United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division
JOHN W. CHAMBERS, Petitioner,
STATE OF MONTANA, Respondent.
MORRIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Chambers is a state prisoner proceeding pro se. Chambers
alleges his current custody is unlawful because the chargers
against him were not initiated by a grand jury, nor was he
provided a preliminary hearing. (Doc. 1.) United States
Magistrate Judge John Johnston entered his Findings and
Recommendations on October 22, 2018. (Doc. 5.) Chambers
timely filed an objection and is therefore entitled to de
novo review of the specified findings and recommendations to
which he objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Those portions
of the findings and recommendations not specifically objected
to will be reviewed for clear error. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(A); McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus.
Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1981). Clear
error exists if the Court is left with a “definite and
firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.”
United States v. Syrax, 235 F.3d 422, 427 (9th Cir.
2000) (citations omitted). For the reasons stated below,
Judge Johnston's Findings and Recommendations are adopted
argues the “indictment by information” process
utilized by the State of Montana resulted in the state
district court's loss of jurisdiction. Chambers asserts
that a structural defect occurred in the underlying criminal
proceedings. (Doc. 1 at 3-4.) Chambers further contends that
his counsel performed deficiently under the Sixth Amendment
by allowing the purportedly unlawful state proceedings to
continue. Id. at 4-5. Finally, Chambers argues that
both the prosecutor and state district court engaged in
misconduct by utilizing this charging procedure. Id.
Johnston determined that Chambers's claims were both
time-barred and procedurally defaulted, but found it more
efficient to address Chambers's claims on the merits. 28
U.S.C. § 2254(b)(2); Lambrix v. Singletary, 520
U.S. 518, 524-25 (1997).
first objection relates to Judge Johnston's description
of Chambers's 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Petition. (Doc. 6 at
1.) Chambers objects to the following statement:
“Chambers claims that his current custody is unlawful
because the charges against him were not initiated by a grand
jury, nor was he provided a preliminary hearing.” (Doc.
5 at 1.) Chambers argues that the claims contained in his
Petition cannot be construed as a lack of a grand jury
indictment. Chambers further argues that his petition was
mischaracterized as alleging a “faulty charging
procedure.” (Doc. 6 at 1.)
Johnston correctly set forth the claims in Chambers's
Petition. Chambers states that he “was not offered a
preliminary examination, nor given a hearing comparable to
such hearing before having been indicted by
information.” (Doc 1 at 3.) Judge Johnston stated that
“Chambers believes the ‘indictment by
information' process utilized by the State of Montana
resulted in the state district court's loss of
jurisdiction, and thus, a structural defect in the underlying
criminal proceedings.” (Doc. 5 at 2.) Judge Johnston
correctly determined that Chambers's claim related to a
preliminary examination, or comparable hearing, could only be
construed as a lack of grand jury indictment or preliminary
hearing. Further, this objection fails to present legal
argument and supporting authority. Chambers's objection
on this point is overruled.
next argues that Judge Johnston's Findings and
Recommendations incorrectly characterized his claims as
violations of state law, rather than federal law.
“[O]nly noncompliance with federal law . . .
renders a State's criminal judgment susceptible to
collateral attack in the federal courts.” Wilson v.
Corcoran, 562 U.S. 1, 5 (2010) (emphasis in original).
“[F]ederal habeas corpus relief does not lie for errors
of state law.” Lewis v. Jeffers, 497 U.S. 764,
780 (1990). Chambers claims that the “indictment by
information” process utilized by the State of Montana
resulted in the district court's loss of jurisdiction,
and an underlying defect in the state criminal proceedings.
Chambers's claims relate to violations of state law.
Chambers does not allege a basis upon which federal relief
can be granted. Further, the Montana Supreme Court has
determined that the use of an information in the charging
process does not violate state law. Kenfield v.
State, 2016 MT 197');">2016 MT 197, [ ] 21, 384 Mont. 322, 377 P.3d
1207. Chambers's objection on this point is overruled.
next argues that Judge Johnston erred in his conclusion that
“Chambers's argument relative to Montana's
criminal charging process and the state district court's
purported lack of jurisdiction is frivolous.” (Doc. 5
at 3.) Chambers argues that his claim did not allege that the
district court lacked original jurisdiction. Chambers argues,
rather, that he claimed the district court lost jurisdiction.
(Doc. 6 at 4.) Judge Johnston determined this claim to be
frivolous. (Doc. 5 at 3.) Further, Chambers objects to Judge
Johnston's conclusion that no violation of federal law
existed. Chambers's assertions on these points are
attempts to engage the district court in a reargument of the
same arguments set forth in the original Petition. The Court
will review this portion of Judge Johnston's Findings and
Recommendations for clear error. Rosling v.
Kirkegard, 2014 WL 693315, *3 (D. Mont. Feb. 21, 2014).
The Court finds no error in Judge Johnston's Findings and
Recommendations on these points.
IT IS ORDERED that Judge Johnston's
Findings and Recommendations (Doc. 5) are ADOPTED IN
IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of Court is
directed to enter, by separate document, a judgment in favor
of Respondents and against Petitioner.
IS FURTHER ORDERED that a certificate of
appealability is DENIED because Defendant
does not make any showing that he ...