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Graham v. State

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

September 12, 2017

Melvin Graham
State of New Hampshire, N.H. Supreme Court, Steven Keable, Joseph Malfitani, and Barbara Bradshaw

          Melvin Graham, pro se



         Before the court is Melvin Graham's complaint (Doc. No. 1), and factual allegations in Graham's discovery motion (Doc. No. 3), which has been construed as an addendum to the complaint.[1]The matter is before the court for preliminary review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), and LR 4.3(d)(1).

         Preliminary Review Standard

         The magistrate judge in this court conducts a preliminary review of prisoner complaints filed in forma pauperis. See LR 4.3(d)(1). The magistrate judge may recommend to the district judge that claims be dismissed if, among other things, the court lacks jurisdiction, a defendant is immune from the relief sought, or the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) (2), l9l5A(b)(1); LR 4.3(d)(1)(A). In conducting its preliminary review, the court construes pro se complaints liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). The complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief.'" See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted).


         Since his conviction in 1996 on multiple counts of felonious and aggravated felonious sexual assault, Graham has a No. of state and federal cases challenging that conviction. The court in Graham v. Warden, No. 12-CV-271-JD (D.N.H.), summarized the proceedings that had occurred prior to December 2012:

Graham was convicted in 1996 on three counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and one count of felonious sexual assault on his niece, who was eight years old at the time of the assaults. State v. Graham, 142 N.H. 357, 359 (1997). On appeal, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ["NHSC"] rejected Graham's claims that the evidence was insufficient to convict and that the trial court improperly excluded a defense witness's testimony, but remanded the case for the trial court to determine whether Graham's motion for in camera review of privileged records should have been granted, and if so, whether the records contained evidence that would require a new trial. [See Graham, 142 N.H. at 363.] The trial court concluded that the privileged records did not require a new trial, and the [NHSC] affirmed that decision on October 23, 1998.
Graham moved for a new trial based on claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel, which was denied. He then filed multiple petitions for a writ of habeas corpus in state court, which were denied. His appeals to the [NHSC] were unsuccessful.
On January 8, 2001, Graham filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in [the District of New Hampshire], which was dismissed because he had not shown that he had exhausted state remedies. [See Graham v. Coplan, No. 01-cv-010-SM (D.N.H. Aug. 22, 2001) (ECF No. 11).] After initiating other state court actions without success, Graham filed a second habeas corpus action in [the District of New Hampshire] on April 7, 2004, asserting ineffective assistance of counsel. The case was dismissed as barred by the statute of limitations. [See Graham v. Warden, N.N.H. Corr. Facility, No. 04-cv-126-JD (D.N.H. Sept. 30, 2004) (ECF No. 12).]

Graham v. Warden, N.H. State Prison, No. 12-CV-271-JD, 2012 WL 6115700, at *2, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 174486, at *l-*2 (D.N.H. Dec. 10, 2012). Graham's third petition for federal habeas relief was dismissed in December 2012. See Id. (dismissing as untimely Graham's petition for federal habeas relief).

         In 2008 Graham filed an action raising claims that are essentially the same as those here that name the NHSC as a defendant. In that action and in this case, Graham has claimed that his convictions were invalid, and that the NHSC, by failing to reverse based on errors and abuses in his case, had deprived him of due process. Approving a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") and applying the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the court in that prior case dismissed the action against the NHSC and the NHSC justices for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Graham v. N.H. Supreme Ct., No. 08-cv-315-PB, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14908, 2009 WL 485141, at *1 (D.N.H. Feb. 24, 2009), approving R&R, No. 08-cv-315-PB, 2009 WL 485141, at *2 (D.N.H. Jan. 30, 2009) (citing, inter alia, D.C. Ct. App. v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 476 (1983); Rooker v. Fid. Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 416 (1923)).

         In the case presently before this court, Graham again names the NHSC as a defendant, along with the State of New Hampshire and attorneys from the N.H. Public Defender's Office ("NHPD") who represented him at trial and/or on appeal. He cites 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985, in contending that his convictions are invalid, and that they resulted from a conspiracy between the NHPD, the prosecutor in his criminal case, and the state courts involved in his trial, appellate, and post-conviction proceedings. He further claims that the NHPD engaged in legal malpractice, and that the state courts tortiously interfered with his contractual relationship with the NHPD. He claims that the NHSC has a duty under state law, N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. ("RSA") § 490:4, to correct errors and abuses in lower state court proceedings, and that the NHSC violated his rights by declining to accept appeals in Graham's post-conviction proceedings. Graham argues that he presented an innocence claim in the state courts, which, in his view, went "unaddressed, " as the Superior Court denied, without a hearing, the postconviction motion raising that claim, and the NHSC declined to review the ...

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