Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fourth Circuit reverses construal of Rule 36 motion as 2255

United States v. Postell, No. 10-6943, 2011 WL 609711 (4th Cir. Feb. 22, 2011):

Petitioner filed a Rule 36 motion to correct the spelling of his name in the district court's final judgment. Rule 36 provides that a court may "correct a clerical error in judgment, order, or other part of the record, or correct an error in the record arising from oversight or omission" at any time after giving notice. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36.

The district court improperly construed the motion as a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court and remanded for the court to properly address petitioner's motion under Rule 36.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Can Magistrate Judges deny motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis?

Minor v. Williamsburg, No. 4:10-2325-RMG-TER, 2011 WL 291247 (D.S.C. Jan. 14, 2011):

Habeas petitioner moved for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.  The filing fee was $455, but the petitioner had nearly $3000 in his prison account.

There are no clear precedents in the Fourth Judicial Circuit as to whether a magistrate judge has the authority to issue an order to deny an application to proceed in forma pauperis.  The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has concluded that a magistrate judge cannot issue an order to deny an application to proceed in forma pauperis.  In Woods v. Dahlberg, 894 F.2d 187 (6th Cir. 1990), the Sixth Circuit ruled that a denial of an application to proceed in forma pauperis by a magistrate judge is the functional equivalent of an involuntary dismissal, which cannot be granted by a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).  The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth and Fifth Circuits have reached similar conclusions.  See Lister v. Dept. of the Treasury, 408 F.3d 1309, 1312 (10th Cir. 2005); Donaldson v. Ducote, 373 F.3d 622, 623-25 (5th Cir. 2004).

In this case, the magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation so that the petitioner could obtain de novo review by a district judge.

Illegal arrest does not destroy federal jurisdiction

United States v. Goode, No. 3:07cr298, 2011 WL 304459 (E.D. Va. Jan. 27, 2011):

Petitioner was pulled over by Fort Lee military police.  The federal Court asserted jurisdiction to sentence Petitioner pursuant to the Assimilative Crimes Act ("ACA"), 18 U.S.C. § 13.  The ACA "makes punishable acts which are offenses under state law but not under federal law if the offense occurs on lands reserved to the United States."  United States v. O'Byrne, 423 F.Supp. 588, 590 (E.D.Va.1973).

The traffic stop, however, presumably occurred off of Fort Lee.  Petitioner argues that because the military lacked jurisdiction to pull him over, the federal Court also lacked jurisdiction because the ACA would not apply.

The Court determined that "[e]ven if the arrest occurred outside the territorial jurisdiction of the military police, such defect reflects on the lawfulness of the arrest, but it does not deprive the Court of subject matter jurisdiction."  See United States v. Atwell, 470 F.Supp.2d 554, 570 (D.Md. 2007) (analyzing the Fourth Amendment implications of a military police officer's exercise of arrest authority outside of the military's territorial jurisdiction); 1 Charles Alan Wright & Andrew D. Leipold, Federal Practice & Procedure § 53 (4th ed. 2010) (“In most instances, the government's power to try an offender is not impaired by the fact that he is brought before the Court illegally.”).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2255 motion grounded in new facts not "second or successive"

Scott v. United States, No. 7:98-CR-79-BO-1, 2011 WL 282338 (E.D.N.C. Jan. 24, 2011):

A § 2255 motion grounded in facts supporting a theory that the prosecution was corrput, when those facts were unavailable at the time of a previous § 2255 motion, does not render the motion "second or successive" for AEDPA's purposes.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fourth Circuit upholds habeas grant because S.C. Supreme Court misapplies law

Brandt v. Gooding, No. 09-7907 (4th Cir. Feb. 18, 2011):

Supreme Court of South Carolina incorrectly employed a summary contempt proceeding, denying petitioner of his due process rights.

Although courts have the power to summarily find an individual guilty of criminal contempt, this procedure only complies with due process if the misconduct at issue occurs "directly under the eye or within the view of the court."  If the misconduct does not so occur, the individual must be afforded reasonable notice of the charge against him and an opportunity to be heard in his defense, including a right to examine the witnesses against him, to offer testimony, and to be represented by counsel.

