United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Marshall Division
ORDER OF DISMISSAL
GILSTRAP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
William Kelly Vaughn, proceeding pro se and in
forma pauperis, filed the above-styled and numbered
petition for habeas corpus. The above-entitled and numbered
civil action was heretofore referred to United States
Magistrate Judge Roy Payne, who issued a Report and
Recommendation concluding that the petition should be
dismissed with prejudice. Mr. Vaughn has filed objections.
of Review and Reviewability
magistrate judge's report has been objected to, the
district court reviews the recommendation de novo
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72. See
also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) (1) (“A judge of the
court shall make a de novo determination of those
portions of the report or specified proposed findings and
recommendations to which objection is made.”). During a
de novo review, a court examines the entire record
and makes an independent assessment of the law. When no
objections are filed, plaintiff is barred from de
novo review by the district judge of those findings,
conclusions, and recommendations and, except upon grounds of
plain error, from appellate review of the unobjected-to
factual findings and legal conclusions accepted and adopted
by the district court. Douglass v. United Services
Automobile Association, 79 F.3d 1415, 1430 (5th
Cir.1996) (en banc ).
and Analysis of Plaintiff's Objections
Report concluded that the petition for writ of habeas corpus
should be denied and that the case should be dismissed with
prejudice because the claims were meritless. Mr. Vaughn
argues that the Report was incorrect.
first objection, Mr. Vaughn repeats his argument that he was
denied the effective assistance of counsel by his trial
attorney. Mr. Vaughn, however, pled guilty to the charges
against him. By entering a guilty plea, a defendant waives
all non-jurisdictional defects. Tollett v.
Henderson, 411 U.S. 258, 267 (1973). Any challenge to a
conviction obtained by a guilty plea is limited to issues
concerning the voluntariness of the plea, the defendant's
understanding of the charges against him, and his
understanding of the consequences of the plea. Hill v.
Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 56-57 (1985); Diaz v.
Martin, 718 F.2d 1372, 1376-77 (5th Cir. 1983). A plea
of guilty is more than a mere confession; it is “an
admission that [the defendant] committed the crime charged
against him.” United States v. Broce, 488 U.S.
563, 570 (1989); Taylor v. Whitley, 933 F.2d 325,
327 (5th Cir. 1991); see also North Carolina v.
Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 32 (1970). “A plea of guilty
and the ensuing conviction encompass all of the factual and
legal elements necessary to sustain a binding, final judgment
of guilt and a lawful sentence.” Broce, 488
U.S. at 569. Specifically, a defendant waives his right to
challenge the effectiveness of his counsel except as the
alleged ineffectiveness relates to the voluntariness of his
guilty plea. Smith v. Estelle, 711 F.2d 677, 682
(5th Cir. 1983).
Vaughn again complains that his trial counsel was ineffective
for failing to investigate, confer with him, and advise him.
See Fed. Writ Pet. at 7. He has failed to
demonstrate, however, that his attorney's actions caused
him to plead guilty without a full understanding of the
nature of the charges against him or the consequences of his
plea. Grabowski v. Hargett, 47 F.3d 1386, 1389 (5th
Cir. 1995). Because Mr. Vaughn has failed to prove that his
guilty plea was in any way involuntary or that his
attorney's actions caused him to plead guilty, he has
waived the right to argue that his counsel was ineffective.
Smith, 711 F.2d at 682 (because petitioner's
guilty plea was entered into voluntarily, he waived his
ineffective assistance of counsel claims with regard to
failure to investigate).
Vaughn further re-urges his claims that his sentence was
illegally enhanced, the judge had a conflict of interest, and
the prosecution presented false information about his prior
offenses to the grand jury. See Fed. Writ Pet. at
6-7. These claims are also waived by Mr. Vaughn's
voluntary guilty plea. See Tollett v. Henderson, 411
U.S. 258, 265 (1973) (voluntary guilty plea waives
non-jurisdictional defects in a criminal proceeding);
Matthew v. Johnson, 201 F.3d 353, 364 (5th Cir.
