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Hopton v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

June 2, 2017

Christopher Walton Hopton, Petitioner,
v.
Charles L. Ryan, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          HON. ERIN L. WIEDEMANN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Petitioner Christopher Hopton filed a pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on February 16, 2016. (Doc. 1.) The Court subsequently assigned the matter to Magistrate Judge James F. Metcalf for consideration. (Doc. 3.) The Petitioner also moved for an evidentiary hearing as well as the appointment of counsel while his habeas corpus petition was pending. (Docs. 19, 20.) On September 1, 2016, Judge Metcalf issued a report and recommendation (“R&R”) that the Court dismiss the habeas corpus petition as untimely, and to further deny the requested relief for the Petitioner's failure to exhaust and procedural default. (Doc. 30.) Petitioner filed pro se objections to the R&R. (Doc. 36.) For the following reasons, the Court will overrule the Petitioner's objections and adopt the Magistrate Judge's recommendations.

         BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was indicted in Maricopa County Superior Court for one count of attempted sexual conduct with a minor and one count of sexual conduct with a minor on November 3, 2011.[1] (Doc. 16, Ex. A at 3.) He subsequently entered a plea agreement, wherein he pleaded guilty to both counts as alleged in his indictment. (Doc. 16, Ex. B at 3.) On March 25, 2010, the Petitioner was sentenced to ten years imprisonment to be followed by a lifetime of probation. (Doc. 16, Ex. C at 3.) The Petitioner signed a “Notice of Rights” at sentencing. (Doc. 16, Ex. I at 2.) This document noted two things; first, the Petitioner did not have a right to a direct appeal and second, that the Petitioner had ninety (90) days to file a Notice of Post-Conviction Relief. (Id.)

         Petitioner did not file a Notice of Post-Conviction Relief until more than a year later on April 27, 2012. (Doc. 16, Ex. C at 1.) He also filed a motion to vacate his conviction, a motion to file a delayed appeal, and a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief (PCR) at the same time. (Doc. 29, Ex. 05; Doc. 16 at Ex. F.) Each of these was denied on July 2, 2012. (Doc. 16, Ex. G.) The PCR Court found that 1) the Petitioner's Notice of Post-Conviction Relief was untimely, (Doc. 16, Ex. G at 3.), 2) the claims within the PCR were without merit, (Id.), 3) the motion to vacate the Petitioner's conviction was untimely as well, (Id.), and 4) the motion to file a delayed appeal was improper because as a pleading defendant, the Petitioner was “not entitled to pursue a delayed notice of appeal.” (Doc. 16, Ex. G at 4.)

         The Court of Appeals affirmed the findings of the PCR Court due to the untimeliness of Petitioner's filings without considering the substantive merits of his claims. (Doc. 28, Ex. G at 42.) A subsequent motion for reconsideration was denied on May 7, 2014. (Doc. 28, Ex. F.) The Petitioner then sought review by the Arizona Supreme Court, where his first petition was rejected for failing to comply with the page limit. (Doc. 28. Ex. E at 1.) His second, revised petition was also denied on February 10, 2015. (Doc. 28, Ex. B.)

         These events led the Petitioner to file his currently pending Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on February 16, 2016. (Doc. 1.) He has also filed a motion for an evidentiary hearing as well as a motion to appoint counsel. (Docs. 20, 19.) On September 1, 2016, the Magistrate Judge entered his R&R recommending denial of relief. (Doc. 30.) Petitioner timely filed his objections.[2] (Doc. 36.) The government did not file a response, and thus these matters are now fully briefed.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Legal Standard

         This 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). It is “clear that the district judge must review the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations de novo if objection is made, but not otherwise.” United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc). District courts are not required to conduct “any review at all...of any issue that is not the subject of an objection.” Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985).

         II. Analysis

         A. Petitioner's Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Characterization of His Case

         Petitioner filed numerous objections to the Magistrate Judge's summarization of the factual and procedural background of this matter. These objections are centered on one issue; the Magistrate Judge's failure to address the merits of the petitioner's current habeas petition.[3] However, this does not constitute an error on the Magistrate Judge's part, as the Petition is ultimately barred by the statute of limitations of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Therefore, the Magistrate Judge was not obligated to delve into the foundation of the merits of the Petitioner's substantive claims, particularly in the background section of his R&R.[4] See Ford v. Gonzalez, 683 F.3d 1230, 1238 (9th Cir. 2012) (“The narrow issue before us is whether Ford's habeas claims are time-barred. Under AEDPA, this is a threshold question that we must decide before we reach the merits of a habeas petitioner's claims.”). Nevertheless, this Court conducted its own review of the record and finds the factual and procedural background as described by the Magistrate Judge to be an accurate recounting of the events leading up to the current Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, (Doc. 1).

         B. Petitioner's Writ of Habeas Corpus is Untimely ...


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