Rudenko v. Costello

Decision Date20 March 2002
Docket NumberDocket No. 99-2276.,Docket No. 99-2277.,Docket No. 99-2309.,Docket No. 99-2248.,Docket No. 99-2497.,Docket No. 99-2524.,Docket No. 99-2466.,Docket No. 99-2531.,Docket No. 99-2718.,Docket No. 99-2242 (L).,Docket No. 99-2340.,Docket No. 99-2387.,Docket No. 99-2692.,Docket No. 99-2423.,Docket No. 99-2304.,Docket No. 99-2266.
Citation286 F.3d 51
PartiesKonstantin RUDENKO; Rudenko Konstantin; Abdul Hakim, also known as Desmond Woodburn; Anthony Williams; Connie L. Johnson; Darrell Spencer; Norman Chang; Patrick Bannon; Ramon Alcantara; Dennis Gandarilla; Dennis Brown; Darren Collins; Miguel Miranda; Anthony DeFina; Victor Woodard, Petitioners-Appellants, v. Joseph J. COSTELLO, Supt.; Charles J. Hynes; Charles Greiner, Superintendent, Sing Sing Correctional Facility; Daniel A. Senkowski, Superintendent, Clinton Correctional Facility; John P. Keane, Supt.; Christopher Artuz, Superintendent; Commissioner of Correctional Services; James Stinson, Superintendent; Floyd Bennett; H.H. Albaugh, Supt.; Frank Irvin, Supt. of the Wende Correctional Facility, Respondents-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit

Larry W. Yackle, Boston University School of Law, Boston, MA, (Perry S. Reich, Schapiro & Reich, Lindenhurst, NY, on the brief), for Petitioners-Appellants.

Amy Appelbaum, Assistant District Attorney, Kings County, Brooklyn, NY, (Charles J. Hynes, District Attorney for Kings County, Leonard Joblove, Victor Barall, Assistant District Attorneys Brooklyn, NY, Richard A. Brown, District Attorney for Queens County, John M. Castellano, Assistant District Attorney, Kew Gardens, NY, Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General for the State of New York, Valerie Singleton, Assistant Attorney General, New York, NY, on the brief), for Respondents-Appellees.

Before KEARSE, STRAUB, and SACK, Circuit Judges.

KEARSE, Circuit Judge.

The petitioners in these 16 consolidated appeals, who are New York State ("State") prisoners seeking vacatur of their convictions for various crimes, appeal from judgments entered in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, denying their petitions for writs of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In most of these cases, the district judge to whom the action was assigned denied the petition in an order adopting, without elaboration, the reasons stated by the state appellate court in affirming the petitioner's conviction and the reasons proffered by the State in opposing the habeas petition. Granted limited certificates of appealability by this Court, petitioners contend that the district court's orders do not comply with federal law requiring that denials of habeas corpus petitions be accompanied by findings of fact and conclusions of law. The district judges who decided these cases have specially submitted to this Court their views that, inter alia, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, amending, inter alia, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244, 2253, 2254, and 2255, and requiring that federal district courts considering habeas petitions by state prisoners give substantial deference to state-court rulings, see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), made their adoptions of the state-court opinions particularly appropriate. For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that the orders do not contain explanations sufficient to permit meaningful appellate review, and we therefore remand for further clarification.


These 16 appeals involve 14 petitioners who, in unrelated State prosecutions, were convicted of a variety of crimes, including murder (petitioners Darrell Spencer, Patrick Bannon, and Dennis Brown); attempted murder (petitioners Norman Chang and Abdul Hakim); manslaughter (petitioners Bannon and Anthony DeFina); assault (petitioners Hakim, Connie L. Johnson, Darren Collins, and Anthony Williams); narcotics offenses (petitioners Ramon Alcantara and Dennis Gandarilla); robbery (petitioners Collins, Williams, Miguel Miranda, and Victor Woodard); burglary (Woodard and petitioner Konstantin Rudenko) ("Rudenko"), who in one petition styles himself "Rudenko Konstantin" ("Konstantin"); and grand larceny (Konstantin). Each petitioner appealed his conviction to the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department ("Appellate Division"), which, for the most part, affirmed the convictions.

