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West v. Metzger

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 26, 2019

CHRISTOPHER H. WEST, Petitioner,
v.
DANA METZER, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM[1]

          The Honorable Maryellen Noreika United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Presently pending before the Court is Petitioner Christopher West’s Motion for Reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(1) and (2) asking the Court to reconsider the October 2017 dismissal of his habeas Petition as time-barred. (D.I. 69). Petitioner has also filed two Motions to Amend the original Rule 60(b) Motion, presumably to also request reconsideration under Rule 60(b)(6). (D.I. 75; D.I. 77). While the Court will grant the Motions to Amend, for the reasons discussed below, it will deny Petitioner’s request for reconsideration.

         II. BACKGROUND

         In January 2012, Petitioner pled guilty to one count each of first and second degree robbery. See West v. State, 100 A.3d 1022 (Table), 2014 WL 4264922, at *1 (Del. Aug. 28, 2014). On March 30, 2012, the Superior Court sentenced Petitioner as a habitual offender to a total of twenty-eight years at Level V incarceration, to be suspended after serving twenty-five years in prison for decreasing levels of supervision. Petitioner did not file a direct appeal. Id.

         On February 27, 2013, Petitioner filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 (“Rule 61 motion”). The Rule 61 motion was referred to a Superior Court Commissioner, who issued a Report and Recommendation to deny the Rule 61 motion. See State v. West, 2015 WL 3429919, at *1 (Del. Super. Ct. May 21, 2015). The Superior Court adopted that Report and Recommendation on January 7, 2014 and denied the Rule 61 motion. Id. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on August 28, 2014. See West, 2014 WL 4264922.

         In December 2014, Petitioner filed in this Court a habeas petition, followed by an amended petition, asserting the following five grounds for relief: (1) his habitual offender sentence is illegal because one of the predicate convictions is illegal; (2) his guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary; (3) defense counsel provided ineffective assistance; (4) his confession was coerced; and (5) he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. (D.I. 3; D.I. 9). The State filed an answer asserting that the petition should be denied as time-barred or, alternatively, because the claims lack merit. (D.I. 21).

         On February 24, 2015, Petitioner filed in the Delaware Superior Court a second Rule 61 motion and a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. See West, 2015 WL 3429919, at *1-2. The Superior Court treated the motion to withdraw the guilty plea as Petitioner’s third Rule 61 motion and denied his second and third Rule 61 motions on May 21, 2015. Id.

         In April and May of 2016, Petitioner filed a Rule 35(a) motion and an amended Rule 35(a) motion for correction of sentence. See West, 148 A.3d 687 (Table), 2016 WL 5349354, at *1 (Del. Aug. 31, 2016). The Superior Court denied the motions, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on September 23, 2016. See West, 2016 WL 5349354, at *2.

         On October 23, 2017, the Honorable Gregory M. Sleet denied Petitioner’s habeas petition as time-barred. (D.I. 67; D.I. 68). On September 25, 2018, Petitioner filed a Rule 60(b) Motion for Reconsideration, contending that there were reasons “to overturn [the Court’s] order denying his Habeas Petition due to ‘newly discovered evidence, ’” and “mistake and inadvertence, ” because of the “significantly long stretches of time during which [Petitioner] was housed in cells under Psychological Close Observation (“PCO”) status level in which he did not have access to writing material.” (D.I. 69 at 4-5). He also filed two Motions to Amend his Rule 60(b) Motion. (D.I. 75; D.I. 77). The Court ordered the State to respond to the Rule 60(b) Motion, and the State filed its Response on November 19, 2018. (D.I. 71; D.I. 73).

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion for reconsideration filed pursuant to Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “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). 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 Rule 60(b) motion, however, is not appropriate to reargue issues that the court has ...


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