Estrada-Jasso v. USA
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER. It is ORDERED that Movant Doroteo Estrada-Jasso's Motion Requesting Relief From an Unjust Sentence Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6) (Dkt. 170 ), which the Court has construed as a motion for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, is DISMISSED FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION. Movant is DENIED a CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY. Signed by Judge B. Lynn Winmill. (caused to be mailed to non Registered Participants at the addresses listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) by (jp)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF IDAHO
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Civil Case No.
Criminal Case No: 4:05-cr-00245-BLW
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND
Pending before the Court is Doroteo Estrada-Jasso’s (“Estrada”) Motion
Requesting Relief From an Unjust Sentence Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6), see
Crim. Dkt. 170, 1 which the Court will construe as a motion for relief under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255. Having reviewed the motion and the record in this case and the underlying
criminal case, the Court will dismiss the motion for lack of jurisdiction.
On December 8, 2005, Estrada was charged with conspiracy to possess/distribute
Throughout this decision, the phrase “Crim. Dkt.” refers to docket entries in the criminal case,
United States v. Estrada-Jasso, Case No. 4:05-cr-245-BLW (D. Idaho). The phrase “Civ. Dkt.” refers to
docket entries in this civil case, United States v. Estrada-Jasso, 4:09-cv-354-BLW (D. Idaho).
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 1
500 grams or more of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1)
and (b)(1)(A). Estrada was also charged with possession with intent to distribute or
distribution of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C).
Estrada pleaded guilty to the conspiracy count, and the government agreed to
dismiss the possession count. See Cr. Dkt. 92 (Plea Agreement). During the sentencing
hearing, and in his briefing filed before the hearing, defense counsel asked the Court to
impose a 120-month sentence. See Cr. Dkt. 112. Counsel argued that such a sentence
was warranted given Estrada’s age (46 at the time of sentencing); his age at the onset of
criminal history (37, with his first felony at 44); and the sentences received by his codefendants.
The Court was not persuaded and imposed a 360-month sentence. During the
sentencing hearing, the Court explained that it was troubled by the amount of
methamphetamine involved, observing that “the defendant here distributed almost 20
kilograms of methamphetamine, by my calculation.” Transcript, Crim. Dkt. 135, at 110.
The Court also observed that although Estrada expressed remorse for what had happened
to him, he did not seem to express concern about the “tens, if not hundreds or perhaps
even thousands of lives that were destroyed through the methamphetamine that he
distributed.” Id. at 112. For these and other reasons, the Court rejected defense
counsel’s argument for a lesser sentence.
Estrada appealed his sentence, but the Ninth Circuit dismissed the appeal
determining that Estrada had waived his right to appeal. See Crim. Dkts. 117, 118, 140.
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Estrada later filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 with this Court. Civ. Dkt. 1. In his
§ 2255 motion, Estrada argued his plea was coerced and that he received ineffective
assistance of counsel at both the trial and appellate level. In June 2010, the Court
dismissed the § 2255 motion, explaining that Estrada’s claims were either “rebutted by
the record” or were “vague and conclusory.” Civ. Dkt. 10, at 19-20.
In May 2017, nearly seven years after the Court dismissed his § 2255 motion,
Estrada filed this motion, asking the Court for relief from his sentence under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6). The central thrust of Estrada’s motion is that his
lengthy sentence – 360 months – is unjust because at his age, he will likely remain in
prison until he dies.
Estrada has labeled his motion as one brought under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 60(b)(6). But it does not matter how the pleading is labeled. Postconviction
law is complex, and few prisoners understand it. So the substance of a motion governs,
not the label. See generally United States v. Washington, 653 F.3d 1057, 1059-60 (9th
Here, the substance of Estrada’s motion reveals that he is challenging the legality
of his detention – not some defect in the integrity of the prior habeas proceedings. In
other words, Estrada is again seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See generally
Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524 (2005). The Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain such a
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 3
The Governing Legal Standards
Federal prisoners claiming the right to be released on the grounds that their
sentence violates the Constitution or laws of the United States may file a motion under 28
U.S.C. § 2255. “As a general rule, § 2255 provides the exclusive procedural mechanism
by which a federal prisoner may test the legality of detention.” Harrison v. Ollison, 519
F.3d 952, 955 (9th Cir. 2008). If the district court denies the relief sought in the § 2255
motion, the prisoner may not appeal that denial without first obtaining a certificate of
appealability under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)(B). To obtain this certificate, the prisoner
must make “a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2253(c)(2), (3).
