United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
ROBERT W. WATSON, JR., Petitioner,
PAT MIRANDY, Warden, Respondent.
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [DKT. NO.
31], GRANTING RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS [DKT. NO.
15], AND DENYING AND DISMISSING WITH PREJUDICE THE PETITION
[DKT. NO. 1]
M. KEELEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
September 9, 2016, the pro se petitioner, Robert W.
Watson, Jr. (“Watson”), filed a Petition Under 28
U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in
State Custody (“Petition”) (Dkt. No. 1). He
contends that, during his West Virginia criminal proceedings,
he was forced to waive his right to a speedy trial without
the benefit of counsel, and that his habeas counsel was
ineffective for failing to raise this issue (Dkt. No. 6 at
6-9). Watson further argues that, although his conviction
became final more than one year before he filed the Petition,
it is timely based on his “invoking of plain error
doctrine.” For relief, Watson seeks immediate release
and asks the Court to set aside his conviction and void his
sentence. Id. at 19-20.
to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and LR PL P 2, the Court referred the
Petition to the Honorable Michael J. Aloi, United States
Magistrate Judge, for initial review. After being directed to
show cause, the respondent filed a motion to dismiss the
Petition as untimely (Dkt. No. 15). He argued that, at the
latest, Watson's conviction became final and triggered
the one-year statute of limitations provided in 28 U.S.C.
§ 2244(d)(1) on February 23, 2013 (Dkt. No. 16 at 8-10).
Although Watson had filed a habeas petition in state court on
July 24, 2014, that proceeding commenced more than one year
after his conviction had become final, and thus could not
toll the statute of limitations, which the respondent
contends expired on February 24, 2014. Id. at 10. In
his response, Watson argued that the Court should hear his
untimely petition to avoid a “manifest injustice”
(Dkt. No. 20 at 2).
Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), Magistrate
Judge Aloi recommended that the Court deny and dismiss the
Petition (Dkt. No. 31). The R&R reasoned that
Watson's one-year statutory period began to run on
November 26, 2012. Absent a tolling event, the limitations
period thus expired on November 27, 2013, well before Watson
filed the Petition. Id. at 7-8. Magistrate Judge
Aloi further reasoned that Watson could take advantage of
neither statutory nor equitable tolling. First, although
Watson pursued state habeas relief by filing a petition on
July 24, 2014, see 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2)
(excluding from the one-year limitations period “time
during which a properly filed application for State
post-conviction” relief is pending), the period in
which to seek federal habeas relief had already expired and
“there was nothing left to toll.” Second, Watson
is not entitled to equitable tolling because he failed to
pursue his rights diligently or to demonstrate that an
extraordinary circumstance prevented timely filing (Dkt. No.
31 at 8-13).
R&R also informed Watson of his right to file
“written objections identifying the portions of the
Recommendation to which objections are made, and the basis
for such objections.” Id. at 14. It further
warned him that the failure to do so may result in waiver of
his right to appeal. Id. Watson filed timely
objections on July 28, 2017 (Dkt. No. 34).
reviewing a magistrate judge's R&R, the Court must
review de novo only the portions to which an
objection is timely made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). On
the other hand, “the Court may adopt, without
explanation, any of the magistrate judge's
recommendations to which the prisoner does not object.”
Dellacirprete v. Gutierrez, 479 F.Supp.2d 600,
603-04 (N.D. W.Va. 2007) (citing Camby v. Davis, 718
F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983)). Courts will uphold those
portions of a recommendation to which no objection has been
made unless they are “clearly erroneous.” See
Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416
F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).
objections to an R&R distract a district court from
“focusing on disputed issues” and defeat the
purpose of an initial screening by the magistrate judge.
McPherson v. Astrue, 605 F.Supp.2d 744, 749 (S.D.
W.Va. 2009) (citing Howard's Yellow Cabs, Inc. v.
United States, 987 F.Supp. 469, 474 (W.D. N.C. 1997)).
Failure to raise specific errors waives the claimant's
right to a de novo review because “general and
conclusory” objections do not warrant such review.
Id. (citing Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d
44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982); Howard's Yellow Cabs,
987 F.Supp. at 474); see also Green v. Rubenstein,
644 F.Supp.2d 723 (S.D. W.Va. 2009). Indeed, failure to file
specific objections waives appellate review of both factual
and legal questions. See United States v. Schronce,
727 F.2d 91, 94 & n.4 (4th Cir. 1984); see also Moore
v. United States, 950 F.2d 656, 659 (10th Cir. 1991).
Watson's one-page objection fails to identify any
specific errors and, in fact, contains only passing reference
to the R&R (Dkt. No. 34). Instead, Watson summarizes the
factual and procedural basis of his claims, and argues
generally that he is entitled to equitable tolling because
any delay in filing his direct appeal - rather than the
relevant delay in seeking habeas relief - was beyond his
control. Id. at 1. These reiterations and general
contentions, all of which were fully and fairly addressed in
the R&R, place the Court under no obligation to conduct a
de novo review. Diamond, 414 F.3d at 315.
Therefore, upon review of the R&R and the record for
clear error, the Court adopts the recommendation of the
Magistrate Judge for the reasons discussed in the R&R
(Dkt. No. 31).
conclusion, the Court:
1. ADOPTS the R&R (Dkt. No. 31);
2. OVERRULES Watson's objections (Dkt.
3. GRANTS the respondent's motion to
dismiss the Petition as untimely (Dkt. No. 15); and
4. DENIES the Petition (Dkt. No. 1) and
DISMISSES this case WITH