Petitioner, denied his due process rights, was entitled to a grant of his habeas petition.

District courts must address merits of extension before denying 59(e) motion

United States v. West, No. 10-6322 (4th Cir. Feb. 18, 2011):

When a district court denies a Rule 59(e) motion seeking to extend the time for appealing the denial of § 2255 relief, the court must address whether the petitioner demonstrated good cause or excusable neglect.  Failure to do so will result in vacatur and remand for such finding.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Petitioner only permitted access to grand jury materials upon showing of particularized need

United States v. Howell, No. L-98-0259, 2011 WL 219836 (D. Md. Jan. 21, 2011):

Secrecy of grand jury materials is the norm.  Nevertheless, Rule 6(e)(3)(E) enumerates five situations in which a court "may authorize disclosure . . . of a grand-jury matter."  Rule 6(e) (3)(E)(i) provides for disclosure of grand jury materials "preliminarily to or in connection with a judicial proceeding."

Grand jury secrecy can only be lifted in cases of "particularized need."  United States v. Procter & Gamble Co., 356 U.S. 677, 683 (1958).  In determining whether there is a "particularized need," the trial court must "balance the petitioner's need for release against the traditional public interest reasons for grand jury secrecy." In re Grand Jury Proceedings GJ-76-4 & GJ-75-3, 800 F.2d 1293, 1298-99 (4th Cir. 1986).  A particularized need will be found only in those cases where "the need for [disclosure] outweighs the public interest in secrecy."  Id. (quoting United States v. Sells Eng'g, Inc., 463 U.S. 418, 443 (1983)). "The moving party bears the burden of showing that the balance between secrecy and need weighs in its favor."  United States v. Foggo, 495 F.Supp.2d 672, 673 (E.D. Va. 2009) (citing In re Grand Jury Proceedings, 800 F.2d at 1298-99).

Recap of relation back of proposed habeas claim amendments

Jeffries v. United States, No. 1:07cr56, 2011 WL 240456 (W.D.N.C. Jan. 24, 2011):

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 governs the procedure for amending habeas petitions.  Rule 15 allows a petitioner to amend his pleading once as a matter of course within 21 days or within 21 days after service of a responsive pleading.  Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1).  However, a cause of action barred by an applicable statute of limitations is futile and therefore an amendment based on such a cause of action can be denied.  Keller v. Prince George's Cnty., 923 F.2d 30, 33 (4th Cir. 1991).  When proposed claims in an amendment are barred by the statute of limitations, Rule 15(c) provides for the relation back of amendments to the original pleading in certain circumstances.  United States v. Pittman, 209 F.3d 314, 317 (4th Cir. 2000).  Under Rule 15(c)(1)(B) an amendment relates back when it "asserts a claim or defense that arose out of the conduct, transaction or occurrence set out-or attempted to be set out-in the original pleading." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)(1)(B).  As the Supreme Court made clear in Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 644 (2005), in the context of a habeas motion, "conduct, transaction, or occurrence" does not mean the same "trial, conviction, or sentence," such that any claim that relates to the prior conviction or sentence challenged in a habeas motion is considered timely, no matter how long after the original motion it is filed.  Id., at 644.  Rather, a proposed amendment relates back to the date of the original motion if it "state[s] claims that are tied to a common core of operative facts."  Id.  With respect to claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, a new claim of ineffective assistance of counsel does not relate back to an earlier asserted claim of ineffective assistance of counsel if the "new claim asserts 'a new ground for relief supported by facts that differ in both time and type from those the original pleading set forth.'"  United States v. Gonzalez, 592 F.3d 675, 680 (5th Cir. 2009), cert. denied 131 S.Ct. 231 (2010), quoting Mayle, 545 U.S. at 650).

