The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANLEY CHESLER, District Judge
John Allan Curtis filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) challenging a judgment of
conviction filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law
Division, Monmouth County, on April 4, 1996. Respondents filed an
Answer, arguing, inter alia, that the Petition is untimely and
that the claims presented are in any event without merit. For the
reasons expressed below, the Court dismisses the Petition with
prejudice and declines to issue a certificate of appealability.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2253(c), 2254(a), (b), (c). I. BACKGROUND
Petitioner challenges a judgment of conviction entered on April
4, 1996, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division,
Monmouth County, after he waived the right to counsel and a jury
found him guilty of third degree conspiracy, 17 counts of third
degree burglary, and 33 counts of third degree theft. After
merging the conspiracy count, the Law Division sentenced
Petitioner to an aggregate term of 40 years imprisonment, with a
20-year period of parole ineligibility. Petitioner appealed and
in an opinion filed November 30, 1998, the Appellate Division of
the Superior Court of New Jersey affirmed. The Supreme Court of
New Jersey denied certification on March 16, 1999. State v.
Curtis, 160 N.J. 89 (1999) (table).
On May 26, 1999, Petitioner executed a petition for
post-conviction relief which he filed in the Law Division. The
law Division denied relief on April 14, 2000. Petitioner appealed
and in an opinion filed March 28, 2002, the Appellate Division
affirmed the order denying post-conviction relief in part,
reversed in part, and remanded for further development of
Petitioner's claim that he was in prison when several of the
burglary and theft by unlawful taking offenses occurred.
Petitioner filed a petition for certification of the Appellate
Division decision of March 28, 2002, which affirmed denial of
post-conviction relief. The Supreme Court of New Jersey denied
certification on July 16, 2002. State v. Curtis, 174 N.J. 192
Petitioner filed a motion in the Law Division to dismiss counts
62 and 131 of the indictment and on February 21, 2003, the Law
Division granted the motion. The Law Division filed an amended
judgment of conviction on May 5, 2003, re-sentencing Petitioner
to an aggregate 40-year term, with an 20-year period of parole
ineligibility. Petitioner executed the § 2254 Petition which is now before
this Court on April 23, 2003. The Clerk received it on April 30,
2003. The Court notified Petitioner of the consequences of filing
such a Petition under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act ("AEDPA") and gave him an opportunity to withdraw the
Petition and file one all-inclusive Petition, pursuant to Mason
v. Meyers, 208 F.3d 414 (3d Cir. 2000).
The Petition presents four grounds, which are set forth
Ground One: Conviction obtained by use of evidence
gained pursuant to an unconstitutional search and
Ground Two: Conviction obtained by use of evidence
obtained pursuant to an unlawful arrest.
Ground Three: Conviction obtained by the
unconstitutional failure of the prosecution to
disclose to the defendant evidence favorable to the
Ground Four: Denial of effective assistance of
(Pet. ¶ 12.)
The State filed an Answer opposing the Petition, arguing that
the Petition is untimely and none of the grounds satisfy the
standard for habeas corpus relief. Petitioner filed a Traverse.
A habeas corpus petition must meet "heightened pleading
requirements." McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994)
(citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 2(c)). The petition must specify
all the grounds for relief available to the petitioner, state the
facts supporting each ground, and state the relief requested.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 2(c)(1), (c)(2), (c)(3). Section 2254(a) of Title 28 of the United States Code gives the
court jurisdiction to entertain a habeas petition challenging a
state conviction or sentence only where the inmate's custody
violates federal law:
[A] district court shall entertain an application for
a 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 or treaties of the United
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).
"In conducting habeas review, a federal court is limited to
deciding whether a conviction violated the Constitution, laws, or
treaties of the United States." Estelle v. McGuire,
502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); accord Barry v. Bergen
County Probation Dept., 128 F.3d 152, 159 (3d Cir. 1997).
"Federal courts hold no supervisory authority over state judicial
proceedings and may intervene only to correct wrongs of
constitutional dimension." Smith v. Phillips, 455 U.S. 209, 221
(1982). "If a state prisoner alleges no deprivation of a federal
right, § 2254 is simply inapplicable. It is unnecessary in such a
situation to inquire whether the prisoner preserved his claim
before the state courts." Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 120 n.
In reviewing a § 2254 petition, a federal court is not
permitted to address a federal constitutional claim pertinent to
the facts of the case unless the petitioner asserts the claim as
a ground for relief.*fn1 Nor may the Court recharacterize a
ground asserted under state law into a federal constitutional claim.*fn2 "[E]rrors of state law
cannot be repackaged as federal errors simply by citing the Due
Process Clause." Johnson v. Rosemeyer, 117 F.3d 104, 110 (3d
Cir. 1997). Moreover, "it is well established that a state
court's misapplication of its own law does not generally raise a
constitutional claim." Smith v. Horn, 120 F.3d 400, 414 (3d
Cir. 1997) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see
also Smith v. Zimmerman, 768 F.2d 69, 71, 73 (3d Cir. 1985).
A district court must give deference to determinations of state
courts. Duncan v. Morton, 256 F.3d 189, 196 (3d Cir.), cert.
denied, 534 U.S. 919 (2001); Dickerson v. Vaughn, 90 F.3d 87,
90 (3d Cir. 1996). Federal courts "must presume that the factual
findings of both state trial and appellate courts are correct, a
presumption that can only be overcome on the basis of clear and
convincing evidence to the contrary." Stevens v. Delaware
Correctional Center, 295 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002). Where a
federal claim was "adjudicated on the merits"*fn3 in state
court proceedings, § 2254 does not permit habeas relief unless
adjudication of the claim (1) 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
(2) resulted in a decision that 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).
A decision is "`contrary to' a Supreme Court holding if the
state court `contradicts the governing law set forth in [the
Supreme Court's] cases' or if it `confronts a set of facts that
are materially indistinguishable from a decision of th[e Supreme]
Court and nevertheless arrives at a [different] result."
Rompilla v. Horn, 355 ...