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Williams v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

August 22, 2017

RAYMOND DONOVAN WILLIAMS, #13371-003, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Civil No. 15-00233-KD-B



         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) motion to alter or amend the Court's January 30, 2017 Judgment denying his motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. 114). Petitioner has also filed a Motion to Amend or Make Additional Factual and Legal Findings under Rule 52(b) (Doc. 115), a Motion to Take Judicial Notice Under Fed.R.Evid. 201 (Doc. 116), a Motion to Supplement and Add Evidence to Motion to Alter/Amend Judgment Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) and Request an Evidentiary Hearing (Doc. 122), Petitioner's Reply to Respondent's Response (Doc. 124), three motions for the Court to order defense counsel to turn over a copy of Defendant's legal file (Docs. 125, 126, and 131), and a Motion for Release (Doc. 127). For the reasons discussed herein, these motions are all DENIED, with the exception of Petitioner's Rule 52(b) motion, which is GRANTED IN PART as specified in footnote one.

         I. Petitioner's Rule 59(e) and 52(b) Motions (Doc. 114-115)

         At the same time he filed his Rule 59(e) motion, Petitioner also filed a notice of appeal, which generally divests a district court of jurisdiction to take any action in a case except in aid of the appeal. United States v. Diveroli, 729 F.3d 1339, 1341 (11th Cir. 2013). However, the filing of a timely Rule 59(e) motion renders a notice of appeal ineffective until the district court enters an order dismissing the motion. See Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(4)(B)(i); Stansell v. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, 771 F.3d 713, 745-46 (11th Cir. 2014). Thus, a district court retains jurisdiction to consider a timely Rule 59(e) motion despite a Petitioner's filing of a notice of appeal.

         The Eleventh Circuit has summarized the limited scope of relief that is available to a litigant under Rule 59(e):

“The only grounds for granting [a Rule 59] motion are newly-discovered evidence or manifest errors of law or fact.” In re Kellogg, 197 F.3d 1116, 1119 (11th Cir. 1999). “[A] Rule 59(e) motion [cannot be used] to relitigate old matters, raise argument or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry of judgment.” Michael Linet, Inc. v. Village of Wellington, Fla., 408 F.3d 757, 763 (11th Cir. 2005).

Arthur v. King, 500 F.3d 1335, 1343 (11th Cir. 2007); see also Jacobs v. Tempur-Pedic Int'l, Inc., 626 F.3d 1327, 1344 (11th Cir. 2010) (“Reconsidering the merits of a judgment, absent a manifest error of law or fact, is not the purpose of Rule 59.”); Stone v. Wall, 135 F.3d 1438, 1442 (11th Cir. 1998) (“The purpose of a Rule 59(e) motion is not to raise an argument that was previously available, but not pressed.”). “The extremely limited nature of the Rule 59(e) remedy cannot be overstated. To prevail on a motion to reconsider, ‘[t]he losing party must do more than show that a grant of the motion might have been warranted; he must demonstrate a justification for relief so compelling that the court was required to grant the motion.' Maradiaga v. United States, 679 F.3d 1286, 1291 (11th Cir. 2012) (citations and internal marks omitted).” Lee v. Thomas, No. CIV.A. 10-0587-WS-M, 2012 WL 3137901, at *2 n.1 (S.D. Ala. Aug. 1, 2012)(Steele, J.).

         In the § 2255 context, the Court must be wary of an unauthorized attempt at a second or successive § 2255 motion disguised as a Rule 59(e) motion. In Williams v. Chatman, the Eleventh Circuit addressed the district court's jurisdiction to consider a Rule 60(b) motion in the habeas context. 510 F.3d 1290, 1293-94 (11th Cir. 2007). As explained in Williams:

Federal courts are “obligated to inquire into subject-matter jurisdiction sua sponte whenever it may be lacking.” Cadet v. Bulger, 377 F.3d 1173, 1179 (11th Cir.2004). As a threshold matter, therefore, we must initially determine both whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to consider Williams' Rule 60(b) motion and whether this Court has jurisdiction to review the district court's denial of his motion. We review de novo questions concerning jurisdiction. Brooks v. Ashcroft, 283 F.3d 1268, 1275 (11th Cir.2002).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60 provides a basis, but only a limited basis, for a party to seek relief from a final judgment in a habeas case. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 60. The Supreme Court explained in Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 125 S.Ct. 2641, 162 L.Ed.2d 480 (2005), that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply to habeas proceedings to the extent that they are “not inconsistent with applicable federal statutory provisions, ” id. at 529, 125 S.Ct. at 2646 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 11) (internal marks omitted), and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act does not explicitly limit the operation of Rule 60(b). Id. The Act does, nonetheless, foreclose application of that rule where it would be inconsistent with the restrictions imposed on successive petitions by the AEDPA. Id. at 529-30, 125 S.Ct. at 2646.
The Supreme Court held in Gonzalez that a Rule 60(b) motion is to be treated as a successive habeas petition if it: (1) “seeks to add a new ground of relief;” or (2) “attacks the federal court's previous resolution of a claim on the merits.” Id. at 532, 125 S.Ct. at 2648. Where, however, a Rule 60(b) motion “attacks, not the substance of the federal court's resolution of a claim on the merits, but some defect in the integrity of the federal habeas proceedings, ” the motion is not a successive habeas petition. Id. A “claim, ” as described by the Court in Gonzalez, is “an asserted federal basis for relief from a state court's judgment of conviction.” Id. at 530, 125 S.Ct. at 2647. The Supreme Court further explained in Gonzalez that:
The term “on the merits” has multiple usages. We refer here to a determination that there exist or do not exist grounds entitling a petitioner to habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) and (b). When a movant asserts one of those grounds (or asserts that a previous ruling regarding one of those grounds was in error) he is making a habeas corpus claim. He is not doing so when he merely asserts that a previous ruling which precluded a merits determination was in error-for example, a denial for such reasons as failure to exhaust, procedural default, or statute-of-limitations bar.
Id. at 532 n. 4, 125 S.Ct. at 2648 n. 4 (citation omitted).