2000) (noting long-standing rule that valid guilty plea bars
habeas review of non-jurisdictional claims alleging
antecedent violations of constitutional rights).
his objection about the enhancement of his sentence, Mr.
Vaughn's claim that the second enhancement paragraph was
improper because it was a misdemeanor is meritless. The
relevant enhancement statute for driving while intoxicated
offenses does not require the prior offenses to be felonies.
The first and second enhancement paragraphs (paragraphs two
and three) of the indictment alleged prior offenses related
to driving while intoxicated for the purposes of §
49.09(b)(2) of the Texas Penal Code, which provides that the
offense of driving while intoxicated can be enhanced to a
third degree felony if the defendant has been previously
convicted two prior offenses related to operating a motor
vehicle while intoxicated. Tex. Penal Code Ann. §
49.09(b)(2) (West 2012); SHCR-02 at 2. That section, as
opposed to the punishment enhancements contained in §
12.42(a), does not require any prior offenses to be felonies.
See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.42(a). Thus, Mr.
Vaughn's claim that the indictment contained an illegal
enhancement is groundless based on the language of the Texas
Mr. Vaughn's claim raises a state law question. Claims
based exclusively on state law are not cognizable in a §
2254 proceeding. “A state prisoner seeking federal
review of his conviction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254
must assert a violation of a federal constitutional
right.” Lawrence v. Lensing, 42 F.3d 255, 258
(5th Cir. 1994). Federal habeas corpus relief will not issue
to correct errors of state constitutional, statutory, or
procedural law, unless a federal issue is also presented.
Pemberton v. Collins, 991 F.2d 1218, 1223 (5th Cir.
an offense has been properly enhanced is generally a matter
of state law. See Rubio v. Estelle, 689 F.2d 533,
536 (5th Cir. 1982); Donald v. Jones, 445 F.2d 601,
606 (5th Cir. 1971). Similarly, “[t]he sufficiency of a
state indictment is not a matter for federal habeas relief
unless it can be shown that the indictment is so defective
that it deprives the state court of jurisdiction.”
McKay v. Collins, 12 F.3d 66, 68 (5th Cir. 1994).
When a state court has held that an indictment is sufficient
under state law, a federal court need not address that issue.
Evans v. Cain, 577 F.3d 620, 624 (5th Cir. 2009);
see also McKay, 12 F.3d at 68). Because the
state courts already addressed the sufficiency of Mr.
Vaughn's indictment, this court will not consider his
claim that the indictment was faulty and that the use of the
enhancement paragraph was unlawful. Id.; SHCR-02 at
“Action Taken” page. Since Mr. Vaughn's claim
presents a state law issue, he is not entitled to relief.
this objection is also meritless because he fails to meet
AEDPA's burden of proof. He has not shown that the state
habeas court's denial of the claim was contrary to, or an
unreasonable application of Supreme Court law. Mr. Vaughn is
not entitled to relief because he cannot show “that the
state court's ruling on the claim being presented in
federal court [is] so lacking in justification that there was
an error well understood and comprehended in existing law
beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.”
Richter, 130 S.Ct. at 786-87. Thus, he is not
entitled to relief.
Vaughn also objects to the Report's conclusion that his
claim regarding the trial judge's conflict of interest
was meritless. The Report found that this claim is
unexhausted and procedurally barred because it was not raised
in a state habeas application. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254 (b)(1)(A), a state prisoner's application for a
federal writ of habeas corpus shall not be granted unless the
applicant has exhausted his state court remedies. In order to
satisfy the exhaustion requirement, a claim must be presented
to the highest court of the state for review. Deters v.
Collins, 985 F.2d 789, 795 (5th Cir. 1993); see
also Jones v. Jones, 163 F.3d 285, 297-99 (5th Cir.
1998) (distinct claims of ineffective assistance of counsel
are separate claims for purposes of the exhaustion
requirement). This claim is unexhausted because it was never
presented to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals during
direct appeal or the state habeas proceedings. Mr. Vaughn
would be cited ...