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Scott v. Stapanik

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 26, 2017

GREGORY SCOTT, Petitioner,
v.
JOHN R. STAPANIK, WARDEN OF SCI, DALLAS, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM

          GENE E.K. PRATTER United States District Judge

         On September 24, 1998, the Honorable William H. Yohn denied Petitioner Gregory Scott's § 2254 habeas corpus petition. Mr. Scott now brings this “Independent Action for Relief from Order Denying Section 2254 Motion or, Alternatively, for Relief Under Rule 60(d) F.R.Civ.P., ” which the Court will construe as a motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(d)(1). Because the motion is in substance a successive habeas corpus petition, this Court has no jurisdiction to consider Mr. Scott's motion until he obtains an order from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals authorizing this Court to consider his motion.

         I. Background

         The Pennsylvania Superior Court summarized the facts of this case as follows:

For several weeks prior to the murder, [Mr. Scott] and the victim, Marlin Ware, engaged in several confrontations culminating on July 7, 1986, with an argument over a crushed cigarette pack. During the fight that followed, the victim pushed [Mr. Scott] and [Mr. Scott] ran into his girlfriend's house to arm himself with a ten inch knife. [Mr. Scott] ran to the victim's house but the victim was not at home. [Mr. Scott] waved the knife about and told the victim's sister that he was going to kill her brother. Approximately one half hour later, [Mr. Scott, ] still armed with a knife, confronted Ware, who put down the bottle he was carrying, and implored [Mr. Scott] to fight without the knife. [Mr. Scott] responded by chasing the victim down the street until the victim fell. [Mr. Scott] landed on top of him and stabbed him in the back. [Mr. Scott] fled the scene and Ware died soon after as a result of the stab wound to his lungs and liver.

Commonwealth v. Scott, No. 1076 EDA 2014, 2015 WL 7019058, at *1 (Pa. Super. Ct. June 5, 2015) (citation omitted). Mr. Scott was convicted of first-degree murder and possession of an instrument of crime following a bench trial in 1987.

         Mr. Scott's trial counsel also represented Mr. Scott during his direct appeal, which concluded unsuccessfully in 1989 when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Mr. Scott's petition for appeal. See Id. at *2.

         Mr. Scott filed a counseled petition for relief pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act (“PCRA”) in 1992 alleging multiple claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Mr. Scott's PCRA petition was denied by the PCRA court. The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Mr. Scott's petition for appeal. Id.

         Mr. Scott filed a § 2254 habeas corpus petition in 1997 alleging two claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Judge Yohn, adopting Magistrate Judge Arnold C. Rapoport's Report and Recommendation, denied Mr. Scott's § 2254 petition on the merits, finding that Mr. Scott failed to demonstrate that he was prejudiced by any of his trial counsel's alleged errors. Scott v. Stepanik, No. 97-5355 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 24, 1998) (Doc. No. 15). The Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied Mr. Scott's application for a certificate of appealability. Id. (Doc. No. 19).

         Mr. Scott filed a second counseled PCRA petition in 2012 alleging claims of ineffective assistance of both trial counsel and post-conviction counsel. Mr. Scott also asserted a claim of actual innocence. The PCRA court dismissed the petition as time barred and the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed. Scott, 2015 WL 7019058, at *8.

         Mr. Scott now seeks relief from Judge Yohn's September 24, 1998 Order denying his § 2254 habeas corpus petition.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(d)(1) authorizes a district court to “entertain an independent action to relieve a party from a judgment, order, or proceeding.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(d)(1). Courts generally analyze motions brought pursuant to Rule 60(d) in the same manner as motions brought pursuant to Rule 60(b). Rhone v. Larkins, Civ. No. 99-743, 2016 WL 3181757, *6 (E.D. Pa. June 8, 2016); Sharpe v. United States, Crim. No. 02-771, 2010 WL 2572636, at *2 (E.D. Pa. June 22, 2010). Accordingly, just as in the Rule 60(b) context, a court must first determine whether a motion styled as a Rule 60(d) motion is, in substance, an improperly filed successive habeas corpus petition. Sharpe, 2010 WL 2572636, at *2.[1] The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has explained that

in those instances in which the factual predicate of a petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion attacks the manner in which the earlier habeas judgment was procured and not the underlying conviction, the Rule 60(b) motion may be adjudicated on the merits. However, when the Rule 60(b) motion seeks to collaterally attack the petitioner's ...

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