Hunton v. Sinclair

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 10-11-2013
  • Case #: 12-35363
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Judge Fernandez for the Court; Circuit Judge Rawlinson; Dissent by Circuit Judge W. Fletcher
  • Full Text Opinion

Because there is no constitutional right to an attorney in state post-conviction relief proceedings, a defendant’s Brady claim of ineffective assistance of counsel fails unless “counsel was ineffective and the claim could not be raised earlier.”

After being sentenced to life imprisonment for bank robbery, Luke Hunton appealed, claiming a violation under Brady v. Maryland of his “due process right to discovery.” The Washington Court of Appeals told Hunton that he needed to raise his claim in post-conviction relief proceedings. Hunton did file pro se a post-conviction relief proceeding, but without raising the Brady claim. The Court denied Hunton’s other claims, and Hunton filed for habeas corpus relief in the district court. The district court denied his Brady claim due to procedural default. Hunton then appealed to the Ninth Circuit, arguing that although he did procedurally default, he could still raise his claim. However, the panel pointed to Coleman v. Thompson, a well-established Supreme Court decision and explained that because there is no constitutional right to an attorney in state post-conviction relief proceedings, Hunton could not claim ineffective assistance of post-conviction relief counsel unless the basis of his claim was the “failure to assert that there was ineffective assistance of counsel at trial” during such proceedings. Hunton did not base his claim on such an assertion. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court’s decision. AFFIRMED.

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