Ellis v. Harrison, 011520 FED9, 16-56188

Docket Nº:16-56188
Party Name:Ezzard Charles Ellis, Petitioner-Appellant, v. C. M. Harrison, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.
Attorney:Patricia A. Young (argued) and Mark Yim, Deputy Federal Public Defenders; Hilary Potashner, Federal Public Defender; Office of the Federal Public Defender, Los Angeles, California; for Petitioner-Appellant. Michael J. Mongan (argued) and Christine Y. Friedman, Deputy Attorneys General; Daniel Rog...
Judge Panel:Before: Sidney R. Thomas, Chief Judge, and Michael Daly Hawkins, Kim McLane Wardlaw, Jay S. Bybee, Consuelo M. Callahan, Milan D. Smith, Jr., Mary H. Murguia, Jacqueline H. Nguyen, Paul J. Watford, Andrew D. Hurwitz and John B. Owens, Circuit Judges. NGUYEN, Circuit Judge, joined by THOMAS, Chief...
Case Date:January 15, 2020
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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Ezzard Charles Ellis, Petitioner-Appellant,

v.

C. M. Harrison, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 16-56188

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

January 15, 2020

Argued and Submitted En Banc June 18, 2019 San Francisco, California

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District No. 5:05-cv-00520-SJO-JEM of California S. James Otero, District Judge, Presiding

Patricia A. Young (argued) and Mark Yim, Deputy Federal Public Defenders; Hilary Potashner, Federal Public Defender; Office of the Federal Public Defender, Los Angeles, California; for Petitioner-Appellant.

Michael J. Mongan (argued) and Christine Y. Friedman, Deputy Attorneys General; Daniel Rogers, Supervising Deputy Attorney General; Julie L. Garland, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General; Xavier Becerra, Attorney General; Office of the Attorney General, San Francisco, California; for Respondent-Appellee.

Kent S. Scheidegger (argued) and Kymberlee C. Stapleton, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, Sacramento, California, for Amicus Curiae Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

Nathaniel P. Garrett, Jones Day, San Francisco, California; David M. Porter, Co-Chair, NACDL Amicus Committee, Sacramento, California; for Amicus Curiae National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Jason Anderson, District Attorney; Robert Brown, Chief Deputy District Attorney; Sean Daugherty, Supervising District Attorney; Mark Vos, Deputy District Attorney; San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office, San Bernardino, California; for Amicus Curiae San Bernardino County District Attorney.

Before: Sidney R. Thomas, Chief Judge, and Michael Daly Hawkins, Kim McLane Wardlaw, Jay S. Bybee, Consuelo M. Callahan, Milan D. Smith, Jr., Mary H. Murguia, Jacqueline H. Nguyen, Paul J. Watford, Andrew D. Hurwitz and John B. Owens, Circuit Judges.

SUMMARY

[*]

Habeas Corpus

In light of the State of California's concession that relief is warranted, the en banc court filed an order (1) summarily reversing the district court's denial of Ezzard Charles Ellis's habeas corpus petition challenging his conviction for murder, attempted murder, and robbery; and (2) remanding for the district court to grant a conditional writ releasing Ellis from custody unless the State of California retries him within a reasonable period of time.

The en banc court granted relief after the State agreed to waive any bar to granting habeas relief imposed by Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989), or by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's exhaustion requirement; and conceded that Ellis's conviction should be overturned.

Concurring, Judge Nguyen, joined by Chief Judge Thomas and Judge Murguia, wrote separately because she strongly disagrees with the majority's refusal to explain its decision, particularly in the face of a vigorous dissent. Judge Nguyen wrote that Ellis's lawyer, a virulent racist who believed in the inferiority of racial minorities and allowed his repugnant views to infect his professional life, failed to provide reasonably competent representation to Ellis, who is African American. She wrote that states cannot waive the deference to their own courts' analysis that federal courts must accord under AEDPA; that this court is obligated to decide whether Ellis received the effective assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment; and that the state court's opinion here was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law."

