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Gonzales v. Schriro

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

July 1, 2013

Ernest Valencia Gonzales, Petitioner,
Dora B. Schriro, et al., Respondents.


STEPHEN M. McNAMEE, District Judge.

On June 19, 2008, these proceedings were stayed by order of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit pending a ruling on Petitioner's emergency petition for writ of mandamus. (Doc. 199.) The Ninth Circuit subsequently granted the mandamus petition, remanding the matter to this Court to determine Petitioner's competency to assist counsel. In re Gonzales, 623 F.3d 1242 (9th Cir. 2010). However, on January 8, 2013, the United States Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Ninth Circuit's order. Ryan v. Gonzales, 133 S.Ct. 696 (2013). On June 6, 2013, the Ninth Circuit ordered this matter "remanded to the district court for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court's decision" in Gonzales. (Doc. 206.) It appearing that the Ninth Circuit's stay of proceedings has been lifted, the Court herein orders briefing on the merits of Petitioner's remaining claims.


On November 15, 1999, Petitioner, an Arizona inmate sentenced to death, commenced these proceedings by filing a pro forma petition for a writ of habeas corpus. (Doc. 1.) The Court appointed the Federal Public Defender's Office as counsel. (Doc. 8.) On December 27, 1999, the Court issued a case management order setting a deadline for the filing of an amended petition. (Doc. 17.) Citing Rule 2 of the Rules Governing ยง 2254 Cases, the order required the amended petition to "include every known constitutional error or deprivation entitling Petitioner to habeas relief." ( Id. at 2.) The order further provided that the amended petition shall include a "Statement of Exhaustion, ' specifically asserting when and where each ground for relief was raised in the state courts. See Boyd v. Thompson, 147 F.3d 1124, 1127 (9th Cir. 1998)." ( Id. )

On July 17, 2000, Petitioner filed a 237-page amended petition raising 60 claims for relief. (Doc. 28.) He failed, however, to file the required statement of exhaustion. The Court, granting Respondents' motion to compel, directed Petitioner to comply with the December 1999 scheduling order. On September 14, 2000, Petitioner notified the Court that he had filed a petition for writ of mandamus in the court of appeals. Thereafter, the Court denied his request for a stay of proceedings and for additional time to file the statement of exhaustion. (Doc. 40.) On October 6, 2000, Petitioner filed the statement of exhaustion. (Doc. 42.) Petitioner simultaneously filed a notice of withdrawal of claims, voluntarily withdrawing 13 unexhausted habeas claims from consideration by the Court. (Doc. 43.) The notice indicated that Petitioner had initiated a post-conviction-relief (PCR) proceeding in state court to exhaust the withdrawn claims, but did not request a stay of federal proceedings on this basis. ( Id. at 2.) On October 16, 2000, the court of appeals denied the mandamus petition as moot.[1]

In February 2001, Petitioner, acting pro se, requested that his state-court-appointed PCR counsel be removed and that he be permitted to represent himself in his successive PCR proceeding. (Doc. 102-1 at 3-5.) The state court ordered a mental health examination to determine whether Petitioner was competent to waive counsel. ( Id. at 6-7.) The court-appointed expert, Dr. Jack Potts, examined Petitioner and concluded that he was paranoid and delusional. ( Id. at 10.) In August 2001, based on Dr. Potts's conclusions, the court found Petitioner incompetent to waive counsel and represent himself. ( Id. at 26.)

In December 2001, on the day Petitioner's successive PCR petition was due, counsel filed a motion to hold the case in abeyance pending restoration of Petitioner's competency. The motion asserted that Petitioner's inability to rationally communicate with counsel precluded her from developing a claim of incompetency at the time of trial and sentencing. (Doc. 102 at 30-36.) The state court denied the motion, finding that: (1) there was no right in this particular case to a competency determination regarding Petitioner's ability to assist counsel prior to the filing of a successive petition; (2) any claim of legal incompetency at trial and sentencing in Petitioner's case was not "cognizable" in a successive PCR proceeding because it would rely on neither newly-discovered evidence nor actual innocence, the only potentially applicable exceptions to preclusion under Rule 32.2(b) of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure; and (3) even if the claim was cognizable, counsel had not set forth "sufficient reasons for not raising the claim in a previous petition or in a timely manner or demonstrated why defendant's competency is essential to filing the prospective second Rule 32 proceeding." ( Id. at 45.)

