Kaddoura v. Cate, No. 2:11-cv-01208-JKS

Decision Date03 July 2012
Docket NumberNo. 2:11-cv-01208-JKS
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
PartiesHOSAM KADDOURA, Petitioner, v. MATTHEW CATE, Secretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Respondent.

Hosam Kaddoura, a state prisoner appearing pro se, filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Kaddoura is currently in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in parole status. Respondent has answered, and Kaddoura has replied.


Following a jury trial, Kaddoura was convicted in the Sacramento County Superior Court of two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol (Cal. Vehicle Code § 23152(a) (counts one and three)), two counts of driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08%, or more (Cal. Vehicle Code § 23152(b) (counts two and four)), misdemeanor hit-and-run (Cal. Vehicle Code § 20002(a) (count five)), driving with a suspended license (Cal. Vehicle Code § 14601.5(a) (count six)), resisting a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1) (count seven)), and hesustained allegations that he drove with a blood-alcohol level of 0.15%, or more. Kaddoura was on bail at the time of counts three through seven. The court siting without a jury found that Kaddoura had three prior driving under the influence convictions (Cal. Vehicle Code § 23152) within the previous ten years (Cal. Vehicle Code § 23550). On August 14, 2009, the trial court sentenced Kaddoura to a prison term of five years and eight months. The California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, affirmed Kaddoura's conviction and sentence in an unpublished decision,2 and the California Supreme Court denied review on December 1, 2010.

In March 2010, while his appeal was still pending, Kaddoura filed a petition for habeas relief in the Sacramento County Superior Court, which denied his petition on June 24, 2010, in an unreported, reasoned decision, and denied Kaddoura's request for reconsideration in an unreported, reasoned decision on December 1, 2010. On August 23, 2010, Kaddoura filed a petition for habeas relief in the California Court of Appeal, which was summarily denied without opinion or citation to authority, and the California Supreme Court denied review on November 17, 2010. On December 23, 2010, Kaddoura filed a second petition for habeas relief in the California Court of Appeal, which was summarily denied, and the California Supreme Court denied review on April 13, 2011. Kaddoura timely filed his Petition for relief in this Court on May 3, 2011.

The facts underlying Kaddoura's conviction, as summarized by the California Court of Appeal:

Around midnight on December 14, 2007, [Kaddoura] was stopped on Fulton Avenue in Sacramento for driving 60 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour zone. He smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech, was unsteady on his feet, and had red, wateryeyes. [Kaddoura] refused to perform field sobriety tests. His blood-alcohol level tested at 0.34 percent. He was released on bail following his arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more.
On February 2, 2008, [Kaddoura], driving on a suspended license and on bail for the December 14 offenses, rear-ended a truck driven by Jose Aguilar. Aguilar contacted [Kaddoura] and smelled alcohol on him; after [Kaddoura] drove off, Aguilar followed. Aguilar called the police and later pointed out [Kaddoura] to them. Officers contacted [Kaddoura], who appeared intoxicated, and arrested him. [Kaddoura] was uncooperative and spit on one of the officers. He had a blood-alcohol level of 0.22 percent.3

In his Petition Kaddoura raises many grounds, which can be divided into three categories: (1) sixteen enumerated errors by the trial judge; (2) twenty-one enumerated instances of claims that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel; and (3) his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to appeal from the denial of the motion for a new trial. Respondent contends that all of Kaddoura's claims are procedurally barred except his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Respondent raises no other affirmative defense.4


Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), this Court cannot grant relief unless the decision of the state court was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" at the time the state court renders its decision or "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State courtproceeding."5 The Supreme Court has explained that "clearly established Federal law" in § 2254(d)(1) "refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court] as of the time of the relevant state-court decision."6 The holding must also be intended to be binding upon the states; that is, the decision must be based upon constitutional grounds, not on the supervisory power of the Supreme Court over federal courts.7 Thus, where holdings of the Supreme Court regarding the issue presented on habeas review are lacking, "it cannot be said that the state court 'unreasonabl[y] appli[ed] clearly established Federal law.'"8 When a claim falls under the "unreasonable application" prong, a state court's application of Supreme Court precedent must be "objectively unreasonable," not just "incorrect or erroneous."9 The Supreme Court has made clear that the objectively unreasonable standard is "a substantially higher threshold" than simply believing that the state-court determination was incorrect.10 "[A]bsent a specific constitutional violation, federal habeas corpus review of trial error is limited to whether the error 'so infectedthe trial with unfairness as to make the resulting conviction a denial of due process.'"11 In a federal habeas proceeding, the standard under which this Court must assess the prejudicial impact of constitutional error in a state court criminal trial is whether the error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the outcome.12 Because state court judgments of conviction and sentence carry a presumption of finality and legality, the petitioner has the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she merits habeas relief.13

The Supreme Court recently underscored the magnitude of the deference required:
As amended by AEDPA, § 2254(d) stops short of imposing a complete bar on federal court relitigation of claims already rejected in state proceedings. Cf. Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651, 664, 116 S.Ct. 2333, 135 L.Ed.2d 827 (1996) (discussing AEDPA's "modified res judicata rule" under § 2244). It preserves authority to issue the writ in cases where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with this Court's precedents. It goes no farther. Section 2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is a "guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems," not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332, n.5, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979) (Stevens, J., concurring in judgment). As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.14

In applying this standard, this Court reviews the "last reasoned decision" by the state court.15 State appellate court decisions that summarily affirm a lower court's opinion without explanation are presumed to have adopted the reasoning of the lower court.16 This Court gives the presumed decision of the state court the same AEDPA deference that it would give a reasoned decision of the state court.17

Under California's unique habeas procedure, a prisoner who is denied habeas relief in the superior court files a new original petition for relief in the court of appeal. If denied relief by the court of appeal, the defendant has the option of either filing a new original petition for habeas relief or a petition for review of the court of appeal's denial in the California Supreme Court.18This is considered as the functional equivalent of the appeal process.19 Under AEDPA, the state court's findings of fact are presumed to be correct unless the petitioner rebuts this presumptionby clear and convincing evidence.20 This presumption applies to state-trial courts and appellate courts alike.21


Kaddoura's Petition to this Court (as did his petitions for state habeas relief), contains a number of allegations, most of which are merely conclusory in nature and unsupported by facts. The petition must specify all the grounds for relief available to the petitioner and the facts supporting each ground.22 If it plainly appears on the face of the petition that the petitioner is not entitled to relief, a district court must dismiss the petition.23 As the Supreme Court has stated:

Habeas Corpus Rule 2(c) is more demanding. It provides that the petition must "specify all the grounds for relief available to the petitioner" and "state the facts supporting each ground." See also Advisory Committee's Note on subd. (c) of Habeas Corpus Rule 2, 28 U.S.C., p. 469 ("In the past, petitions have frequently contained mere conclusions of law, unsupported by any facts. [But] it is the relationship of the facts to the claim asserted that is important . . . ."); Advisory Committee's Note on Habeas Corpus Rule 4, 28 U.S.C., p. 471 ("'[N]otice' pleading is not sufficient, for the petition is expected to state facts that point to a real possibility of constitutional error." (

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