Concurring, Judge Watford, joined by Judges Hawkins, Wardlaw, Hurwitz, and Owens, wrote separately to respond to the dissent's contention that the court's order granting relief is forbidden by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Judge Watford wrote that § 2254(d) does not apply here because the claim on which this court grants relief was never adjudicated on the merits in state court.

Dissenting, Judge Callahan wrote that a concession by the State does not provide this court with the authority to do what it is prohibited from doing under § 2254(d), and that because Ellis is unable to show that the state court's denial of his Sixth Amendment claim is "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court," this court may not issue the writ. She wrote that the State can itself provide Ellis the relief that it now asserts he deserves, as well as pursue in state forums the "new rule of constitutional law" it now seeks.

ORDER

Ezzard Ellis appeals from the district court's denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. On appeal, the State of California initially defended the district court's judgment, and a three-judge panel of our court affirmed. Ellis v. Harrison, 891 F.3d 1160, 1166 (9th Cir. 2018) (per curiam), reh'g en banc granted, 914 F.3d 1188 (9th Cir. 2019) (order). After Ellis petitioned for rehearing en banc, however, the State changed its position. The State agreed to waive any bar to granting habeas relief imposed by Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989), or by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's exhaustion requirement. Moreover, at oral argument before the en banc court, the State conceded that Ellis's conviction should be overturned.

In light of the State's concession that habeas relief is warranted, we summarily reverse the district court's denial of Ellis's petition. On remand, the district court is directed to enter an order granting a conditional writ of habeas corpus, releasing Ellis from custody unless the State of California retries him within a reasonable period of time. Cf. Baca v. Adams, 777 F.3d 1034, 1035 (9th Cir. 2015) (order).

REVERSED AND REMANDED.

NGUYEN, Circuit Judge, joined by THOMAS, Chief Judge, and MURGUIA, Circuit Judge, concurring in the majority's summary order granting relief and writing separately to explain the basis of the result:

Ezzard Ellis's lawyer, Donald Ames, was a virulent racist who believed in the inferiority of racial minorities. Worse, he allowed his repugnant views to infect his professional life-African American clients, court personnel, and lawyers were "niggers," and an Asian American judge was a "fucking Jap" who should remember Pearl Harbor. Ames was disloyal and entirely indifferent to the fate of his non-white clients, convinced that they were all stupid and deserved to be convicted.

I agree with the majority that Ames failed to provide reasonably competent representation to Ellis, who is African American. I write separately because I strongly disagree with the majority's refusal to explain its decision, particularly in the face of a vigorous dissent. No settlement is on the books. The State of California now agrees with Ellis's interpretation of the law but does not agree to grant him the new trial he seeks. The parties have asked us, and we are obligated, to decide whether Ellis received the effective assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. To do so without a reasoned analysis in a case like this is a disservice to the parties, the victims' families, and the public.

While the state acquiesces in Ellis's legal analysis, we are not entitled to do the same. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), which governs federal habeas review of state convictions, requires "substantial deference" to a state court's ruling on the petitioner's constitutional claim. Nevada v. Jackson, 569 U.S. 505, 512 (2013). As we and every other circuit to address the issue have held, states cannot waive the deference to their own courts' analysis that federal courts must accord under AEDPA.1 Thus, the majority implicitly concludes that the state court's opinion here "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law," 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), and that upon de novo review, Ellis is entitled to relief. For reasons I will explain, I agree.

I.

In June 1991, after five trials, a San Bernardino jury convicted Ellis of murder, attempted murder, and robbery, for which he is serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Ames was appointed as defense counsel in April 1990 after Ellis's first trial ended in a mistrial. Ames represented Ellis for the remainder of the proceedings in the trial court.2

Ames's oldest daughter described her father's "contempt for people of other races and ethnic groups." Ames "especially ridiculed black people, referring to them with racial invectives" such as "trigger the nigger" and "shoot the coon to the moon." Ames's youngest daughter likewise recalled her father's frequent use of "racial slurs to refer to blacks and other minorities."

These offensive racial views were not confined...

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