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West v. Huvelle

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 3, 2019

GARY EMERSON WEST, Plaintiff,
v.
ELLEN SEGAL HUVELLE et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Gary Emerson West, brought this action pro se against United States District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle for actions she took while presiding over his criminal proceedings in this judicial district. See Complaint (“Compl.”) at 1-2, ECF No. 1; United States of America v. West, No. 1:01-cr-00168-ESH-1 (D.D.C.) (“West I” or “Crim. No. 01-168”). The plaintiff has also sued two Assistant United States Attorneys (“AUSA”), Ronald L. Walutes, Jr., and Laura Ingersoll, who represented the government during his prosecution, and one of his former criminal defense attorneys, Gene Johnson. See Compl. at 1 (listing parties).

         Pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss by Federal Defendants Huvelle, Walutes and Ingersoll (“Defs.' Mot.”), ECF No. 10. On June 3, 2019, when the plaintiff's opposition to the foregoing motion was required to be filed, the plaintiff submitted a document captioned: “Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion to Proceed with the Jury Trial as Schedules, ” ECF No. 13, which the Court construes as the plaintiff's opposition (“Pl.'s Opp'n”) to the motion to dismiss.

         Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions, and for the reasons that follow, the Court will (1) grant the federal defendants' motion to dismiss, (2) decline supplemental jurisdiction over any local law claim against Attorney Johnson, and (3) dismiss this case.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Criminal Proceedings

         In West I, the plaintiff pleaded guilty on January 9, 2002, to four counts of Armed Bank Robbery, 21 U.S.C. § 2113(a)(d) (2000); one count of Use of a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (2000); and one count of False Statements, 18 U.S.C. § 1001 (a)(2), and his sentencing was scheduled for April 8, 2002. See Crim. No. 01-168, ECF No. 160 (Judgment in a Criminal Case filed July 15, 2002 (“Judgment”)). Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff sought to withdraw his guilty plea in a document that Judge Huvelle allowed to be filed on January 17, 2002, as a motion to withdraw his plea of guilty. See id., ECF Nos. 112, 116; Compl. ¶ 1. According to the federal defendants, the plaintiff “asserted, ” as grounds to withdraw his guilty plea, among other things, that “he had been deceived by . . . Johnson, who ‘sold' him on the idea of pleading [guilty] and then working out a deal with the prosecutor that would reduce his sentence to the two-to-five-year range.” Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion to Dismiss by Defendants Huvelle, Walutes and Ingersoll (“Defs.' Mem.”) at 2, ECF No. 10-1. On January 23, 2002, Johnson filed a motion to withdraw as counsel for the plaintiff, Crim. No. 01-168, ECF No. 113, which was granted on January 24, 2002, ECF No. 114. In granting Johnson's motion, Judge Huvelle “assumed that Mr. West [would] retain [another] counsel to represent him in this matter since he previously had private representation.” Id.

         The government filed its opposition to the plaintiff's motion to withdraw the guilty plea on February 22, 2002, ECF No. 117, and on March 8, 2002, private attorney Joanne Maria Vasco entered her appearance to represent the plaintiff. Id., ECF No. 118; see case caption (designating Vasco as “Retained”). However, on March 20, 2002, Judge Huvelle granted Vasco's motion to withdraw as the plaintiff's counsel. Id., ECF No. 125. Meanwhile, on March 5, 2002, Judge Huvelle scheduled a hearing on the plaintiff's motion to withdraw his guilty plea for June 3, 2002. On May 3, 2002, Jensen Egerton Barber was then appointed to represent the plaintiff. Id., ECF No. 129; see case caption (designating Barber as a “CJA Appointment”).

         The criminal case docket indicates that Judge Huvelle conducted a hearing on the plaintiff's motion to withdraw his guilty plea on June 3, 2002, and June 4, 2002, denied the motion “for reasons stated on the record, ” referred the plaintiff to the probation office for the preparation of a presentence investigation report, and scheduled sentencing for June 27, 2002. On June 27, 2002, the sentencing hearing was converted to a status hearing, during which Judge Huvelle granted Attorney Barber's oral motion to withdraw as the plaintiff's counsel, permitted retained counsel Larry Brown to represent the plaintiff pro hac vice, and rescheduled the sentencing for July 9, 2002. See case caption (designating Brown as “Retained”).

         On July 9, 2002, Judge Huvelle denied the plaintiff's oral motion to continue the sentencing hearing and to withdraw his guilty plea. She then sentenced the plaintiff to an aggregate prison sentence of 250 months (or nearly 21 years) followed by a term of supervised release totaling eight years. See Crim. No. 01-168 (July 9, 2002 Docket Entry). In addition, the plaintiff was ordered to pay restitution totaling $405, 224.00. Id.; see also Judgment at 5.

         B. The Post-Conviction Proceedings

         On July 19, 2002, the plaintiff noticed his appeal of the order denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Crim. No. 01-168, ECF No. 156. In 2003, the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) issued the following ruling:

It is ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the judgment of conviction entered on January 9, 2002 be affirmed. Because the plea colloquy met the standards of Fed.R.Civ.P. 11, and because appellant has failed to advance a colorable claim of innocence, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying appellant's motion to withdraw his plea.

United States v. West, No. 02-3070, 2003 WL 467239, at *1 (D.C. Cir. Feb. 14, 2003) (per curiam) (citation omitted). In July 2003, the plaintiff filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (2000) to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence, which Judge Huvelle denied on April 30, 2004. See Crim. No. 01-168, ECF Nos. 228, 284; see also id., ECF No. 293 (Order denying certificate of appealability). In 2011, the D.C. Circuit denied the plaintiff “authorization to file a second or successive § 2255 motion . . . to vacate the coerced plea agreement and resulting judgment under authority of 28 U.S.C. § 2255” because he had “not shown that the motion contains either newly discovered evidence or a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable, so as to meet the standards set out in 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h).” In re: Gary Emerson West, No. 11-3036 (D.C. Cir. July 18, 2011), Crim. No. 01-168, ECF No. 361.

         In July 2016, however, the D.C. Circuit granted the plaintiff's “petition for leave to file a second or successive motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255” to challenge his sentence in light of Johnson v. United States, __ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), but it “express[ed] no opinion as to the merits of petitioner's claim.” In re: Gary Emerson West, No. 16-3057 (D.C. Cir. July 1, 2016) (citing 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)), Crim. No. 01-168, ECF No. 391. On September 11, 2019, Research & Writing Attorney Benjamin Flick of the Federal Public Defender's Office entered his ...


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