federal law is to be determined by the holdings of the United States Supreme Court. See Parker v. Matthews, 132 S.Ct. 2148, 2012 WL 2076341, *6 (U.S. Jun. 11, 2012); Renico v Lett, 559 U.S., 130 S.Ct. 1855, 1865-1866 (2010); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000); Ruimveld v. Birkett, 404 F.3d 1006, 1010 (6th Cir. 2005). However, an explicit statement by the Supreme Court is not mandatory; rather, “the legal principles and standards flowing from [Supreme Court] precedent” also qualify as “clearly established law.” Ruimveld, 404 F.3d at 1010 (quoting Taylor v. Withrow, 288 F.3d 846, 852 (6th Cir. 2002)) The Supreme Court has indicated, however, that circuit precedent does not constitute “clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court.” Parker, 2012 WL 2076341, *6; Howes v. Walker, 132 S.Ct. 2741, 2012 WL 508160 (2012).
A state court's decision is contrary to clearly established federal law “if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. at 413. By contrast, a state court's decision involves an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law “if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Id. However, a federal district court may not find a state court's decision unreasonable “simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly.” Id. at 411. Rather, a federal district court must determine whether the state court's decision constituted an objectively unreasonable application of federal law. Id. at 410-12. “This standard generally requires that federal courts defer to state-court decisions.” Strickland v. Pitcher, 162 Fed.Appx. 511, 516 (6th Cir. 2006) (citing Herbert v. Billy, 160 F.3d 1131, 1135 (6th Cir. 1998)).
In Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 131 S.Ct. 770, 178 L.Ed.2d 624 (2011), the Supreme Court held that as long as “fairminded jurists could disagree on the correctness of the state court's decision, ” relief is precluded under the AEDPA. Id. at 786 (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court admonished that a reviewing court may not “treat[ ] the reasonableness question as a test of its confidence in the result it would reach under de novo review, ” and that “even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable.” Id. at 785. The Court noted that Section 2254(d) “reflects the view that habeas corpus is a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems” and does not function as a “substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Therefore, a petitioner “must show that the state court's ruling ... was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended ...

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