D.Minn.: Interesting application of “clearly established law” prong of 2254(d) and a state court’s resolution of a search claim

As Orin Kerr would say: This is for habeas nerds:

An interesting and straight-forward application of the alleged violation of the “clearly established law” prong of 2254(d) and a state court’s resolution of a search claim is Horst v. Roy, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11806 (D. Minn. Jan. 25, 2019). The state court’s resolution of the Fourth Amendment claim was not unreasonable such that fairminded jurists could disagree. In addition, application of Stone v. Powell is not discretionary with a federal court in reviewing a state court’s Fourth Amendment holding:

In any event, the question for this Court is not whether the decision of the Minnesota Supreme Court to analyze Horst’s constitutional claim solely under the Fourth Amendment was correct as an original matter, but whether that decision was “objectively unreasonable.” Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 76. The Court cannot say that the court acted in a manner with which no “fairminded jurist” could agree. To the contrary, the court’s decision was clearly compelled by Graham v. Connor. Horst does not claim that a law enforcement officer can never use a search warrant to obtain the medical records of a suspect, nor does Horst deny that the police could have lawfully gained access to at least some of the information in her medical records. Rather, Horst objects to the fact that, because the warrants did not sufficiently limit the discretion of investigators, those investigators were able to obtain more medical information than was constitutionally permissible.

Without question, then, Horst’s “constitutional claim is covered by a specific constitutional provision, such as the Fourth … Amendment.” United States v. Lanier, 520 U.S. 259, 272 n.7 (1997). Indeed, Horst’s constitutional claim is literally covered by the text of the Fourth Amendment, which requires that a search warrant must “particularly describ[e] the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” At bottom, Horst claims that the searches of her medical records were unconstitutional because the warrants that authorized those searches did not meet the Fourth Amendment requirement that “a warrant may not be issued unless … the scope of the authorized search is set out with particularity.” Kentucky v. King, 563 U.S. 452, 459 (2011). The rule of Graham v. Connor “requires that if a constitutional claim is covered by a specific constitutional provision … the claim must be analyzed under the standard appropriate to that specific provision, not under the rubric of substantive due process.” Lanier, 520 U.S. at 272 n.7. That is precisely what the Minnesota Supreme Court did.

And that ends this Court’s analysis. This Court has found that the decision of the Minnesota Supreme Court to analyze Horst’s substantive due process claim as a Fourth Amendment claim was an objectively reasonable application of Graham v. Connor. For the reasons described by Judge Rau in his R&R, this Court is barred under Stone v. Powell from going further and examining the reasonableness of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s disposition of Horst’s Fourth Amendment claim. For these reasons, Horst’s objection to the R&R is overruled, and her habeas action is dismissed.

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