Williams v. Chatman, 510 F.3d 1290, 1293-94 (11th Cir. 2007). Though Williams specifically addresses Rule 60(b) motions, the Southern District of Alabama has held that the “jurisdictional prohibition on Rule 60(b) motions in the habeas context applies with equal force to Rule 59(e) motions.” Aird v. United States, 339 F.Supp.2d 1305, 1311 (S.D.Ala. 2004) (Steele, J.).

         Upon consideration, the Court has determined that it lacks jurisdiction to consider Petitioner's Rule 59(e) motion with the exception of: 1) Petitioner's procedural bar claims and 2) Petitioner's Clisby error claims. This is because the procedural bar ruling was not a determination on the merits, as described in Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 532 n.4 (2005), and because the alleged Clisby errors, if committed, would be a defect in the integrity of the federal habeas proceedings. Williams, 510 F.3d at 1293-94. See also Madison v. Allen, 2011 WL 1545103, at *1 (S.D. Ala. Apr. 25, 2011)(discussing Court's lack of jurisdiction over some portions of Rule 59(e) motion seeking amendment or alteration of an judgment on a § 2254 petition). The remainder of Petitioner's claims are simply an attempt at an unauthorized second or successive § 2255 petition as they attack the Court's resolution of the petition on the merits.

         The Court has compared Petitioner's allegations (Doc. 114) with the Court's Order (Doc. 112) and makes the following additional findings pursuant to Rule 52(b).[1] The Court's Order denying Petitioner's § 2255 motion held that two of Petitioner's § 2255 claims were procedurally barred. (Doc. 112 at 5-8). In the “Procedural Bar” section of his Rule 59(e) motion, Petitioner challenges 1) the Eleventh Circuit's lack of consideration by certain statements, and 2) the alleged failure of this Court to address his claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress. (Doc. 114 at 2-3). This Court does not have the authority to review the Eleventh Circuit's determinations. Thus, it declines to alter or amend its judgment as to this issue. As to Petitioner's argument that the Court mischaracterized his claim, as he recognizes, the Court specifically determined that any effort at a motion to suppress would have been futile. He disagrees that the filing of the motion would have been futile. His disagreement with the Court's determination is not grounds for alternation or amendment of the judgment, thus the Court declines to do so on this issue.

         Beginning on page 28 of Doc. 114, in the section labeled “Failure to Resolve All of Petitioner's Claims, ” Petitioner argues that the Court made a number of Clisby errors. Clisby v. Jones, 960 F.2d 925 (11th Cir. 1992). Recently, in Peterson v. Secretary of the Department of Corrections, the Eleventh Circuit summarized its holding in Clisby v. Jones as follows:

In Clisby, the district court dismissed thirteen of the petitioner's claims, granted habeas relief on one claim, and reserved judgment on the remaining five claims. Id. at 935. In response, we expressed concern over the “growing number of cases in which [we were] forced to remand for consideration of issues the district court chose not to resolve.” Id. at 935-36. We acknowledged the disruptive effect that such “piecemeal litigation” had on a state's criminal justice system. Id. at 935. Accordingly, in an effort to streamline habeas procedure, we exercised our supervisory authority and instructed district courts to resolve all claims for relief raised in a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to § 2254, “regardless of whether habeas relief is granted or denied.” Id. at 936. We have defined a “claim for relief” as “any allegation of a constitutional violation.” Id.

2017 WL 191919, at *1 (11th Cir. Jan. 18, 2017). The Court has reviewed Petitioner's Clisby claims, as well as its Order denying Petitioner's § 2255 petition. Petitioner contends that the Court failed to address the following:

1) that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress (Doc. 114 at 29)
2) that trial counsel was ineffective for not objecting to the exhibits or their completeness or ...

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