Wednesday, February 16, 2011

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).

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