James H. Farris, Petitioner Below, Petitioner
Marvin Plumley, Warden, Huttonsville Correctional Center, Respondent Below, Respondent
James H. Farris, by counsel Christopher P. Stroech, appeals
the Circuit Court of Jefferson County's April 26, 2016,
order denying his petition for writ of habeas corpus.
Respondent Marvin Plumley,  Warden, by counsel Brandon C.H.
Sims, filed a response. On appeal, petitioner argues that the
circuit court erred in denying his habeas petition on the
grounds of ineffective assistance of prior habeas counsel.
Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record
on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately
presented, and the decisional process would not be
significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of
the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented,
the Court finds no substantial question of law and no
prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision
affirming the circuit court's order is appropriate under
Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.
September of 1996, petitioner was indicted on four counts of
second-degree sexual assault. Following a jury trial,
petitioner was convicted of all counts in December of 1996.
The circuit court thereafter sentenced petitioner to a term
of incarceration of ten to twenty-five years for each count,
with three of the sentences to be served consecutively and
one sentence to be served concurrently to the others.
Thereafter, petitioner appealed his conviction to this Court,
and we refused the same by order entered in September of
April of 1999, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas
corpus in the circuit court that included an allegation that
his trial counsel was ineffective. Shortly after filing that
petition, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas
corpus directly with this Court, which was refused in April
of 1999. The circuit court held an evidentiary hearing in
January of 2000, after which it denied the petition. Around
this same time, petitioner filed a prisoner civil rights
action against his trial counsel in the United States
District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.
That case was dismissed by order entered in September of
2001. Thereafter, petitioner filed a number of additional
petitions for writ of habeas corpus with the circuit court,
this Court, and the United States District Court for the
Northern District of West Virginia. These petitions were all
denied and any appeals to this Court were unsuccessful.
January of 2014, petitioner filed what the circuit court
indicated amounts to his ninth petition for writ of habeas
corpus in the circuit court. The petition alleged that
petitioner's prior habeas counsel was ineffective for
failing to allege that a different habeas attorney who
represented petitioner was ineffective. Thereafter, the
circuit court held an evidentiary hearing in May of 2015
during which petitioner testified that he did not direct his
habeas counsel to allege that his prior habeas counsel was
ineffective. Petitioner's counsel confirmed that
petitioner did not wish to raise the issue during the prior
habeas proceeding and went on to testify that petitioner sent
him multiple, detailed correspondences in which petitioner
outlined exactly the grounds he wished to raise in his habeas
petition. Ultimately, petitioner's counsel testified that
he did not include a claim for ineffective assistance of
prior habeas counsel because it did not appear viable.
Ultimately, by order entered in April of 2016, the circuit
court denied the petition for writ of habeas corpus. It is
from this order that petitioner appeals.
Court reviews appeals of circuit court orders denying habeas
corpus relief under the following standard:
"In reviewing challenges to the findings and conclusions
of the circuit court in a habeas corpus action, we apply a
three-prong standard of review. We review the final order and
the ultimate disposition under an abuse of discretion
standard; the underlying factual findings under a clearly
erroneous standard; and questions of law are subject to a
de novo review." Syllabus point 1, Mathena
v. Haines, 219 W.Va. 417, 633 S.E.2d 771 (2006).
Syl. Pt. 1, State ex rel. Franklin v. McBride, 226
W.Va. 375, 701 S.E.2d 97 (2009).
appeal to this Court, petitioner argues that he was entitled
to habeas relief due to habeas counsel's ineffective
representation. The Court, however, does not agree. Upon our
review and consideration of the circuit court's order,
the parties' arguments, and the record submitted on
appeal, we find no error or abuse of discretion by the
circuit court. Our review of the record supports the circuit
court's decision to deny petitioner post-conviction
habeas corpus relief based on these alleged errors, which
were also argued below. Indeed, the circuit court's order
includes well-reasoned findings and conclusions as to the
assignments of error raised on appeal. Given our conclusion
that the circuit court's order and the record before us
reflect no clear error or abuse of discretion, we hereby
adopt and incorporate the circuit court's findings and
conclusions as they relate to petitioner's assignments of
error raised herein and direct the Clerk to attach a copy of
the circuit court's April 26, 2016, "Order Denying
Writ of Habeas Corpus" to this memorandum decision.
foregoing reasons, we affirm.
CONCURRED Chief Justice Allen H. Loughry II Justice Robin
Jean Davis Justice Margaret L. Workman Justice Menis ...