Monday, February 14, 2011

N.D. W. Va. grants habeas relief

Merritt  v. Hoke, No. 2:10-CV-47, 2011 WL 198104 (N.D. W. Va. Jan 18, 2011):

Petitioner is granted habeas relief because the State failed to disclose a pre-trial immunity agreement with the robbery's getaway driver.  Petitioner demonstrated that this failure constituted a material Brady violation.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fourth Circuit reverses district court's grant of habeas writ

Bauberger v. Hynes, No. 09-8111 (4th Cir. Feb. 11, 2011):

In Bauberger's murder trial, the jury used a dictionary during deliberations to help define a number of words contained in the judge's malice instruction, but not the definition of "malice" itself.  The district court granted Bauberger's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the jurors' dictionary use violated Bauberger's clearly established Sixth Amendment rights and that the error prejudiced him because the dictionary's definitions of "recklessly" and "wantonly" may have lowered the government's burden of proof regarding malice.

The Fourth Circuit began its analysis by reviewing the appropriate standard by which it reviews a presumed constitutional error.  The Fourth Circuit held that federal habeas courts must always review constitutional errors in state trials under Brecht, but they need not debate whether a state court's harmless error determination also unreasonably applied Chapman

The Fourth Circuit held that the dictionary definitions did not materially alter the meaning of the instruction as a whole, and the government introduced significant evidence of malice.

Judge Keith issued a dissenting opinion, arguing that the dictionary's external influence was impermissibly prejudicial.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Two new articles regarding the Boumedine right outside of Guantanamo

Kal Raustiala, Al Maqaleh v. Gates, 104 Am. J. Int'l L. __ (2010) (SSRN).

Danielle Barre Frisa, The Four Corners of the Earth:  Does the Suspension Clause Protect Aliens Detained Abroad by the United States Military? (working paper Jan. 20, 2011) (SSRN).

These two articles analyze the DC Circuit case which held that a federal district court had no jurisdiction to consider habeas petitions from three noncitizens detained at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.  The articles compare and contrast Al Maqaleh v. Gates and Boumedine v. Bush.

Dimension I: Habeas Corpus as a Common Law Writ

Eric M. Freedman, Dimension I:  Habeas Corpus as a Common Law Writ, 46 Harv. C.R-C.L. L. Rev. (2011).  Abstract via SSRN:

This article is the first part of a projected three-part work based on the extensive exploration of archival sources in America and England that has been conducted in the past several years by myself and other researchers.

It advances two key claims: First, in researching the history of habeas corpus we need to get beyond the label "habeas corpus." The constitutional importance of the writ is in its function not its name. Demands for release from unlawful imprisonment could be made in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by seeking a variety of writs or even by pleadings that asked for no particular writ at all. Hence for Suspension Clause purposes we should adopt a functional definition of "habeas corpus" to mean a demand, however denominated, challenging the legal basis of a detention and calling upon the custodian to justify it.

Second, the broader group of cases thus defined shares important features of judicial methodology. The judges worked vigorously (a) to resolve the case speedily on a fact-specific and pragmatic basis; and (b) with respect to those issues of law necessarily involved (I) to overcome any procedural barriers to a prompt merits ruling and (II) if a legal question seemed dis-positive, to frame it specifically and isolate it for adjudication.

I conclude by suggesting why historical research, legal scholarship, and judicial proceedings (including current ones involving Guantanamo) might benefit from applying these thoughts.

Fourth Circuit errs regarding time for filing Rule 59(e) motion

United States v. Brightman, No. 10-7493 (4th Cir. Jan. 21, 2011):

In Brightman, the Fourth Circuit noted that the district court erred in considering the merits of Brightman's untimely Rule 59(e) motion because it was filed more than ten days after the entry of judgment.  In fact, the motion was filed twenty-five days after the entry of judgment.  When this occurs, the Fourth Circuit reminded the district court, a court should construe the motion as one under 60(b).

However, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 59(e) changed in December 2009.  The change means that the time for filing a Rule 59(e) motion expanded from ten to twenty-eight days.  Brightman filed his Rule 59(e) motion on August 3, 2010, rendering his motion governed by the new rule.