Wright v. Phelps et al
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Sue L. Robinson on 6/10/15. (etg, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
DAVID R. WRIGHT,
DAVID PIERCE, Warden, and
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE
STATE OF DELAWARE,
) Civ. No. 12-175-SLR
1. Background. On March 12, 2015, the court denied petitioner's habeas
application after concluding that petitioner's two ineffective assistance of counsel claims
did not warrant relief under§ 2254(d), and that his Fourth Amendment claim was barred
from habeas review pursuant to Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 494 (1976). (D.I. 28 at
9-15) Presently pending before the court is petitioner's motion to alter or amend
judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). (D.I. 34)
2. Standard of Review. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) is "a device used
to allege legal error," United States v. Fiorelli, 337 F.3d 282, 288 (3d Cir. 2003), and may
only be used to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered
evidence. Howard Hess Dental Labs, Inc. v. Dentsply lnt'l Inc., 602 F.3d 237, 251 (3d
Cir. 2010). The moving party must show one of the following in order to prevail on a Rule
59(e) motion: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new
evidence that was not available when the court issued its order; or (3) the need to correct
a clear error of law or fact or to prevent a manifest injustice. See Max's Seafood Cafe v.
Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999). A motion for reargument is not appropriate
to reargue issues that the court has already considered and decided. Brambles USA Inc.
v. Blocker, 735 F. Supp. 1239, 1240 (D. Del. 1990).
3. Discussion. Rule 59(e) states that a "motion to alter or amend a judgment
must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment." Fed. R. Civ. P.
59(e). The court denied petitioner's habeas application on March 12, 2015. (D.I. 28;
D.I. 29) Petitioner filed a notice of appeal on March 16, 2015. (D.I. 30; 0.1. 31)
Petitioner's Rule 59(e) motion is dated April 9, 2015, post-marked April 12, 2015, and
was docketed on April 14, 2015. (D.I. 34) Excluding the day on which the judgment was
entered as dictated by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(a)(1 )(A), and using April 9,
2015 as the relevant filing date under the prisoner mailbox rule, the court concludes that
the instant motion is timely because it was filed on the twenty-seventh day of the
twenty-eight day filing period.
4. As a general rule, the filing of a notice of appeal transfers jurisdiction from the
district court to the appellate court. See Judkins v. HT Window Fashions Corp., 704 F.
Supp. 2d 470, 498 (W.D.Pa. 2010). However, the Third Circuit has explained that
district courts have "jurisdiction to consider a timely Rule 59(e) motion ... as if no notice
of appeal had been filed." Mondrow v. Fountain House, 867 F.2d 798, 800 (3d Cir.
1989). Having concluded that the instant Rule 59(e) motion is timely filed, the court also
concludes that it has jurisdiction to consider the motion. Therefore, the court will
consider the instant Rule 59(e) motion on its merits.
5. Petitioner contends that this court committed errors of law and fact when it
denied his two ineffective assistance of counsel claims (claims one and two) regarding
trial counsel's failure to file a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from his cell
phones that were found in his sister's house. According to petitioner, the Delaware
state courts erroneously determined that he had abandoned his cell phones which, in
turn, led the Delaware state courts to improperly conclude that a suppression motion
would have been unsuccessful which, in turn, led this court to erroneously conclude that
trial counsel's failure to file a suppression motion did not amount to ineffective
6. Petitioner's instant argument does not warrant reconsideration of the court's
denial of claims one and two. Petitioner's reply to the State's answer asserted the same
argument that is contained in petitioner's Rule 59(e) motion, namely, that the Delaware
state courts erroneously concluded he had abandoned his cell phones. (D.I. 25) This
court considered and rejected petitioner's "no abandonment" argument when it reviewed
petitioner's habeas application and, applying the "doubly deferential" standard
applicable to ineffective assistance of counsel claims on federal habeas review, held
that the Delaware Supreme Court reasonably applied Strickland in denying petitioner's
ineffective assistance of counsel claims.
7. Notably, the pending Rule 59(e) motion does not assert an intervening
change in law, the availability of previously unavailable evidence, or a "clear error of
law" of the sort that would compel reargument. Accordingly, the court will not
reconsider its prior denial of claims one and two for failing to satisfy§ 2254(d).
8. The court declines to issue a certificate of appealability because petitioner has
failed to make a "substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right." 28 U.S.C. §
2253(c)(2); see United States v. Eyer, 113 F.3d 470 (3d Cir. 1997); 3d Cir. L.A.R. 22.2
9. Conclusion. For the above reasons, the court will deny petitioner's Rule
59(e) motion. A separate order shall issue. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 58(a)("every judgment
must be set out in a separate document").
ID , 2015
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