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Desmond v. Metzger

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 21, 2018

CHRISTOPHER R. DESMOND, Petitioner,
v.
DANA METZGER, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.[1]

          MEMORANDUM

          HONORABLE LEONARD P. STARK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In 1992, a Delaware Superior Court jury convicted Petitioner on multiple counts of first degree robbery, possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, second degree conspiracy, possession of a deadly weapon by a person prohibited, theft, and third degree escape. His convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. See Desmond v. State, 654 A.2d 821 (Del. 1994).

         In 1996, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which the Honorable Gregory M. Sleet denied after finding four claims were procedurally barred and three claims were meritless. See Desmond v. Snyder, 1999 WL 33220036 (D. Del. Nov. 16, 1999). He filed a second petition for habeas relief, which the Honorable Joseph J. Farnan, Jr. dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because it was second or successive. See Desmond v. Carroll, Civ. A. No. 02-1501-JJF, Order (D. Del. Oct. 2, 2002). On August 13, 2003, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied Petitioner's application to file a second or successive habeas petition. See In Re Desmond, Civ. A. No. 03-2416, Order (3d Cir. Aug. 13, 2003).

         In 2005, Petitioner filed a Rule 60(b) motion for reconsideration of the 1999 denial of his first habeas petition, arguing that claims one, five, six, and seven of his 1996 habeas petition should not have been dismissed for being procedurally barred. The Honorable Gregory M. Sleet denied the Rule 60(b) motion. See Desmond v. Snyder, Civ. A. No. 96-327-GMS, Order (D. Del. Apr. 5, 2006). The Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied Petitioner's motion for a certificate of appealability with respect to that decision. See Desmond v. Snyder, Civ. A. No. 06-2359, Order (3d Cir. Nov. 30, 2006).

         In 2011, Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus contending that two Delaware state court decisions (State v. Bridgers, 988 A.2d 939 (Del. Super. Ct. 2007), qff'd, State v. Bridgers, 970 A.2d 257 (Table), 2009 WL 824536 (Del. Mar. 30, 2009), and State v. Owens, 2010 WL 2892701 pel. Super. Ct. July 16, 2010)) demonstrated that the Delaware state courts and the District Court of Delaware misinterpreted the first degree robbery statute, Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 832, in refusing to vacate his convictions for eight counts of first degree robbery. See Desmond v. Phelps, 2012 WL 3518531 (D. Del. Aug. 15, 2012). The instant case was opened and this Court dismissed the Petition for lack of jurisdiction after determining that it constituted an unauthori2ed second or successive habeas petition. See Id. at *3. The Court also noted that, even were it to treat the filing as a request for mandamus relief, such relief was not available to him on the facts presented. (D.I.17 at 4-5) The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed that decision on March 15, 2013. (D.I. 23)

         Presently pending before the Court are Petitioner's newest Rule 59(e)/Rule 60(b) Motions to Reopen/Reconsider ("Motions for Reconsideration") his Petition for Writ of Mandamus pursuant to Buck v. Davis, 137 S.Ct. 759 (2017). (D.I. 25; D.I. 26) After filing the pending Motions for Reconsideration, Petitioner filed a Motion for the Appointment of Counsel (D.I. 27).

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         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 28 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, [2] but may be granted only in extraordinary circumstances. See Moolenaar v. Gov't of Virgin Islands, 822 F.2d 1342, 1346 (3d Cir. 1987). A motion for reconsideration is not an occasion 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. ...


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