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Hamilton v. Secretary, Fla. Dep't of Corr.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

July 15, 2015

RICHARD HAMILTON, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL, Respondents-Appellees

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. D.C. Docket No. 3:05-cv-00813-MMH-PDB.

For Richard Hamilton, Petitioner - Appellant: Mark Olive, Law Offices of Mark E. Olive, PA, Tallahassee, FL.

For Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, Attorney General, State of Florida, Respondents - Appellees: Charmaine Mary Millsaps, Carolyn M. Snurkowski, Attorney General's Office, Tallahassee, FL; Meredith Charbula, State Attorney's Office - 4th Judicial Circuit, Jacksonville, FL; Kenneth Sloan Nunnelley, Office of the State Attorney - Ninth Circuit, Orlando, FL.

Before ED CARNES, Chief Judge, MARCUS and WILSON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

PER CURIAM:

Richard Hamilton, a prisoner on Florida's death row, has filed a motion for a certificate of appealability (COA). See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c). He argues that jurists of reason could debate whether the district court properly denied the motions he filed under Rules 60(b) and 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Those motions contended that, based on intervening decisions by the Supreme Court and this Court, Hamilton should be able to revive the ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim that he procedurally defaulted in his state post-conviction proceedings.

I.

In 2008, the district court dismissed Hamilton's original § 2254 petition on the ground that it was time-barred by 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)'s statute of limitations. We affirmed. Hamilton v. Sec'y, DOC, 410 F.App'x 216, 220-21 (11th Cir. 2010) (unpublished).

Several years later, on March 15, 2013, Hamilton filed a Rule 60(b) motion seeking to reopen the judgment dismissing his habeas petition. He asked that the district court reopen the portion of its judgment dismissing the eighth claim in his habeas petition (which alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel) based on the Supreme Court's decision in Martinez v. Ryan, __ U.S. __, 132 S.Ct. 1309, 182 L.Ed.2d 272 (2012), and the ineffective assistance he claimed to have received in his state post-conviction proceedings. Hamilton asserted in his Rule 60(b) motion that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel failed to investigate and present evidence that he had brain damage, and also when his state post-conviction counsel failed to identify the oversight and present it as a basis for an ineffective-assistance claim. He argued that under Martinez a § 2254 petitioner in his position was entitled under Rule 60(b)(6) to reopen the judgment against him on his ineffective-assistance claim. The district court denied the motion and declined to grant a COA.

A short time later, Hamilton filed a Rule 59(e) motion requesting that the district court alter or amend its order denying his Rule 60(b) motion. He pointed out that this Court's decision in Cadet v. Florida Department of Corrections, 742 F.3d 473 (11th Cir. 2014), and the Supreme Court's decision in Maples v. Thomas, __ U.S. __, 132 S.Ct. 912, 181 L.Ed.2d 807 (2012), had clarified that attorney abandonment can justify equitable tolling under AEDPA. He then argued that his federal habeas attorneys had abandoned him in his § 2254 proceedings and that abandonment justified reopening the district court's judgment dismissing his § 2254 petition. The district court denied the motion, reasoning, among other things, that Rule 59(e) does not permit litigants to raise new issues and that Hamilton was raising the attorney-abandonment claim for the first time. The court also denied a COA regarding the Rule 59(e) motion.

Hamilton then filed in this Court an application for a COA. Based on the arguments raised in his application, we issued an order directing the parties to brief these three questions:

(1) Given the nature and procedural posture of this case, is a certificate of appealability required?
(2) If a certificate of appealability is required, should this Court grant one?
(3) If a certificate of appealability is not required or if one is granted, did the district court err in ...

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