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King v. Ortiz

March 24, 2006

BRUCE KING, PETITIONER,
v.
ALFARO ORTIZ, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cooper, District Judge

OPINION

Bruce King filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) challenging a conviction in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer County. Petitioner thereafter filed a motion to amend the Petition to clarify the one claim presented. The Court will grant the motion to amend the Petition and direct the Clerk to file the amendment. See United States v. Thomas, 221 F.3d 430, 433 (3d Cir. 2000); United States v. Duffus, 174 F.3d 333, 337-38(3d Cir. 1999). Having screened the Petition for dismissal pursuant to Habeas Rule 4, see 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 4, the Court will order Petitioner to show why the Petition should not be dismissed as untimely. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A),(d)(2).

I. BACKGROUND

Petitioner challenges a judgment of conviction entered on May 1, 1992, after a jury found him guilty of murder and robbery. (Pet. ¶¶ 1-4.) He was sentenced to an aggregate 30-year term, with a 30-year period of parole ineligibility. (Id.) Petitioner appealed. In January 1995, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, affirmed. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) On July 13, 1995, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification. State v. King, 142 N.J. 1363 (1995) (table).

On an unspecified date, Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post conviction relief in the Superior Court of New Jersey, which was amended by counsel in November 1996. Petitioner appealed the order denying relief, and the Appellate Division affirmed on March 4, 1999. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification on July 16, 1999. See State v. King, 161 N.J. 334 (1999) (table).

On July 13, 2000, the Clerk filed Petitioner's first § 2254 Petition. See King v. Hendricks, Civil Action No. 00-3370 (MLC). After issuing an order to show cause, this Court found some of the claims presented therein had not been exhausted and dismissed the petition without prejudice on January 4, 2002.

On an unspecified date, Petitioner filed a second petition for post-conviction relief in the Superior Court, which denied relief on March 26, 2003. (Pet. ¶ 11.) Petitioner appealed, and in November 2003, the Appellate Division affirmed the order denying post-conviction relief. (Id.) According to the Petition, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification sometime in May 2004. (Id.)

On October 30, 2005, Petitioner executed the Petition which is now before this Court. The Clerk received it on November 9, 2005, together with an affidavit of poverty. The Petition raises one ground: denial of commutation and work credits pursuant to statutory amendments enacted in 1996 and 2000 after the imposition of Petitioner's sentence violates due process, equal protection and the Ex Post Facto Clause. (Pet. ¶ 12.)

On February 14, 2006, the Clerk received Petitioner's motion to amend the Petition and a "Petition in Support of Motion for an Amendment of Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus." Petitioner seeks to clarify the ground raised in the Petition as follows: "THE IMPOSITION OF THE SENTENCE UPON PETITIONER/KING, IS EXCESSIVE OF OR OTHERWISE NOT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE SENTENCE AUTHORIZED BY NEW JERSEY LAW." Petitioner alleges he exhausted the ground in the New Jersey courts. He asserts that he had earned 3,712 days of commutation credits and 1,201 days of work credits before New Jersey amended the law in 1996 and again in 2000. He alleges that, pursuant to the amendments, prison officials deprived him of work and commutation credits.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

"Habeas corpus petitions must meet heightened pleading requirements." McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994). A petition must "specify all the grounds for relief" and set forth "facts supporting each of the grounds thus specified." See 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 2(c) (amended Dec. 1, 2004).

"Federal courts are authorized to dismiss summarily any habeas petition that appears legally insufficient on its face." McFarland, 512 U.S. at 856; see United States v. Thomas, 221 F.3d 430, 437 (3d Cir. 2000); Siers v. Ryan, 773 F.3d 37, 45 (3d Cir. 1985). To this end, Habeas Rule 4 requires the Court to examine a petition prior to ordering an answer and to summarily dismiss the petition if "it plainly appears from the petition and any ...


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