Additionally, prisoners are generally limited to one motion under § 2255, and may
not bring a “second or successive motion” unless it meets the exacting standards of 28
U.S.C. § 2255(h). Section 2255(h) provides that such a motion cannot be considered
unless it has first been certified by the court of appeals to contain either “(1) newly
discovered evidence that, if proven and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole, would
be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable factfinder
would have found the movant guilty of the offense,” or “(2) a new rule of constitutional
law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was
previously unavailable.” Id. § 2255(h).
Perhaps recognizing that he cannot meet this standard, Estrada characterizes his
motion as one under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6), which allows a party to
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 4
seek relief from a final judgment, and request reopening of his case under a limited set of
circumstances including fraud, mistake, and newly discovered. Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b).
Subsection (b)(6), the provision under which Estrada has brought his motion, permits
reopening when the movant shows “any ... reason justifying relief from the operation of
the judgment” other than the more specific circumstances set out in Rules 60(b)(1)-(5).
Id. 60(b)(6). When faced with such a motion, district courts are tasked with ascertaining
whether the motion is a “true” Rule 60(b)(6) motion, or whether it is a disguised second
or successive § 2255 motions. See Washington, 653 F.3d at 1059-60. Although the
Supreme Court has not established a bright-line rule for spotting true Rule 60(b)(6)
motions, it has held that a motion attacking some defect in the integrity of the habeas
proceedings qualifies. See id. (discussing Gonazlez, 545 U.S. at 523). On the other hand,
if a motion simply challenges the legality of detention, and seeks the movant’s release,
then it is functionally a § 2255 motion and should be treated as such. See, e.g. id.; Curry
v. United States, 507 F.3d 603, 604 (7th Cir. 2007).
With these standards in mind, the Court turns to the substance of Estrada’s motion.
He asks the Court to “correct the unjust sentence he received,” explaining that
[i]n accepting his responsibility, Estrada made the decision to enter a
guilty plea to count one of the indictment. In doing so, he was under the
belief that he would be sentenced to (or near) a 10 year term of
imprisonment. He was wrong. To his surprise, Estrada was sentenced
to serve 360 months in prison. In other words, because Estrada is 67
years old he will die in prison.
Motion, Dkt. 170, at 1, 3. Given these assertions, Estrada is plainly attacking the
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 5
substance of his sentence, not the integrity of the habeas proceedings. The motion must
therefore be treated as a § 2255 motion, and it is a second or successive motion. Because
the Ninth Circuit has not authorized Estrada to file such a motion, this Court lacks
jurisdiction to consider it. The Court will therefore dismiss the motion.
Estrada’s citation to United States v. Holloway, 68 F. Supp. 3d 310 (E.D.N.Y.
2014) does not change this conclusion. Holloway is not binding authority and is
distinguishable in any event.
In Holloway, the defendant and an accomplice carjacked three cars over a two-day
period. He was thus charged with three separate offenses, and he rejected an offer to
plead guilty to one of those charges. He proceeded to trial and was convicted on all three
counts. He was sentenced to prison for 57 years and 7 months, in part because 18 U.S.C.
§ 924(c) required mandatory, consecutive sentences for multiple violations. The district
court noted that Holloway effectively suffered a 42-year penalty for proceeding to trial.
Holloway eventually moved to reopen his § 2255 proceeding under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 60(b). After Holloway had served roughly 19 years of his sentence,
the government withdrew its opposition to Holloways Rule 60(b)(6) motion, indicating
that it did not oppose the granting of the § 2255 motion for the purpose of vesting the
court with the authority to vacate two of the defendant’s § 924(c) convictions.
There are many distinctions between this case and Holloway, but a key one is that
government has not consented to the relief Estrada seeks. Further, unlike in Holloway,
where the Court reluctantly imposed a lengthy sentence based on operation of mandatory
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 6
minimums in § 924(c), this Court indicated that a 360-month sentence was justified. So
although the Court commends Mr. Estrada for his exemplary conduct in prison and his
participation in numerous rehabilitative programs, the Court lacks jurisdiction to consider
the pending motion.
IT IS ORDERED that:
(1) Movant Doroteo Estrada-Jasso’s Motion Requesting Relief From an Unjust
Sentence Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6) (Dkt. 170), which the Court has
construed as a motion for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, is DISMISSED FOR
LACK OF JURISDICTION.
(2) Movant is DENIED a CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY.
DATED: November 14, 2017
B. Lynn Winmill
United States District Court
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 7
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