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Gates v. Lavan

August 9, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane


Pending before the Court is Petitioner Ricardo Gates' "Motion for Equitable Relief Under the Catch-all Provision of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6)." (Doc. No. 18.) For the following reasons, the motion will be denied.

I. Background

On January 14, 1994, following a jury trial in the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas, Petitioner was convicted of murder. Petitioner appealed his judgment of sentence to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which affirmed his conviction on August 12, 1994. On November 8, 2000, Petitioner filed his first Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA") petition with the trial court. The trial court denied the Petition on April 9, 2001, as untimely. Petitioner appealed the dismissal of the PCRA petition to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which affirmed the denial. Petitioner filed a Petition for Allowance of Appeal regarding the denial of his PCRA petition with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which entered an order on August 13, 2002, denying it.

On December 13, 2002, Petitioner filed his petition for a writ of habeas corpus based on ineffective assistance of counsel. (Doc. No. 1.) On January 7, 2003, Magistrate Judge Thomas Blewitt entered a report and recommendation which recommended that the habeas petition be dismissed. Specifically, Judge Blewitt found that Petitioner's claims were procedurally defaulted and that Petitioner had not demonstrated cause, prejudice, or actual innocence to excuse the default. As a result, Judge Blewitt concluded that Petitioner was precluded from pursuing any of his federal habeas corpus claims. In addition, Judge Blewitt found that the petition was untimely under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A).

On January 14, 2003, Petitioner motioned for an extension of time to file objections to the report and recommendation. (Doc. No. 4.) This Court granted an extension until February 21, 2003. (Doc. No. 5.) On March 11, 2003, having received no objections, the Court adopted the report and recommendation that the case be dismissed as barred by the state procedural default and as untimely under § 2244(d)(1)(A). (Doc. No. 6.) On March 19, 2003, Petitioner filed a notice of appeal as to the Court's order dismissing the case. (Doc. No. 7.) This Court granted a certificate of appealability on the issue of whether Petitioner could establish cause and prejudice to excuse his procedural default. (Doc. No. 11.) On October 21, 2004, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Petitioner's appeal for lack of jurisdiction based on its holding that the § 2244 statute of limitations had run before the petition was filed. (Doc. No. 14.) On May 9, 2005, the Supreme Court entered an order denying a petition for writ of certiorari.

On May 10, 2007, the Third Circuit entered an order denying Petitioner's application to file a second or successive habeas corpus petition. (Doc. No. 17.) On June 25, 2010, Petitioner filed the present motion which is now pending before the Court. (Doc. No. 18.)

II. Discussion

Rule 60(b)(6) states that "[o]n motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party... from a final judgment... for... any other reason that justifies relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6).

It is well-settled that "the remedy provided by [R]ule 60(b)(6) is 'extraordinary, and special circumstances must justify granting relief under it.'" Green v. White, 319 F.3d 560, 563 n.1 (3d Cir. 2003) (quoting Page v. Schweiker, 786 F.2d 150, 158 (3rd Cir. 1986)); see also Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 535 (2005) (stating that extraordinary circumstances "will rarely occur in the habeas context"); Agostini v. Felton, 521 U.S. 203, 239 (1997) ("Intervening developments in the law by themselves rarely constitute the extraordinary circumstances required for relief under Rule 60(b)(6)...."). Motions filed pursuant to Rule 60(b) are "directed to the discretion of the trial court, and its exercise of that discretion will not be disturbed unless there [is] clear error and abuse of discretion." SEC v. Warren, 583 F.2d 115, 120 (3d Cir. 1978).

All motions filed pursuant to Rule 60(b) "must be made within a reasonable time." Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(c). Therefore, in addition to establishing extraordinary circumstances to justify the relief provided by Rule 60(b)(6), a Petitioner who has been dilatory in filing must also establish extraordinary circumstances to allow for the motion to be heard:

What constitutes a "reasonable time" depends on the circumstances of each case. Delzona Corp. v. Sacks, 265 F.2d 157, 159 (3d Cir. 1959). A court considers many factors, including finality, the reason for delay, the practical ability for the litigant to learn of the grounds relied upon earlier, and potential prejudice to other parties. Kagan v. Caterpillar Tractor Co., 795 F.2d 601, 610 (7th Cir. 1986); Ashford v. Steuart, 657 F.2d 1053, 1055 (9th Cir. 1981). What constitutes a "reasonable time" also depends on which Rule 60(b) clause a claimant is trying to avail. We have noted that relief under Rule 60(b)(6) is extraordinary because it can be given for "any other reason justifying relief" and is not subject to an explicit time limit. Coltec Indus. Inc. v. Hobgood, 280 F.3d 262, 273 (3d Cir. 2002). Therefore, a claimant must establish exceptional circumstances justifying the delay for filing under Rule 60(b)(6).

In re Diet Drugs (Phentermine/Fenfluramine/Dexfenfluramine) Prod. Liab. Litig., No. 09-3818, 2010 WL 2254956, at *3 (3d Cir. June 7, 2010).

Petitioner's Rule 60(b)(6) motion challenges this Court's order adopting the report and recommendation to dismiss his original habeas petition. Petitioner contends that he is entitled to relief under Rule 60(b)(6) because "the district court abused its discretion by applying an [sic] standard to petitioner['s] case contrary to federal law by affording the state court decision deference when their decision should have received no deference...." (Doc. No. 18 at 2.) Liberally construing Petitioner's pro se motion, Petitioner contends that the Court abused its discretion when it failed to (1) excuse Petitioner for his procedural default in state court based ...

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