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Stanfill v. Adams

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah

October 16, 2019

CHARLES STANFILL, PETITIONER
v.
BRAD ADAMS, WARDEN, RESPONDENT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS B. RUSSELL, SENIOR JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Charles Stanfill's Motion to Reinstate Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Due to Actual Ineffective Assistance of Counsel and This Court's Failure to Review the Trial Record, [DN 32], Motion for Extension of Time to File Notice of Appeal, or Alternatively to Reopen Appeal, [DN 33], Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis on Appeal, [DN 35], and Motion for Summary Judgment, [DN 37]. Respondent Brad Adams has not responded and the time to do so has passed. These matters are ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated here, Stanfill's Motion to Reinstate Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Due to Actual Ineffective Assistance of Counsel and This Court's Failure to Review the Trial Record, [DN 32], is DENIED; the Motion for Extension of Time to File Notice of Appeal, [DN 33], is GRANTED; the Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis on Appeal, [DN 35], is DENIED; and the Motion for Summary Judgment, [DN 37], is DENIED.

         LEGAL STANDARD AND DISCUSSION

         I. Motion to Reinstate Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus [DN 32]

         On November 28, 2018, the Court dismissed Stanfill's petition for writ of habeas corpus with prejudice upon a finding that his claims were procedurally defaulted. [DN 25]. The Court also denied Stanfill's certificate of appealability. Id. Subsequently, Stanfill filed a Motion to Alter Judgment, [DN 27], which was also denied by the Court, [DN 31]. Stanfill then filed the Motion to Reinstate Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus currently before the Court. [DN 32]. During the pendency of this motion, Stanfill filed a Notice of Appeal informing the Court that he had appealed its order dismissing his petition for habeas corpus to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. [DN 34].

         Generally, courts interpret motions to reinstate petitions for habeas corpus in three ways. First, in cases where a petitioner's initial habeas corpus application is dismissed without prejudice for failure to exhausted state court remedies, courts have granted motions to reinstate once petitioners exhaust their state remedies. See Johnson v. Howes, No. 2:09-CV-10395, 2010 WL 4940010, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 30, 2010) (“Federal courts have the power to order that a habeas petition be reinstated upon timely request by a habeas petitioner, following the exhaustion of state court remedies.”). Second, petitioners' motions to reinstate have been interpreted as a second or successive habeas petition. See Lyle v. Burke, No. 96-CV-70653-DT, 2015 WL 7075955, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 12, 2015); Peterson v. Bell, No. CIV. 2:07-CV-15386, 2009 WL 499293, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 26, 2009). However, before district courts may consider second or successive petitions, “the applicant [must] move in the appropriate court of appeals for an order authorizing the district court to consider the application.” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3)(A). Finally, courts have analyzed motions to reinstate as Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) motions, pursuant to which a court may relieve a party from a final judgment or order if certain conditions are satisfied. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b); see Peterson v. Smith, No. 99-CV-426-BBC, 2015 WL 329012, at *1 (W.D. Wis. Jan. 26, 2015) (“The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not provide a mechanism for ‘reinstating' a dismissed habeas petition. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60 allows district courts to vacate a judgment under certain circumstances . . . .”); Wilcher v. Epps, 239 F.R.D. 463, 467 (S.D.Miss.), aff'd, 203 Fed.Appx. 559 (5th Cir. 2006); Nguyen v. Kane, No. C 00-4608 CRB, 2005 WL 3113071, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 14, 2005), aff'd sub nom. Nguyen v. Lamarque, 203 Fed.Appx. 762 (9th Cir. 2006).

         In this case, the Court must determine whether Stanfill's motion is substantively a Rule 60(b) motion, or whether, practically speaking, it is a second or successive petition for a writ of habeas corpus. See Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 526 (2005). The Sixth Circuit has explained that “Rule 60(b) motions . . . may not be used as vehicles to circumvent the limitations that Congress has placed upon the presentation of claims in a second or successive application for habeas relief.” Moreland v. Robinson, 813 F.3d 315, 322 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 531-32; Clark v. United States, 764 F.3d 653, 658-59 (6th Cir. 2014)). Accordingly, “when faced with what purports to be a Rule 60(b) motion . . . federal courts must determine if it really is such a motion or if it is instead a second or successive application for habeas relief in disguise.” Id. (quoting Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 530-31; Clark, 764 F.3d at 658-59). If a 60(b) motion is a second or successive petition, the Court “would apply 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b), which presents a bar to the motion.” Tyler v. Anderson, 749 F.3d 499, 506 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 531). Before district courts may consider a second or successive § 2255 petition, “the applicant shall move in the appropriate court of appeals for an order authorizing the district court to consider the application.” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3)(A); 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h) (“A second or successive motion must be certified as provided in section 2244 by a panel of the appropriate court of appeals . . . .”).

         Importantly, the Sixth Circuit in Clark v. United States, held that a motion “is not a second or successive § 2255 motion when it is filed before the adjudication of the initial § 2255 motion is complete-i.e., before the petitioner has lost on the merits and exhausted her appellate remedies.” Clark, 764 F.3d at 658. In this case, Stanfill filed the motion to reinstate his petition for habeas corpus after the Court entered a judgment denying his § 2255 motion, but before he filed his Notice of Appeal. Since Stanfill has not fully exhausted his appellate remedies in regard to his initial § 2255 motion, the motion to reinstate is not a second or successive petition for writ of habeas corpus. Accordingly, the Court will analyze Stanfill's motion pursuant to Rule 60(b).