In February 2002, state counsel filed a successive PCR petition asserting only four claims, including that Petitioner had a right to assist counsel in a second PCR proceeding, that he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing to determine his current competency, and that he was incompetent at the time of trial and sentencing. (Doc. 108-1 at 3-24.) State PCR counsel did not raise any of the claims withdrawn from the amended federal habeas petition. ( Id. ) The state court denied the petition, again explaining that Petitioner had failed to present a "colorable claim... that newly discovered evidence shows defendant was incompetent to stand trial." ( Id. at 40.) Counsel filed a petition for review, which the Arizona Supreme Court denied on October 28, 2003. (Doc. 108-2 at 6.)

Following withdrawal of the 13 unexhausted claims in October 2000, the parties briefed the procedural status of Petitioner's remaining claims. This concluded in February 2001, with the filing of Petitioner's sur-reply. (Doc. 59.) The procedural status of Petitioner's claims remained under advisement until September 2002 when, following the United States Supreme Court's decision in Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002) (requiring jury determination of aggravating factors necessary for imposition of the death penalty), the Court stayed Petitioner's sentencing-related claims pending exhaustion in state court of a claim based on Ring. (Doc. 75.) Petitioner initiated another state PCR proceeding, and the state court consolidated it with the already pending PCR petition. As previously noted, the Arizona Supreme Court denied review of the petition in October 2003. (Doc. 81.) In July 2004, following the United States Supreme Court's decision in Schriro v. Summerlin, 542 U.S. 348 (2004) (holding that Ring does not apply retroactively to pending cases), the Court lifted the stay.

Over the next eighteen months, while the matter was under advisement, Petitioner did not seek amendment to reincorporate the 13 withdrawn claims or to add the claims litigated in the second PCR petition. Nor did he seek a competency determination by this Court, despite the June 2003 decision in Rohan ex rel. Gates v. Woodford, 334 F.3d 803 (9th Cir. 2003), abrogated by Gonzales, 133 S.Ct. at 696, which first recognized a statutory right to competence in federal habeas proceedings. In January 2006, the Court entered its order regarding the procedural status of Petitioner's habeas claims. (Doc. 97.) The Court dismissed some of the claims on procedural grounds or as plainly meritless, and established a deadline for Petitioner to submit briefing on the merits of the remaining claims. ( Id. )

Shortly thereafter, Petitioner's counsel moved to stay this action pursuant to Rohan, contending that Petitioner was incapable of rationally communicating with or assisting counsel. (Doc. 102.) The motion indicated that since October 2003 Petitioner had refused some 26 attempted visits from habeas counsel and support staff, who wished to "discuss these upcoming proceedings, including merits briefing and requests for evidentiary development." ( Id. at 5-6.) The motion and subsequent supplemental briefs further indicated that Petitioner's assistance was necessary for briefing the merits of numerous exhausted claims, amending the first amended habeas petition, and identifying new claims not yet raised. (Doc. 102 at 6; Doc. 108 at 6-8; Doc. 184 at 9-16.)

After two years of litigation regarding Petitioner's competency and the issue of forcible medication, the Court entered an order on April 23, 2008, denying Petitioner's motions for a competency hearing and to stay these proceedings. (Doc. 187.) The Court, applying the Rohan framework, determined that Petitioner's remaining claims were record-based or involved purely legal issues, and therefore would not potentially benefit from Petitioner's ability to communicate rationally with counsel. Petitioner's emergency petition for writ of mandamus followed.


In its June 6, 2013 order, the Ninth Circuit neither granted nor denied the mandamus petition. Rather, the panel "remanded" the matter for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court's decision in this case. In doing so, the panel noted that its original decision granting mandamus "discussed only Gonzales's exhausted claims because his unexhausted claims were procedurally defaulted for purposes of federal habeas under Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 735 n.1 (1991)." (Doc. 206 at 1-2.) Citing the United States Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012), recognizing for the first time an exception to Coleman for substantial trial-level ineffectiveness claims, the panel further directed that "with respect to Gonzales's unexhausted claims that may meet the Martinez exception to procedural default, the district court shall consider whether to exercise its discretion to grant a stay" based on Petitioner's alleged incompetency to assist counsel. The panel further specifically identified Claim 52, alleging ineffective assistance at sentencing, as one that may benefit from Petitioner's assistance.

The Ninth Circuit has repeatedly emphasized that mandamus is an "extraordinary" remedy and is appropriate only if the factors set forth in Bauman v. United States Dist. Court, 557 F.2d 650, 654-55 (9th Cir. 1977), weigh in favor of relief. See, e.g., Calderon v. United States Dist. Court ( Kelly V ). In its original decision in this case, the Ninth Circuit determined that the Bauman factors justified mandamus relief. However, that order was unanimously reversed by the Supreme Court. Thus, the jurisdictional basis of the Ninth Circuit's June 6, 2013 order is unclear, and it appears to be merely advisory. See generally United States v. Guerrero, 693 F.3d 990, 995 (9th Cir. ...

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