Ramirez v. Yates, Case No. C–03–1817 RMW

Citation71 F.Supp.3d 1100
Decision Date21 October 2014
Docket NumberCase No. C–03–1817 RMW
CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
PartiesAnthony M. Ramirez, Petitioner, v. James A. Yates, Warden, Respondent.

71 F.Supp.3d 1100

Anthony M. Ramirez, Petitioner
James A. Yates, Warden, Respondent.

Case No. C–03–1817 RMW


Signed October 21, 2014

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Anthony Marco Ramirez, San Quentin, CA, pro se.

Juliet B. Haley, Bill Lockyer, Peggy S. Ruffra, CA State Attorney General's Office, Gerald August Engler, Senior Assistant Attorney General, San Francisco, CA, Robert R. Anderson, Attorney at Law, Scottsdale, AZ, for Respondent.


Re Docket Nos. 120, 151, 157

RONALD M. WHYTE, United States District Judge

Anthony M. Ramirez (“Ramirez”) petitions for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons set forth below, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is denied.


A state court in Marin County convicted Ramirez of residential burglary. At the second phase of Ramirez's bifurcated trial the trial court found beyond a reasonable doubt that Ramirez suffered three prior first degree burglary convictions, one prior attempted first degree burglary, one prior second degree burglary conviction, one prior attempted second degree burglary conviction, and one narcotics sales conviction. Resp't Ex. B, Rep.Tr. 549–550 Dkt. No. 129. The jury then examined certified documents related to those convictions and found the convictions true. Id. at 580–582. The prior burglary convictions were alleged as “strikes” for the purposes of California's Three Strikes scheme. Ramirez was sentenced to an indeterminate term of fifty years to life in state prison. Resp't Ex. A, Ct. Tr. 46, Dkt. No. 126.

Ramirez appealed his conviction, which was affirmed by the California Court of Appeal. Resp't Ex. C, Dkt. No. 131. He also collaterally attacked the judgment in state court by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Resp't Ex. I, Dkt. No. 137. The California Court of Appeals summarily denied Ramirez's petition on December 10, 2001. Resp't Ex. L, Dkt. No. 140. The California Supreme Court then denied Ramirez's petition for review on February 20, 2002. Resp't Ex. H, Dkt. No. 136.

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The state court judgment became final on May 21, 2002.

Ramirez was required to file a timely federal habeas petition under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”) by May 21, 2003. However, Ramirez did not file a federal habeas petition until June 14, 2004. To be timely, the court would need to toll the statute of limitations from May 21, 2003 to June 14, 2004. On September 28, 2006, the court granted the government's motion to dismiss the habeas petition as untimely. Dkt. Nos. 48, 49. Ramirez appealed, and the Ninth Circuit vacated the dismissal and remanded the case to this court with instructions to review the factors giving rise to equitable tolling and determine whether they provide the bases for equitable tolling in this case. Dkt. No. 67. On March 21, 2013, the court issued an order finding that Ramirez was entitled to sufficient tolling to render his federal habeas petition timely. Dkt. No. 120. Consequently, the court denied the government's motion to dismiss and directed the government to answer the petition. Id.

On June 2, 2014 Ramirez filed a “Motion and Request for Court To Review Records and Documents Attached to, and In Support of, Petitioner's April 27, 2005, Motion for Evidentiary Hearing Before Ruling On Merits of Petition's Habeas Claims.” Dkt. No. 157.


A. Legal Standard

A court may grant a petition for writ of habeas corpus “in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws and treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). The court may grant the writ only if the state court's ruling “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States” or was “based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

For a state court's decision to be contrary to clearly established federal law, it must apply a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in Supreme Court cases, or confront a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a Court decision and nevertheless arrive at a different result from Court precedent. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8, 123 S.Ct. 362, 154 L.Ed.2d 263 (2002). A state court decision is an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law “if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle ... but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75, 123 S.Ct. 1166, 155 L.Ed.2d 144 (2003). The court cannot grant a habeas petition as being an “unreasonable application” of federal law merely because, in its opinion, the law was incorrectly applied in a case. Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 698–99, 122 S.Ct. 1843, 152 L.Ed.2d 914 (2002). Rather, the state court's application of federal law must be “objectively unreasonable” in order to justify granting the petition. Id. The review of state court decisions is highly deferential, and state court decisions should be given the benefit of the doubt. Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24, 123 S.Ct. 357, 154 L.Ed.2d 279 (2002).

B. Ramirez's Claims

Ramirez claims that (1) he was denied due process when the state court used his prior convictions as strikes under California's Three Strikes Law, violating the terms of his prior plea agreements; (2) he suffered from ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel had a conflict of interest; (3) he was denied due

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process when the jury did not determine all factual issues pertaining to the alleged prior convictions; (4) he was denied due process and the right to trial because he was not tried before an impartial jury; (5) he suffered from ineffective assistance of counsel when the court refused to grant his motion to substitute counsel; (6) he was denied the right to counsel at critical stages in the proceedings; (7) the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion for self-representation at sentencing; (8) he was denied due process when the trial court denied his motion for a continuance prior to sentencing; (9) he was denied effective assistance of counsel at various times; (10) the jury was improperly instructed on the burden of proof in connection with Ramirez's prior convictions; (11) the trial court judge was biased; and (12) his appellate counsel was prejudicially ineffective. The court will address each claim in turn.

1. Breach of Prior Plea Agreements

Ramirez argues that he was deprived of due process rights when the trial court rejected his claim that the state violated the terms of his three prior plea agreements by using his prior convictions as strikes under the California Three Strikes Law to calculate his sentence. Pet. 15–21, Dkt. No. 39–2. Further, Ramirez claims that he is entitled to specific performance of the plea bargain based on the law in effect when his prior plea agreements were negotiated and agreed to. Id. at 17.

Due process requires that “when a plea rests in any significant degree on a promise or agreement of the prosecutor, so that it can be said to be part of the inducement or consideration, the promise must be fulfilled.” Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, 262, 92 S.Ct. 495, 30 L.Ed.2d 427 (1971). Claims that a plea agreement was breached are analyzed under state contract law. Ricketts v. Adamson, 483 U.S. 1, 6 n. 3, 107 S.Ct. 2680, 97 L.Ed.2d 1 (1987).

To the extent that Ramirez argues that he is entitled to specific performance of his prior plea agreements under the law in effect during the negotiation and acceptance of the agreements,1 the court rejects his claim.

In People v. Gipson, a California Court of Appeals held that sentencing the defendant under the Three Strikes Law, which was enacted after the defendant entered into a plea agreement for a prior offense, did not violate constitutional contract clauses. 117 Cal.App. 4th 1065, 1070, 12 Cal.Rptr.3d 478 (2004). The defendant in this case similarly argued that his plea agreement was a contract between himself and the state, which the Legislature could not impair by subsequent enactments. Id. At 1068. But the court determined that California contracts, including plea bargains, are “deemed to incorporate and contemplate not only the existing law but the reserve power of the state to amend the law or enact additional laws....” Id. at 1070, 12 Cal.Rptr.3d 478. A few years later, the Ninth Circuit in Davis v. Woodford, quoting Gipson, recognized this principle of California law.2

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446 F.3d 957, 962 (9th Cir.2006). District Courts in...

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