United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
STENGEL, C. J.
Brown filed a motion “pursuant to Hazel-Atlas Glass
Co. v. Hartford-Empire Co, ” and to Rule 60(d)(3)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,  seeking to have
his judgment of conviction vacated. The government has filed
a response in opposition. For the following reasons, I will
dismiss the motion for lack of jurisdiction.
1991, Mr. Brown was convicted in the Middle District of North
Carolina of bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
2113(a), bank robbery with a dangerous weapon in violation of
18 U.S.C. § 2113(d), and use of a firearm during a bank
robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1). Mr. Brown
was sentenced to 330 months' imprisonment and five years
of supervised release. He appealed to the Fourth Circuit
Court of Appeals, which affirmed the conviction.
Brown then filed petitions in the Middle District of North
Carolina pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, 28 U.S.C. §
2244, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). Each
petition was denied. The District Court in the Middle
District of North Carolina dismissed Mr. Brown's first
Rule 60(b) motion because it deemed it to be a second or
successive § 2255 action. See United States v.
Emanuel Brown, No. 90-cr-240, Document #202.
November 2014, Mr. Brown's probation was transferred
here, to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where he is
currently on supervised release. Assuming that this court
would also have jurisdiction over his North Carolina
conviction, Mr. Brown filed a motion alleging a “fraud
on the court” and seeking to have his conviction
I must agree with the government that this court has no
jurisdiction to address Mr. Brown's conviction. He was
convicted in the Middle District of North Carolina, not in
the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Any attempt to vacate
that conviction must be addressed in the Middle District of
North Carolina. Thus, this district has no authority over his
conviction, and this motion must be dismissed for lack of
it were properly before me, however, this motion would still
fail for lack of jurisdiction. In Hazel-Atlas, the
Supreme Court recognized an exception to the general rule
“that judgments should not be disturbed after the term
of their entry has expired, ” and held that federal
courts have an inherent power to “set aside their
judgments after the expiration of the term at which the
judgments were finally entered . . . under certain
circumstances, one of which is after-discovered fraud.”
Hazel-Atlas, 322 U.S. at 244. To meet the
“demanding standard” and prove a claim of fraud
on the court, petitioner must show there was: “(1) an
intentional fraud; (2) by an officer of the court; (3) which
is directed at the court itself; and (4) that in fact
deceives the court.” Herring v. United
States, 424 F.3d 384, 390 (3d Cir. 2005). “[A]
determination of fraud on the court may be justified only by
‘the most egregious misconduct directed to the court
itself, ' and that it ‘must be supported by clear,
unequivocal, and convincing evidence.'”
however, concerned fraud on the court in the context of a
civil case. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held in
United States v. Washington, 549 F.3d 905 (3d Cir.
2008), that while in civil actions the court has long
exercised “an inherent power to vacate its own judgment
when the judgment was procured by fraud on the court, ”
the same is not true in criminal actions. Id. at
911. The court found that even if federal courts ever had the
inherent power to vacate criminal sentences that were
procured by fraud, whatever the scope of this inherent power,
it does not include the power to develop rules that
circumvent or conflict with the Federal Rules of Criminal
Procedure, and that therefore the only ways to modify or
vacate a sentence after the fact are those explicitly
provided by statutes and the Federal Rules of Criminal
Procedure. Id. at 917 (quoting Carlisle v.
United States, 517 U.S. 416, 426 (1996)).
that even if Mr. Brown could meet the exacting standards of
Hazel-Atlas, the initial question is whether this
court has jurisdiction to consider the merits of his motion.
The Third Circuit has yet to issue a precedential opinion on
whether a post-conviction motion for relief from judgment
under Hazel-Atlas should be treated as a § 2255
motion. Other courts in our district faced with this issue
have followed the jurisprudence surrounding Rule 60(b)
First, the Court must determine whether the motion attacks
the prisoner's underlying judgment of conviction or
sentence, or attacks a prior judgment entered in post-
conviction relief proceedings. See Gonzalez v.
Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 530-36 (2005). If it attacks the
former, it is treated as a collateral attack on the
conviction, and is subject to the limitations of the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. Id.
at 531; see also Nicholas v. Patrick, Civ. A.
06-1680, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62543 (E.D. Pa. May 11, 2015)
(“The court must first determine whether
petitioner's Hazel-Atlas motions are in essence
second or successive habeas petitions”).
United States v. Spikes, No. 08-201-2, 2015 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 124098 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 16, 2015) (internal
citations omitted); United States v. Burnett, No.
08-201, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69722 (E.D. Pa. May 29, 2015);
Nicholas v. Patrick, No. 06-1680, 2015 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 62543 (E.D. Pa. May 13, 2015); United States v.
Rodriguez, No. 98-362-12, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6046
(E.D. Pa. January 18, 2012). Thus, here, if I determine that
Mr. Brown's Hazel-Atlas motion should be treated
like a § 2255 motion, then it is a second or successive
petition. He would then have to procure a certificate of
appealability from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals before
this court could consider the merits.
note that Rule 60(d)(3) is a civil rule and therefore an
inappropriate vehicle to vacate a criminal sentence. The
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure govern “suits of a
civil nature.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 1. Typically,
they do not apply in criminal cases. Mr. Brown has no civil
action pending before this court. The conviction he seeks to
vacate was rendered in a criminal case, not a civil case. The
Supreme Court has explained, however, that there is one
limited situation in which Rule 60 may be invoked by a
federal inmate: where the inmate asserts that a judgment
resolving a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (which is
treated under the law as a civil motion) is invalid due to a
procedural defect. See Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S.
Gonzalez, the petitioner had filed a federal
habeas petition which was dismissed as untimely on
the basis of an interpretation of the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act statute of limitations, later
rejected by the Supreme Court. The Court held that the
petitioner's objection in his Rule 60 motion to the
dismissal of his original Section 2255 petition on this basis
did not present a new claim for relief from the judgment, but
rather a permissible challenge regarding a “nonmerits
aspect of the first federal habeas
proceeding.” Id. at 534. The Court further
held that a motion under Rule 60 ordinarily amounts to a
successive Section 2255 petition, subject to the strict
limitations on such petitions, if it presents a new claim for
relief from the criminal judgment. If, on the other hand, the
“Rule 60(b) motion attacks, not the substance of the
federal court's resolution of a claim on the merits, but
some defect in the integrity of the federal habeas
proceedings, ” it may be allowed. Id. at 532.
enacted the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of
1996 (the “AEDPA”), which, among other things,
established stringent procedural and substantive requirements
that an applicant must satisfy in order to file a
“second or successive” habeas corpus
petition with a district court. The AEDPA's requirements
for filing ...