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Louis v. Phelps

United States District Court, Third Circuit

September 13, 2013

JAMES ST. LOUIS, Petitioner,
v.
PERRY PHELPS, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.

MEMORANDUM ORDER

At Wilmington this 13th day of September, 2013, having reviewed the above captioned case; IT IS ORDERED that petitioner James St. Louis' ("petitioner") Rule 60(b) motions asking the court to reopen his habeas case (D.I. 40; D.I. 44) are DENIED, for the reasons that follow:

1. Background. In May 2001, a Delaware Superior Court jury convicted petitioner of first degree rape and continuous sexual abuse of child. (D.I. 32 at 1) He was sentenced to an aggregate of forty years of incarceration, suspended after twenty-two years for decreasing levels of supervision. See St Louis v. State, 2002 WL 1160979, at *1 (Del. May 24, 2003). The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed petitioner's conviction and sentence on direct appeal. Id.

2. Petitioner filed a timely application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (D.I. 2) The State filed an answer in opposition. (D.I. 27)

3. The court denied movant's § 2254 application in a memorandum opinion and order dated April 27, 2006. (D.I. 32; D.I. 33) Petitioner filed a notice of appeal from that decision, which the Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied on December 7, 2006. (D.I. 37)

4. On February 9, 2009, petitioner sought authorization from the Third Circuit to file a successive habeas corpous application pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b). See In re: James St. Louis, et. a/., Civ. A. No. 09-1375 (3d Cir. Feb. 9, 2009). The Third Circuit denied that application. See In re: James St. Louis, et. ai., Civ. A. No. 09-1375, McKee, J., Order (3d Cir. Mar. 12, 2009).

5. In July 2009, petitioner again moved the Third Circuit for permission to file a successive habeas corpus application. See In re: James St. Louis, et. a/., Civ. A. No. 09-3120 (3d Cir. July 27, 2009). That request was denied on August 25, 2009, and rehearing was denied on September 23, 2009. See In re: James St. Louis, et ai, Civ. A. No. 09-3120, Chagares, J., Order (3d Cir. Aug. 25, 2009); In re: James St. Louis, et. ai, Civ. A. No. 09-3120, Chagares, J., Order (3d Cir. Sept. 23, 2009)

6. Petitioner filed a Rule 60(b) motion on November 13, 2012. (D.i. 40) The State filed an answer on December 21, 2012, alleging that the court should deny the motion for being a second or successive habeas application. (D.I. 43) Petitioner filed another Rule 60(b) motion on January 7, 2013 (D.I. 44), which merely responds to the State's answer by reasserting the same allegations set forth in his first Rule 60(b) motion. Therefore, the court will review the two motions together.

7. Standard of Review. A motion for reconsideration filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) "allows a party to seek relief from a final judgment, and request reopening of his case, under a limited set of circumstances including fraud, mistake, and newly discovered evidence." Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 528 (2005). Rule 60(b) provides that a party may file a motion for relief from a final judgment for the following reasons:

(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence by which due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether heretofore denominated intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation or other misconduct of an adverse party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged, or a prior judgment upon which it is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated, or it is no longer equitable that the judgment should have prospective application; or (6) any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b).

8. Rule 60(b) motions are left to the sound discretion of the trial court, consistent with accepted legal principles applied in light of all relevant circumstances. Pierce Assoc. Inc. v. Nemours Found., 865 F.2d 530, 548 (3d Cir. 1988). A court may grant a Rule 60(b) motion only in extraordinary circumstances, [1] and a Rule 60(b) motion is not appropriate to reargue issues that the court has already considered and decided. Brambles USA Inc. v. Blocker, 735 F.Supp. 1239, 1240 (D. Del. 1990).

9. Additionally, when, as here, a district court is presented with a motion for reconsideration after it has denied a petitioner's § 2254 application, the court must first determine if the motion constitutes a second or successive application under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"). As articulated by the Third Circuit,

in those instances in which the factual predicate of a petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion attacks the manner in which the earlier habeas judgment was procured and not the underlying conviction, the Rule 60(b) motion may be adjudicated on the merits. However, when the Rule 60(b) motion seeks to collaterally attack the petitioner's underlying conviction, the motion should be treated as a successive habeas petition.

Pridgen v. Shannon, 380 F.3d 721, 727 (3d Cir. 2004). Under AEDPA, a prisoner cannot file a second or successive habeas application without first obtaining approval from the Court of Appeals and, absent such authorization, a district court cannot consider the merits of a subsequent application. 28 U.S.C. ...


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