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White v. Metzger

United States District Court, D. Delaware

July 20, 2018

ANTHONY WHITE, Petitioner,
v.
DANA METZGER, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In March 2007, a Delaware Superior Court jury convicted petitioner Anthony White of attempted first degree murder and a weapons offense, and acquitted him of conspiracy. (D.I 27 at 2) White appealed, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed his convictions and sentence in September 2008. See White v. State, 957 A.2d 2 (Table), 2008 WL 4107980, at *1 (Del. Sept. 2008). After the disposition of two post-conviction proceedings in the Delaware state courts, White filed a habeas petition in this court. (D.I. 27 at 2-4) In July 2014, the court denied the petition as time-barred and, alternatively concluded that the claims were meritless or procedurally barred. (D.I. 27; D.I. 28) In July 2015, White filed a motion for reconsideration of that decision, (D.I. 29), which the court denied (D.I. 30; D.I. 31). In February 2018, White filed a motion for reconsideration pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b) (D.I. 33) simultaneously with a motion to stay and abey the motion for reconsideration (D.I. 34)

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion for reconsideration may be filed pursuant Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) or Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). Although motions for reconsideration under Rule 59(e) and Rule 60(b) serve similar functions, each has a particular purpose. See United States v. Fiorelli, 337 F.3d 282, 288 (3d Cir. 2003). For instance, Rule 59(e) is "a device to relitigate the original issue decided by the district court, and [it is] used to allege legal error." Fiorelli, 337 F.3d at 288. The moving party must show one of the following in order to prevail on a Rule 59(e) motion: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court issued its order; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent a manifest injustice. See Max's Seafood Cafe v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999). A motion filed pursuant to Rule 59(e) must be filed no later than twenty-eight days after the entry of the judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e).

         In contrast, "Rule 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). A motion filed pursuant to Rule 60(b) is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court guided by accepted legal principles applied in light of all relevant circumstances, [1] but may be granted only in extraordinary circumstances. See Moolenaar v. Gov't of Virgin Islands, 822 F.2d 1342, 1346 (3d Cir. 1987). Notably, a motion for reconsideration is not appropriate to reargue issues that the court has already considered and decided. See Brambles USA Inc. v. Blocker, 735 F.Supp. 1239, 1240 (D.Del. 1990).

         Additionally, when, as here, a district court is presented with a motion for reconsideration after it has denied the petitioner's federal habeas petition, 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 appropriate court of appeals and, absent such authorization, a district court cannot consider the merits of a subsequent application. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3)(A); Robinson v. Johnson, 313 F.3d 128, 139-40 (3d Cir. 2002).

         III. DISCUSSION

         White filed his motion for reconsideration pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b). To the extent the motion is filed pursuant to Rule 59(e), it is time-barred, because it was filed almost four full years after the entry of the court's judgment in July 2014. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) (a "motion to amend a judgment must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment.").

         To the extent the motion is filed pursuant to Rule 60(b), the court must first determine if the motion constitutes a "true" motion for reconsideration, or if it constitutes a second or successive habeas application under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"). See Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 529-30. In his Rule 60(b) motion, White contends that he is entitled to Rule 60(b)(6) relief pursuant to Buck v. Davis, 137 S.Ct. 759 (2017) because an intervening Delaware Supreme Court decision - Rambo v. State, 939 A.2d 1275 (Del. 2007) - demonstrates he is actually innocent of attempted first degree murder. (D.I. 33 at 6) He asserts that he is attacking the integrity of the federal habeas proceeding by arguing that the court's prior denial of his ineffective assistance of counsel claims as procedurally barred was in error under Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012). (D.I. 33 at 2) Since this argument challenges the method by which the decision denying his habeas petition and/or his first Rule 60(b) motion was procured, the court concludes that it constitutes a 'true" Rule 60(b) request. Nevertheless, for the following reasons, the argument is unavailing.

         In Buck, the Supreme Court reiterated the well-settled principle that "relief under Rule 60(b)(6) is available only in extraordinary circumstances." See Buck, 137 S.Ct. at 778. The Buck Court also explained that a court may consider a wide range of factors when determining if extraordinary circumstances are present and, in appropriate cases, those factors may include "the risk of injustice to the parties" and "the risk of undermining the public's confidence in the judicial process." Id. The Third Circuit has interpreted Buck as permitting a court to consider "the severity of the underlying constitutional violation [as] an equitable factor that may support a finding of extraordinary circumstances under Rule 60(b)(6)." Satterfleld v. Dist. Att'y Phila., 872 F.3d 152, 163 (3d Cir. 2017).

         In Martinez, the Supreme Court held for the first time that the ineffective assistance of counsel during initial collateral review proceedings, or the failure to appoint counsel during initial collateral review proceedings, may establish cause sufficient to excuse a procedural default of a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel, when, under state law, claims regarding trial counsel's ineffectiveness can only be raised for the first time in initial collateral proceedings. Id. (emphasis added). In Cox v. Horn, 757 F.3d 113 (3d Cir. 2014), the Third Circuit analyzed the interplay between Rule 60(b)(6) and Martinez's limited exception to the procedural default doctrine, explaining that "one of the critical factors in the equitable and case-dependent nature of the 60(b)(6) analysis on which we now embark is whether the 60(b)(6) motion under review was brought within a reasonable time of the Martinez decision." Cox, 757 F.3datll6.

         Simply stated, White's argument does not demonstrate extraordinary circumstances satisfying Buck, Martinez, and/or Rule 60(b)(6). The 2017 Buck decision does not, on its own, affect the court's reasons for denying ...


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