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United States v. Holland

July 12, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF
v.
HARVEY HOLLAND, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

Defendant, Harvey Holland, is serving a sentence of life imprisonment on drug-trafficking charges. He has filed a pro se motion raising two claims. First, the court erred when it did not obtain an expert assessment of whether Defendant was competent to stand trial since there was evidence that he was "borderline retarded" and had attended a mental facility as a youth. Second, the court erred in not obtaining a disinterested expert to evaluate whether Defendant could competently testify at the hearing held on his 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion.

Defendant provides two bases for the motion, first, Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6) and, second, a district court's supposed inherent equitable power under Article III of the Constitution to revise its judgments to reach a just result. Defendant argues that this constitutional power trumps statutory limitations on the court's power to consider a second or successive 2255 motion.

Upon review of the motion, we decide that district courts do not have inherent equitable power under the Constitution to revise their judgments at will. We also decide that the first claim attacks the validity of the conviction and that the second claim is essentially an attack on prior rulings denying post-conviction relief. Hence the motion is a second 2255 motion which we cannot consider without the Third Circuit's approval.

II. Background

In June 2002, a jury convicted Defendant of distribution and possession with intent to distribute fifty grams or more of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute fifty grams of more of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. Defendant was sentenced to concurrent terms of life imprisonment on both counts.

Defendant took a direct appeal which the Third Circuit denied. United States v. Holland, 76 Fed. Appx. 452 (3d Cir. 2003)(nonprecedential). The Supreme Court denied certiorari. Holland v. United States, 540 U.S. 1135, 124 S.Ct. 1114, 157 L.Ed. 2d 942 (2004).

In October 2004, Defendant filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In February 2005, we denied some of the claims but appointed counsel to represent Defendant at a hearing to resolve the remaining ones. In June 2005, the hearing was held and Defendant testified. In December 2005, we denied the remaining claims. In June 2006, the Third Circuit denied Defendant's pro se appeal.

In January 2007, Defendant filed a pro se document entitled "Blakely Applies Retroactively," which we treated as an apparent attempt to file a motion litigating a challenge to his sentence under Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296, 124 S.Ct. 2531, 159 L.Ed.2d 403 (2004). In February 2007, we denied the motion, advising Defendant that the claim had to be brought in a 2255 motion and that he had to obtain permission from the court of appeals to file a second 2255 motion.

Defendant then filed the instant motion.

III. Discussion

We will first address the merits of the motion as it has been brought under Rule 60(b)(6) and then address the constitutional basis of the motion.

A federal defendant must seek the permission of the court of appeals before he can file a second or successive 2255 motion. 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ¶ 8. Further, such a motion must be based on newly discovered evidence, id., ¶ 8(1), or a new rule of constitutional law that was previously unavailable and made retroactive by the Supreme Court to cases on collateral review. Id. ¶ 8(2). Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) authorizes a party to file a motion for relief from a final judgment or order, identifying five specific categories.*fn1 Subsection (6), the provision ...


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