Mahrt v. Beard, No. 15-16404 (9th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
The State challenged the district court's grant of habeas relief to petitioner, finding that his state-court guilty plea was based on a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. The court held that Tollett v. Henderson does not bar petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Tollett, properly understood, provided that although freestanding constitutional claims are unavailable to habeas petitioners who plead guilty, claims of pre-plea ineffective assistance of counsel are cognizable on federal habeas review when the action, or inaction, of counsel prevents petitioner from making an informed choice whether to plead. The court explained that if the deputies unconstitutionally searched petitioner's home, counsel's failure to move to suppress the fruits of that search prevented petitioner from making the informed choice to which he was entitled. The court further held that the state court could reasonably conclude that counsel did not provide ineffective assistance in failing to move to suppress the firearms and ammunition. The court nonetheless concluded that the state habeas courts were not unreasonable in denying the writ where it would have been reasonable for the state courts to conclude that a motion to suppress, if brought, would likely have been denied. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of habeas corpus.