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Ratliff v. State

Supreme Court of North Dakota

June 30, 2016

Nathan Ratliff, Petitioner and Appellant
v.
State of North Dakota, Respondent and Appellee

          Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Debbie Gordon Kleven, Judge.

         Samuel A. Gereszek, Grand Forks, MN, for petitioner and appellant.

         Carmell F. Mattison (argued), Assistant State's Attorney, and Kyle A. Markwardt (on brief), third-year law student, under the Rule on Limited Practice of Law by Law Students, Grand Forks County State's Attorney Office, Grand Forks, ND, for respondent and appellee.

         Carol Ronning Kapsner, Lisa Fair McEvers, Daniel J. Crothers, Dale V. Sandstrom, Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J. Opinion of the Court by Kapsner, Justice.

          OPINION

         Carol Ronning Kapsner, Justice.

          [¶1] A jury found Nathan Ratliff guilty of robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, theft of property, and felonious restraint. We upheld Ratliff's conviction in State v. Ratliff, 2014 ND 156, 849 N.W.2d 183. Ratliff then filed an application for post-conviction relief in October 2014. Ratliff was appointed counsel, and counsel filed a supplemental application. The district court held a hearing and dismissed Ratliff's application. Ratliff now appeals from the district court's order. He argues he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and he was improperly sentenced as an habitual offender. We affirm.

         I

Post-conviction relief proceedings are civil in nature and are governed by the North Dakota Rules of Civil Procedure. In post-conviction relief proceedings, a district court's findings of fact will not be disturbed unless they are clearly erroneous under N.D.R.Civ.P. 52(a). A finding of fact is clearly erroneous if it is induced by an erroneous view of the law, if it is not supported by the evidence, or if, although there is some evidence to support it, a reviewing court is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made. Questions of law are fully reviewable on appeal of a post-conviction proceeding.

Syvertson v. State, 2005 ND 128, ¶ 4, 699 N.W.2d 855 (quoting Greywind v. State, 2004 ND 213, ¶ 5, 689 N.W.2d 390).

          [¶2] Ratliff argues he was provided ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel did not demand a speedy trial and did not call Ratliff to testify at trial. " Whether a petitioner received ineffective assistance of counsel is a mixed question of law and fact and is fully reviewable on appeal." Sambursky v. State, 2008 ND 133, ¶ 7, 751 N.W.2d 247.

The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant the right to effective assistance of counsel. In order to prevail on a post-conviction claim of ineffective assistance, the petitioner bears a heavy burden. The petitioner must prove that (1) counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) the petitioner was prejudiced by counsel's deficient performance.
As to the first prong, the petitioner must overcome the strong presumption that counsel's representation fell within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance. An attorney's performance is measured considering the prevailing professional norms. In assessing the reasonableness of counsel's performance, courts must consciously attempt to limit the distorting effect of hindsight. Courts must consider all the circumstances and decide whether there were errors so serious that defendant was not accorded the " counsel" guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.
In order to meet the second prong, the petitioner must show there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. The petitioner must prove not only that counsel's representation was ineffective, but must specify how and where counsel was incompetent and the probable different result. If it is easier to dispose of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim on the ground of lack of sufficient prejudice, that course should be followed.

Chisholm v. State, 2015 ND 279, ¶ 8, 871 N.W.2d 595 (quoting Roth v.State, 2007 ND 112, ¶ ¶ 7-9, 7 ...


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