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Rumbaugh v. Davis

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

August 9, 2019

Joel Ray Rumbaugh, Petitioner,
Lorie Davis, Respondent.



         Petitioner, a state inmate proceeding pro se, filed a section 2254 habeas case challenging his 2017 conviction and life sentence for aggravated sexual assault of a child. Respondent filed a motion for summary judgment on June 18, 2019, serving petitioner a copy at his address of record that same date. (Docket Entry No. 20.) Despite expiration of a reasonable period of time of forty-five days or more, petitioner has failed to respond to the motion for summary judgment, and the motion is uncontested.

         Having considered the motion, the pleadings, the record, and the applicable law, the Court GRANTS summary judgment and DISMISSES this lawsuit for the reasons shown below.

         Background and Claims

         Petitioner pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child and was sentenced to life imprisonment in August 2017. His subsequent notice of appeal was dismissed for want of jurisdiction by the intermediate state court of appeals. His application for state habeas relief was denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on December 5, 2018. Petitioner filed this timely federal habeas petition on February 20, 2019.

         Petitioner raises the following grounds for federal habeas relief in the instant proceeding:

1. The State breached the plea agreement by informing the trial court of petitioner's other sexual assault convictions;
2. Petitioner's guilty plea was involuntary because he was led to believe he would receive leniency from the trial court;
3. Trial counsel was ineffective and unprepared for sentencing due to a family death and office flooding;
4. Petitioner discovered new evidence during prison counseling that he was sexually abused as a child and has PTSD; and 5. The trial court did not consider the testimony of petitioner's expert witness during sentencing.

         Respondent argues that these habeas grounds have no merit and should be summarily dismissed.

         The Applicable Legal Standards

         Habeas Review

         This petition is governed by the applicable provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). 28 U .S.C. § 2254. Under the AEDPA, federal habeas relief cannot be granted on legal issues adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the state adjudication was contrary to clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court, or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court. Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98-99 (2011); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 404-05 (2000); 28 U.S.C. §§ 2254(d)(1), (2). A state court decision is contrary to federal precedent if it applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth by the Supreme Court, or if it confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from such a decision and arrives at a result different from the Supreme Court's precedent. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 7-8 (2002).

         A state court unreasonably applies Supreme Court precedent if it unreasonably applies the correct legal rule to the facts of a particular case, or unreasonably extends a legal principle from Supreme Court precedent to a new context where it should not apply, or unreasonably refuses to extend that principle to a new context where it should apply. Williams, 529 U.S. at 409. In deciding whether a state court's application was unreasonable, this Court considers whether the application was objectively unreasonable. Id. at 411. "It bears repeating that even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable." Richter, 562 U.S. at 102. As stated by the Supreme Court in Richter,

If this standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to be. As amended by AEDPA, § 2254(d) stops short of imposing a complete bar on federal court relitigation of claims already rejected in state proceedings. 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.

Id., at 102-03 (emphasis added; internal citations omitted).

         The AEDPA affords deference to a state court's resolution of factual issues. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2), a decision adjudicated on the merits in a state court and based on a factual determination will not be overturned on factual grounds unless it is objectively unreasonable in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding. Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 343 (2003). A federal habeas court must presume the underlying factual determination of the state court to be correct, unless the petitioner rebuts the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); see also Miller-El, 537 U.S. at 330-31.

         Summary Judgment

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the district court must determine whether the pleadings, discovery materials, and the summary judgment evidence show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Once the movant presents a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to show with significant probative evidence the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Hamilton v. Segue Software, Inc., 232 F.3d 473, 477 (5th Cir. 2000).

         While summary judgment rules apply with equal force in a section 2254 proceeding, the rules only apply to the extent that they do not conflict with the federal rules governing habeas proceedings. Therefore, section 2254(e)(1), which mandates that a state court's findings are to be presumed correct, overrides the summary judgment rule that all disputed facts must be construed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Accordingly, unless a petitioner can rebut the presumption of correctness of a state court's factual findings by clear and convincing evidence, the state court's findings must be accepted as correct by the federal habeas court. Smith v. Cockrell, 311 F.3d 661, 668 (5th Cir. 2002), overruled on other grounds by Tennard v. Dretke, 542 U.S. 274 (2004).

         State Trial Court Findings on Habeas Review

         The state trial court made the following findings on state habeas review:

         1. Applicant filed his first application for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to Article 11.07 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in the above-numbered cause asserting the following grounds for relief:

a. The Trial Court misled the applicant making the applicant believe The Trial Court would show leniency.
b. Applicant's attorney [was] ineffective, unavailable for preparation, and misled him[.]
c. The State Breached the Plea Bargain Agreement[.]
d. Post Sentence evidence uncovered after his sentence should have ...

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