Judge Lewis’ Rocket Docket Blasts Cameron’s Habeas on First Possible Day for Ruling

Friday, September 2nd, 2016 @ 2:43PM

We have recently learned that Cameron’s habeas was dismissed by Judge James Lewis in Virginia Beach on August 23, 2016. This was the first day that the case was ripe for disposition. The judge dismissed the case by signing an order which the Attorney General’s Office had written for him and asked him to sign. As we noted in a recent update, this final order was actually a verbatim regurgitation of the AG’s response to the petition, but simply re-styled as an order from the Court.

This was not unexpected, especially considering the venue in Virginia Beach. However, it is always disappointing to see another court of review turn a blind eye to a case that so obviously warrants reversal.

It is not so much the denial itself that is concerning, but rather the manner in which the petition was dismissed. It is one thing for the Court to sign a 30-some page order that it didn’t even write in a matter as fundamentally important in our legal system as a habeas petition, but it is another thing altogether to do so on the very first day that the Court could have ruled on the petition. In a case as strong and as detail-oriented as Cameron’s, this kind of quickness in ruling can only reasonably be taken to mean that the judge hardly even bothered to weigh Cameron’s arguments– that is, if he even looked at them at all.

Sadly, this is the routine manner in which Virginia and many other state courts dispose of habeas petitions. The so-called “Great Writ”, once seen by the Founders as the most crucial safeguard of individual liberty in our country, has been diluted by the state courts to the point where it now occupies almost no significance at all. We cannot possibly overstate how negatively this reflects on the state of affairs in our judicial system today; and unfortunately, it appears Cameron is just another victim of a system that, quite frankly, doesn’t seem to give a shit about vindicating the constitutional rights of its citizens or about correcting the perpetual incarceration of innocent people.

In the face of this news, we expected Cameron to be at least a little upset. But no; when we first informed him of the dismissal, he just laughed. He went on to make some comments: “When this gets to federal court, the state is going to get smoked. All the federal habeas courts are looking for under the current standard of review is whether the state court judgment involves unreasonable applications of federal law or unreasonable determinations of fact. By signing the AG’s order, Judge Lewis just punched my ticket to a heavyweight fight in federal court. That order is riddled with exactly the type and degree of errors the federal courts require for habeas relief. So bring on the rubber stamp; I just bought the ink factory.”

While Cameron may be anxious to get to federal court, he will have to appeal his case to the Supreme Court of Virginia first. It could take half a year or more just for the Supreme Court to deny his petition for appeal. For decades, the Supreme Court of Virginia seemed to avoid granting habeas petitions like the plague, but in recent years it has gotten better. Specifically, it appears to have taken up an affinity for granting the writ in cases involving faulty advice by trial lawyers to guilty-plea defendants regarding the immigration consequences of their pleas. There’s no telling how this shift may or may not affect the outcome of Cameron’s imminent petition for appeal.

In closing, we urge our audience not to lose even the slightest bit of hope. Instead, as Cameron pointed out, this denial may be a setback, but it is only a temporary one. Because the judgment is erroneous by any objective measure, this provides Cameron with one hell of a fighting chance when it will really matter in federal court. And that’s probably the best that we could have asked for coming out of Virginia Beach.

Also, while this may mean there will be some lull in official proceedings in Cameron’s quest for habeas relief, this does not mean that we are going to be any less active on other fronts. For us, this is a continuous, all-out war, and we will never stop until justice is done. There will be more to come, and soon.

We will bring you developments as they unfold.

Exhibits:

(1) Judge’s Final Order

(2) AG’s Response (for comparison purposes)

 

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