Lopez v. Ryan

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 05-15-2012
  • Case #: 12-99001
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge McKeown for the Court; Circuit Judges Graber and Callahan
  • Full Text Opinion

“Inadequate assistance of counsel at initial-review collateral proceedings may establish cause for a prisoner’s procedural default of a claim of ineffective assistance at trial” where the prisoner establishes that “the underlying ineffective assistance claim is a substantial one.”

For the second time, Samuel Lopez sought review of his petition for habeas relief after (1) the Supreme Court’s issuance of its decision in Martinez v. Ryan, (2) the issuance of his death warrant, and (3) the district court’s denial of Lopez’s Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) motion. Lopez argued that his trial counsel at sentencing was ineffective, that his postconviction relief (“PCR”) counsel was ineffective in the presentation of his claim, and that Martinez and the ineffective assistance of counsel ("IAC") claims should stay his execution. Lopez’s IAC claims stemmed from his sentencing counsel’s failure to provide a psychiatric expert with certain documents and to investigate fully his family background. Martinez recognizes a narrow exception to the Coleman rule disqualifying a PCR lawyer’s negligence as cause for procedural default: “Inadequate assistance of counsel at initial-review collateral proceedings may establish cause for a prisoner’s procedural default of a claim of ineffective assistance at trial.” To excuse the procedural default, the prisoner must also prove that “the underlying [IAC] claim is a substantial one,” meaning “that the claim has some merit.” The Court employed the six-factor test under Phelps v. Alameida, and a substantiality of underlying claim analysis to review the district court’s finding that Martinez did not constitute extraordinary circumstances for relief under Rule 60(b). In finding that only two of the Phelps factors weighed in favor of reopening Lopez’s habeas case, the Court concluded that “Lopez’s underlying claim does not present a compelling reason to open the case.” In considering substantiality, the Court found that “the claim cannot be considered substantial, nor does the record support any suggestion of prejudice.” Thus, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Rule 60(b) motion. AFFIRMED.

Advanced Search