Following the affirmances of their convictions on direct appeal, and in some instances following denials of state-court applications for collateral relief, each petitioner filed in the District Court for the Eastern District of New York, during the period 1996-1999, at least one petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a writ of habeas corpus vacating his convictions; Rudenko and Woodard each filed two such petitions. Each petition asserts a number of claims, including insufficiency of the evidence (Rudenko, Spencer, Chang, Bannon, Collins, Woodard (in Woodard v. Senkowski)); unknowing and involuntary entry of a plea of guilty and undue delay in sentencing (Konstantin); violation of the privilege against self-incrimination (Hakim, Alcantara); denial of a fair trial because of prosecutorial misconduct (Chang, Brown, Miranda, DeFina); denial of a fair trial because of suggestive identification procedures (Spencer, Woodard (in Woodard v. Senkowski)); nondisclosure of exculpatory evidence (DeFina, Rudenko); denial of right to a public trial (Alcantara); denial of right to be present at hearings (Johnson, Alcantara, Woodard (in Woodard v. Irvin)); denial of right to confront witnesses (Hakim, Woodard (in Woodard v. Irvin)); and denial of the right to effective assistance of counsel (Johnson, Chang, Gandarilla, Miranda, Woodard (in Woodard v. Irvin)). The merits of petitioners' claims are not before us on the present appeals, given the limitation of the certificates of appealability to the procedural issue of whether the form of the district court's denials was proper.

A. The District Court's Denials of the Habeas Petitions

The petitions of Gandarilla, Brown, and DeFina were assigned to Judge, now-Chief Judge, Edward R. Korman. The petitions in the other 13 cases were assigned to Judge David G. Trager. The petitions were denied in 1999 in the manner described below.

1. The Petitions of Gandarilla and Brown

The order of Judge Korman denying Gandarilla's habeas petition stated, in toto, as follows:

The petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied for the reasons stated in the opinion of the Appellate Division, People v. Gandarilla, 244 A.D.2d 500, 665 N.Y.S.2d 905 (2d Dep't 1997), and the memorandum of law filed by the District Attorney.

Gandarilla v. Artuz, CV-99-508 (E.D.N.Y. dated June 14, 1999, filed June 24, 1999). Judge Korman denied Brown's habeas petition in a similar order:

The petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied for the reasons stated in the opinion of the Appellate Division, People v. Brown, 251 A.D.2d 341, 673 N.Y.S.2d 1012 (2d Dep't), and the memorandum of law filed by the District Attorney.

Brown v. Senkowski, CV-99-723 (E.D.N.Y. dated June 23, 1999, filed June 25, 1999).

2. The Petition of DeFina

Judge Korman denied the petition of DeFina in an order that stated as follows:

The petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied. I agree with the District Attorney that petitioner procedurally forfeited the claims raised on the direct appeal to the Appellate Division, because his application for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals merely enclosed the briefs filed in the Appellate Division without indicating the grounds upon which leave was sought. See Grey v. Hoke, 933 F.2d 117, 121 (2d Cir.1991); contra Meatley v. Artuz, 886 F.Supp. 1009, 1013-1014 (E.D.N.Y.1995). In any event, the claims do not warrant habeas corpus relief for the reasons stated in the opinion of the Appellate Division, People v. DeFina, 256 A.D.2d 586, 682 N.Y.S.2d 878 (2d Dep't 1998), and the memorandum of law filed by the District Attorney.

The issue raised in petitioner's collateral attack on the judgment of conviction is without merit for the reasons stated in the opinion of the Appellate Division. People v. DeFina, 256 A.D.2d 587, 685 N.Y.S.2d 249 (2d Dep't 1998).

DeFina v. Albaugh, 99 Civ. 5064 (E.D.N.Y. dated Oct. 27, 1999, filed Nov. 1, 1999) ("DeFina v. Albaugh").

3. The Petitions of Hakim, Spencer, Chang, Alcantara, Bannon, Miranda, Collins, Rudenko, and Konstantin

Judge Trager denied nine of the present petitions in virtually identically worded orders. Seven of the orders differed only slightly in their paragraph breakage and punctuation, and in their citations to the respective petitioners' state-court appeals and the dates of the State's responses to the respective petitions. Those seven stated that the

petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied[] substantially for the reasons set out in the decision of the Appellate Division, People v. [the pertinent petitioner, citation], and the respondent's Memorandum of Law dated [date], submitted in opposition to the petition. In addition, petitioner's claims do not meet the standards required by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) for grant of the petition. None of the state's rulings resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court, or resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented. Accordingly, it is hereby

ORDERED that the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is dismissed. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close the case. A certificate of appealability will not issue since petitioner has not made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right. 28 U.S.C. § 2253, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1...

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