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United States v. Rice

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 22, 2019

ANTHONY RICE, Defendant.



         Anthony Rice, the defendant in this criminal case, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to import one kilogram or more of heroin and five kilograms or more of cocaine, and one count of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, five kilograms or more of cocaine, and fifty grams or more of cocaine base. Petitioner's Fed.[ ]Rule Civ.[ ]Proc.[ ]Rule 60(b) Motion to Reinstate His 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Habeas Petition ("Def.'s Mot." or the "Rule 60(b) motion") at 1-2. The Court sentenced the defendant to a twenty-year term of incarceration on the first count and a life sentence of incarceration on the second count, to be served concurrently. Id. at 2. Currently pending before the Court is the defendant's Rule 60(b) motion, which "petitions this [ ] Court... to reinstate [his] 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion as well as reconsider [its Order] granting [ ] the government's motion to dismiss" that motion. Id. at 1. Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions, [1] the Court concludes for the reasons set forth below that it must deny the defendant's Rule 60(b) motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court has previously set forth the factual background underlying the defendant's conviction in this case, see United States v. Rice. 227 F.Supp.3d 82, 83-84 (D.D.C. 2017) (Walton, J.), affd, 727 Fed.Appx. 697 (D.C. Cir. 2018), and therefore will not recite it again here. The Court will, however, briefly summarize the procedural posture relevant to the pending motion.

         On November 28, 2015, the defendant filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (2018) (the "§ 2255 motion"). See Def.'s § 2255 Mot. at 1. On January 5, 2017, the Court dismissed the defendant's § 2255 motion "as untimely because the defendant filed his motion more than one year after his judgment of conviction became final, and the defendant [ ] failed to demonstrate extraordinary circumstances to warrant application of equitable tolling." Rice. 227 F.Supp.3d at 86. On January 17, 2017, the defendant filed a notice of appeal with the District of Columbia Circuit challenging the Court's dismissal of his § 2255 motion. See Notice of Appeal (Jan. 17, 2017). On January 4, 2018, while the appeal was pending, the defendant filed his Rule 60(b)(6) motion with this Court. The District of Columbia Circuit thereafter affirmed this Court's dismissal of the defendant's § 2255 motion, see Rice, 727 Fed.Appx. at 698, but noted that the defendant's Rule 60(b) motion "raise[d] new evidence of [Jenifer] Wicks'[s, the defendant's first postconviction attorney, ] never-waived conflict of interest and its existence at the time she missed the filing deadline for [the defendant's §] 2255 motion" and "le[ft] it for th[is] [ ] [C]ourt to address in the first instance the significance of that new evidence of a never-waived conflict [of interest] as warranted," Id. at 702. This Memorandum Opinion addresses the defendant's Rule 60(b) motion.


         "Rule 60(b) provides that 'upon such terms as are just, the [C]ourt may relieve a party... from a final judgment, order, or proceeding' for any of several specified reasons." Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia. 841 F.2d 1133, 1138 (D.C. Cir. 1988). The Supreme Court has noted that "Rule 60(b), like the rest of the Rules of Civil Procedure, applies in habeas corpus proceedings... only to the extent that [it is] not inconsistent with applicable federal statutory provisions and rules." Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 529 (2005) (second alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).[2]

         Clause (b)(6) of Rule 60 "grants federal courts broad authority to relieve a party from a final judgment 'upon such terms as are just,' provided that the motion is made within a reasonable time and is not premised on one of the grounds for relief enumerated in clauses (b)(1) through (b)(5)" of the Rule. Salazar ex rel. Salazar v. District of Columbia. 633 F.3d 1110, 1116 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (quoting Lilieberg v. Health Servs. Acquisition Corp., 486 U.S. 847, 863 (1988)); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6) (permitting courts to "relieve a party... from a final judgment, order, or proceeding" for "any other reason that justifies relief). "The Rule does not particularize the factors that justify relief, but... provides courts with authority 'adequate to enable them to vacate judgments whenever such action is appropriate to accomplish justice.'" Liljeberg, 486 U.S. at 863-64 (quoting Klapprott v. United States, 335 U.S. 601, 614-15 (1949)). Although the Court "enjoys a large measure of discretion in deciding whether to grant or deny a [Rule] 60(b)[(6)] motion," Randall v. Merrill Lynch, 820 F.2d 1317, 1320 (D.C. Cir. 1987), the Supreme Court has held that Rule 60(b)(6) applies only in "extraordinary circumstances," Ackermann v. United States, 340 U.S. 193, 202 (1950), and "this [Circuit] has cautioned that Rule 60(b)(6) 'should be only sparingly used, '" Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, 841 F.2d 1133, 1140 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (quoting Good Luck Nursing Home. Inc. v. Harris, 636 F.2d 572, 577 (D.C. Cir. 1980)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         The defendant requests reconsideration of this Court's denial of his § 2255 motion as untimely under Rule 60(b)[3] for three reasons. First, he argues that the untimely filing of his § 2255 motion should have been excused because the Supreme Court's decisions in Martinez v. Ryan and Trevino v. Thaler

provide support for [his] position that a federal habeas court can find cause to excuse a procedural default where there is a "substantial" claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel, where there was no right to counsel during the postconviction review, and where [ ] federal [procedure] effectively requires [that] ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims [ ] be litigated on initial collateral review.

Def.'s Mot. at 23 (first citing Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1, 13-17 (2012); then citing Trevino v. Thaler, 569 U.S. 413, 423 (2013)). Second, he argues that the Court should have equitably tolled the statute of limitations as to his § 2255 motion because "Peter Cooper and Jenifer Wicks[, his postconviction attorneys, ] provided ineffective assistance of counsel at the post[] conviction stage." Def.'s Reply at 2. Finally, he argues that the Court should have allowed his § 2255 motion to proceed because his "underlying ineffective assistance of counsel claim [raised in his § 2255 motion] is strong." Id. at 6. The Court will address each of the defendant's arguments in turn.

         A. Whether the Court Have Excused the Untimely Filing of the Defendant's § 2255 Motion Under Martinez and Trevino

         In Coleman v. Thompson, the Supreme Court held that "[b]ecause a prisoner does not have a constitutional right to counsel in state postconviction proceedings, ineffective assistance in those proceedings does not qualify as a cause to excuse a procedural default." Davila v. Davis,137 ...

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