United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
STENGEL, C. J.
James Armstrong Jr. requests leave to amend his pro se
petition with a counseled petition for relief under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255. Mr. Armstrong's original petition was timely
filed on August 4, 2015. The Antiterrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) statute of limitations
expired on June 1, 2016. Therefore, the claims in Mr.
Armstrong's amended, counseled petition must "relate
back" to the claims in his original petition in order
for a court to consider them, pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 15.
Armstrong's motion for leave to amend includes several
claims that relate back to his original petition and several
that do not. The discussion below analyzes which claims
relate back (and may proceed to briefing) and which do not
(and may not proceed).
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Armstrong requests leave to amend his pro se § 2255
petition with a counseled petition. (Doc No. 178.) On
September 4, 2012, a jury found the petitioner guilty of
several drug charges and of possession of a firearm in
furtherance of drug trafficking. (Doc. No. 101.) He was
sentenced to 15 years in prison. (Doc. No. 178 ¶ 8.) Mr.
Armstrong subsequently appealed his conviction and sentence,
and on January 26, 2015, the Third Circuit affirmed the
judgment against him. (Doc. Nos. 137, 154.)
August 4, 2015, Mr. Armstrong filed a pro se § 2255
petition setting forth seven grounds for relief. (Doc No.
156.) The government filed its response on October 16, 2015.
(Doc. No. 164.) On September 8, 2016, 1 appointed a federal
defender to represent Mr. Armstrong, stating that the
appointment was to submit "a counseled petition for writ
of habeas corpus pursuant to § 2255."
(Doc. No. 168.) Due to a conflict of interest with the
federal defender, I appointed Mr. Armstrong's current
counsel on October 25, 2016. (Doc. No. 170.) On October 27,
2016, after a telephone conference, I granted Mr.
Armstrong's request to file a motion for leave to file a
counseled, amended § 2255 petition. (Doc. No. 172.)
Armstrong filed his motion for leave to amend and his
supporting brief on March 2, 2017. (Doc. Nos. 178, 179.) On
April 20, 2017, the government filed its response. (Doc. No.
181.) The petitioner filed his reply on May 4, 2017. (Doc.
No. 182.) In his motion for leave to amend, Mr. Armstrong
argues that amendment is necessary "to adequately and
fully assert all the grounds upon which his § 2255
Motion should be granted." (Doc. No. 178 ¶ 22.)
§ 2255, a petitioner has one year from the date his
conviction becomes final to file a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus challenging the validity of his sentence.
§ 2255(a), (f)(1). A petition for a writ of habeas
corpus "may be amended or supplemented as provided in
the rules of procedure applicable to civil actions."
§ 2242. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15, a
court may grant leave to amend a pleading "freely...
when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2).
15(c)(1) permits amendment to a pleading after the statute of
limitations has expired when the amended pleading
"relates back" to the original pleading-in other
words, when it "asserts a claim or defense that arose
out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out-or
attempted to be set out-in the original pleading."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(1); see also Mayle v. Felix, 545
U.S. 644, 655 (2005) (stating that the "original
pleading" is the petition in a habeas proceeding).
Mayle, the Supreme Court noted that the "key
words" of Rule 15 are "conduct, transaction, or
occurrence." 545 U.S. at 656. The claims in an amended
habeas petition concern the same "conduct, transaction,
or occurrence" as the claims in the original petition,
and relate back to that petition, when they "are tied to
a common core of operative facts." Id. at 650,
653, 664 (rejecting as too broad the Ninth Circuit's
holding that a "transaction" was the
defendant's "trial and conviction in state
court"); Hodge v. United States, 554 F.3d 372,
378 (3d Cir. 2009) (applying Mayle and holding that
an ineffective assistance claim in an amended petition and a
right to appeal claim in an original petition were "tied
to a common core of operative facts" because both
concerned counsel's same "erroneous advice").
An amended habeas petition does not relate back "when it
asserts a new ground for relief supported by facts that
differ in both time and type from those the original pleading
set forth." Mayle, 545 U.S. at 650.
Armstrong may file a counseled § 2255 petition to the
extent that its claims relate back to his pro se petition. As
set forth below, the claims in subsections B, C, G, and H,
may proceed because they relate back to the original
petition, and the claims ...