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United States v. Cruz

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 30, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
DERRICK CRUZ, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM W. CALDWELL, District Judge.

I. Introduction

We are considering an Independent Action in Equity filed by Defendant Derrick Cruz pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(d)(1).[1] (Doc. 291). Defendant Cruz seeks to set aside our order denying his § 2255 motion as untimely filed. (Doc. 189). Cruz argues his motion was timely because it complied with the filing deadlines that we imposed. For the reasons discussed below, we will deny Cruz's independent action.

II. Background

In May of 1996, Cruz was sentenced on drug-trafficking charges. Cruz appealed his conviction, which was denied on February 12, 1997. (Doc. 148). On August 25, 1997, Cruz filed a pro se "petition for writ of habeas corpus" on a form document. (Doc. 153). That petition did not invoke 28 U.S.C. § 2255 , nor did the form advise Cruz of the consequences if the petition were treated as a § 2255 motion. We recharacterized the petition as a motion under § 2255 without giving notice to Cruz or advising him of the consequences of our doing so for a second or successive § 2255 motion. We subsequently denied that motion. (Doc. 156).

In 2003, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its holding in Castro v. United States . In Castro, the Court held that before a district court can recharacterize a pro se filing as a litigant's first § 2255 motion, the court must "notify the pro se litigant that it intends to recharacterize the pleading, warn the litigant that this recharacterization means that any subsequent § 2255 motion will be subject to the restrictions on second or successive' motions, and provide the litigant with an opportunity to withdraw the motion or to amend...." Castro v. United States , 540 U.S. 375, 383 (2003). Further, the Court held that "[i]f the [district] court fails to do so, the motion cannot be considered to have become a § 2255 motion for purposes of applying to later motions the law's second or successive restrictions." Id . In turn, the Third Circuit overturned an order of this court in In re Wagner. The Third Circuit found that we recharacterized a motion as a § 2255 motion without notifying the defendant and found that our order barring the defendant's subsequent § 2255 motion as a second motion violated Castro. In re Wagner, 421 F.3d 275 (2005).

On July 7, 2006, citing Wagner, Defendant Cruz filed a motion requesting permission to re-file his § 2255 motion. (Doc. 175). On July 24, 2006, in light of Wagner, we granted permission and ordered Cruz to file his § 2255 motion within thirty days. (Doc. 179). Cruz did so by filing it on August 16, 2006. (Doc. 183). We ultimately denied the motion because it was filed beyond the statute of limitations. (Doc. 189). Cruz filed a request for a certificate of appealability with the Third Circuit, which was denied on August 17, 2007. (Doc. 211). Now, over eight years later, Cruz argues that our order denying his § 2255 motion as untimely should be set aside.

III. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

"[A]n independent equitable action for relief from judgment may only be employed to prevent manifest injustice." In re Machne Israel, Inc., 48 F.App'x 859, 863 (3d Cir. 2002). It is "reserved for those cases of injustices which, in certain instances, are deemed sufficiently gross to demand a departure from rigid adherence to the doctrine of res judicata." United States v. Beggerly , 524 U.S. 38, 46 (1998). "In other words, independent actions in equity must be reserved for extraordinary circumstances." United States v. Burke, No. 92-CR-268-1, 2008 WL 901683 *7 (E.D. Pa. April 2, 2008).

The indispensable elements of an independent action in equity are as follows:

(1) a judgment which ought not, in equity and good conscience, to be enforced; (2) a good defense to the alleged cause of action on which the judgment is founded; (3) fraud, accident, or mistake which prevent the defendant in the judgment from obtaining the benefit of his defense; (4) the absence of fault or negligence on the part of the defendant; and (5) the absence of any adequate remedy at law.

In re Machne Israel, Inc., 48 F.App'x at 863 n.2.

B. Enforcement Would Not Result in Manifest ...


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