         There are six grounds provided under Rule 60(b) for relief from a final order, including: “(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or (6) any other reason that justifies relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). Motions to reconsider under Rule 60(b) provide an “opportunity for the court to correct manifest errors of law or fact and to review newly discovered evidence or to review a prior decision when there has been a change in the law.” United States v. Davis, 939 F.Supp. 810, 812 (D. Kan. 1996). Rule 60(b) motions fall within the sound discretion of the district court. FHC Equities, L.L.C. v. MBL Life Assurance Corp., 188 F.3d 678, 683 (6th Cir. 1999). Such motions seek extraordinary judicial relief and can be granted only upon a showing of exceptional circumstances. McAlpin v. Lexington 76 Auto Truck Stop, Inc., 229 F.3d 491, 502-03 (6th Cir. 2000) (citing Dickerson v. Bd. of Educ. of Ford Heights, 32 F.3d 1114, 1116 (7th Cir. 1994)).

         In this case, Stanfill did not style his motion as one for Rule 60(b) relief. Therefore, the Court must determine which, if any, of the enumerated grounds for relief may apply. In his motion, Stanfill asserts three main arguments in support of reinstatement of his habeas claim: 1) the Court failed to address Stanfill's claim that he was forced to attend numerous pre-trial motion hours without the benefit of counsel; 2) the Court failed to address his counsel's stipulation to scientific evidence presented at trial; and 3) Stanfill's counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to secure the 911 police dispatch logs pertaining to his arrest. [See DN 32]. In the Court's view, Stanfill's claims could fall within two of the 60(b) categories: alleged “mistake” under Rule 60(b)(1) or some “other reason that justifies relief” under Rule 60(b)(6).

         The Sixth Circuit has recognized that Rule 60(b)(1) “mistakes” can include both claims of “judicial mistake[s]”, Barrier v. Beaver, 712 F.2d 231, 234 (6th Cir. 1983), and “legal error[s].” Willis v. Jones, 329 Fed.Appx. 7, 14 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Pierce v. United Mine Workers of Am. Welfare & Ret. Fund for 1950 & 1974, 770 F.2d 449, 451 (6th Cir. 1985); Barrier, 712 F.2d at 234). Stanfill's first allegation that the Court failed to address the fact that he was required to represent himself during pre-trial hearings falls within this subsection. [DN 32 at 653]. However, a careful review of the record persuades this Court that Stanfill's argument is without merit. In the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, the Magistrate Judge specifically noted that Stanfill's claim was two-fold: “that his attorney was ineffective for failing to ensure that the court compiled with his constitutional right to counsel, and that the court itself erred by denying him counsel at a critical stage.” [DN 19 at 583]. The Magistrate Judge found that this claim was procedurally defaulted because the Kentucky Court of Appeals held, as a matter of state procedural law, that Stanfill failed to present this claim upon direct appeal. Id. at 583. Stanfill himself appears to agree with this contention, stating: “The pretrial record of denial of counsel is undoubtedly a trial error, and that it should have been raised on direct appeal is beyond contention.” [DN 21 at 600]. The Court agreed that the issue should have been raised on direct appeal and found the claim was barred by procedural default. [DN 25 at 629-32]. Accordingly, Stanfill's contention that the Court failed to address the fact that he was required to represent himself during pre-trial proceedings is unfounded. The Court's alleged mistake does not justify relief under Rule 60(b)(1).

         Stanfill's second and third arguments can also be interpreted as requests for relief due to “judicial mistake.” Stanfill claims that the Court failed to consider whether he was subject to ineffective assistance of counsel when his trial attorney stipulated to scientific evidence without first examining the evidence at issue and failed to request 911 police dispatch logs pertaining to the day he was arrested. [DN 32 at 653, 662]. Again, Stanfill's arguments are without merit. In his appeal of the Calloway Circuit Court order denying his motion to vacate conviction, Stanfill argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for stipulating to all scientific evidence and physical exhibits. Stanfill v. Commonwealth, 515 S.W.3d 193, 199 (Ky. Ct. App. 2016). In dismissing Stanfill's claim, the Kentucky Court of Appeals asserted:

The Commonwealth correctly notes that the Appellant at trial seemed to be attempting an “alternative perpetrator” defense, blaming “Tim Smith” for the presence of methamphetamine and attempting to illustrate that Appellant was unaware of it. Since the alternative perpetrator defense did not hinge upon scientific evidence, it is reasonable to believe that the stipulations were a matter of sound trial strategy. “Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential ... a court must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689, 104 S.Ct. at 2065. The fact that this strategy proved ineffective in hindsight is not enough to show defective performance by counsel. “A defendant is not guaranteed errorless counsel, or counsel judged ineffective by hindsight, but counsel likely to render and rendering reasonably effective assistance.” McGaha v. Commonwealth, 469 S.W.3d 841, 846 (Ky.App. 2015) (citing McQueen v. Commonwealth, 949 S.W.2d 70, 71 (Ky. 1997)). We conclude that this argument does not satisfy the performance prong under Strickland, and we must, therefore, deny relief on this basis.

Id. Additionally, in his direct appeal of the trial court's judgment and sentence, Stanfill claimed that “the trial court failed to issue an order to release the 911 and police dispatch logs and records . . . .” Stanfill v. Commonwealth, No. 2008-CA-001718-MR, 2010 WL 1253223, at *3 (Ky. Ct. App. Apr. 2, 2010). Notably, Stanfill's challenge was directed toward the trial court's, not his attorney's, failure to produce the ...


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