Saquil-Orozco v. United States of America
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying in its entirety 24 Pro Se Motion for Reconsideration of 22 Order on Motion to Vacate/Set Aside/Correct Sentence (2255) (CR12-4016-MWB). Signed by Judge Mark W Bennett on 8/5/15. (copy w/nef mailed to pro se petitioner) (djs)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA
No. C 13-4085-MWB
(No. CR 12-4016-MWB)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND
ORDER REGARDING MOTION FOR
TO] FED. R. CIV. P. 59(E)
This case is before me on petitioner Daniel Saquil-Orozco’s July 8, 2015, Motion
For Reconsideration [Pursuant To] FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e) (Motion For Reconsideration)
(docket no. 24). In his Motion For Reconsideration, Saquil-Orozco challenges my June
17, 2015, Memorandum Opinion And Order Regarding Petitioner’s Motion Under 28
U.S.C. § 2255 To Vacate, Set Aside, Or Correct A Sentence (Ruling On § 2255 Motion)
(docket no. 22). In the challenged ruling, I denied Saquil-Orozco’s September 4, 2013,
Motion For Vacation Of Sentence Pursuant To 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (§ 2255 Motion) (Civ.
docket no. 1) in its entirety and denied him a certificate of appealability. Saquil-Orozco
now argues that reconsideration is appropriate, because (1) I failed to give a meaningful
ruling on the Brady violation that he claimed; and (2) he is entitled to § 2255 relief,
because I improperly participated in the plea negotiations that led to his conviction. The
respondent did not file any response to Saquil-Orozco’s Motion For Reconsideration.
As the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained, “The Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure do not account for ‘motions to reconsider.’” Nelson v. American Home Assur.
Co., 702 F.3d 1038, 1043 (8th Cir. 2012); accord Hallquist v. United Home Loans, Inc.,
715 F.3d 1040, 1044 n. 2 (8th Cir. 2013) (“[T]he Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do
not contemplate a ‘motion to reconsider.’”); Ackerland v. United States, 633 F.3d 698,
701 (8th Cir. 2011) (“[W]e have discouraged the use of a self-styled motion to reconsider
‘that is not described by any particular rule of federal civil procedure.’ “ (quoting Sanders
v. Clemco Indus., 862 F.2d 161, 168 (8th Cir. 1988)). Nevertheless, courts “typically
construe such a filing as a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend the judgment or as a Rule
60(b) motion for relief from judgment.” Ackerland, 633 F.3d at 701 (citing Auto Servs.
Co. v. KPMG, L.L.P., 537 F.3d 853, 855 (8th Cir. 2008)); accord Hallquist, 715 F.3d
at 1044 n. 2 (also noting that “motions to reconsider” are “treated as a motion to alter or
amend judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e)”) (citing Auto Servs Co.,
537 F.3d at 855)). “While it is sometimes difficult to discern whether a motion to
reconsider arises under Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b),” Saquil-Orozco has expressly identified
Rule 59(e) as the basis for his Motion For Reconsideration, and, in any event, in his case
as in Ackerland, “the distinction makes no difference here.” Id.
Rule 59(e) provides only 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). As
to grounds for such relief, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained that Rule
59(e) is not the proper vehicle to raise new arguments. See Concordia College Corp. v.
W.R. Grace & Co., 999 F.2d 326, 330 (8th Cir. 1993); Hagerman v. Yukon Energy
Corp., 839 F.2d 407, 414 (8th Cir. 1988). Rather, its proper, limited purpose is
“correcting ‘manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.’”
Innovative Home Health Care, Inc. v. P.T.-O.T. Assocs. of the Black Hills, 141 F.3d
1284, 1286 (quoting Hagerman, 839 F.2d at 414); accord United States ex rel. Raynor
v. National Rural Utils. Co-op. Fin. Corp., 690 F.3d 951, 948 (8th Cir. 2012) (“‘Rule
59(e) motions serve the limited function of correcting manifest errors of law or fact. . . .’”
(quoting United States v. Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer Dist., 440 F.3d 930, 933 (8th
Cir. 2006)). Even though a Rule 59(e) motion may be based on “newly discovered
evidence,” it “cannot be used to introduce new evidence, tender new legal theories, or
raise arguments which could have been offered or raised prior to entry of judgment.” Id.
(citing Hagerman, 839 F.2d at 414). Rule 59(e) also cannot be used to assert a completely
different legal theory. Schoffstall v. Henderson, 223 F.3d 818, 827 (8th Cir. 2000). A
district court has “broad discretion” in deciding whether or not to grant a Rule 59(e)
motion. Raynor, 690 F.3d at 948.
Saquil-Orozco’s first challenge to my Ruling On § 2255 Motion is a proper Rule
59(e) challenge, in that it asserts that my ruling on his § 2255 Motion contained manifest
errors of law or fact, because it provided no “meaningful ruling on the Brady violation”
that he claimed. See Raynor, 690 F.3d at 948 (explaining the function of a Rule 59(e)
motion); Innovative Home Health Care, Inc., 141 F.3d at 1286 (same). That challenge
is without merit, however. Notwithstanding that I found that Saquil-Orozco could not
overcome procedural default of his Brady claim, I still considered that claim on the
merits. See Ruling On § 2255 Motion at 23-26. More specifically, Saquil-Orozco
contends that the trial transcript does not show any cross-examination of a police officer
after his recantation of his identification of the suspect as “bald”—which Saquil-Orozco
was not. Saquil-Orozco is simply wrong. As I pointed out in the Ruling On § 2255
Motion, when trial counsel learned of the discrepancy between the police officer’s report
and his trial testimony about whether or not the suspect was “bald,” trial counsel both
engaged in adequate efforts to impeach the prosecution’s case on the basis of the
discrepancy and moved for a mistrial. Id. at 24-25. I had also previously noted that the
officer had explained, in his trial testimony, that the incorrect reference to the suspect
being bald in his report was likely the result of either his misstatement or a faulty
transcription of his recorded oral dictation. See id. at 3 (citing Trial Transcript at 300:8307:23).
I also considered and rejected Saquil-Orozco’s contention that he was
prejudiced by the alleged Brady violation. Id. at 25-26. Thus, Saquil-Orozco’s first
ground for reconsideration is denied.
Saquil-Orozco’s second challenge to my Ruling On § 2255 Motion is that I
improperly participated in the plea negotiations that led to his conviction. In contrast to
his first challenge, this second one is not a proper Rule 59(e) challenge. Rather, it plainly
and improperly attempts to raise new arguments, see Concordia College Corp., 999 F.2d
at 330; Hagerman, 839 F.2d at 414, and tender new legal theories for § 2255 relief, see
Schoffstall, 223 F.3d at 827. Indeed, because it attacks more than “‘some defect[s] in
the integrity of the federal habeas proceedings,’” where it seeks a second chance to have
the merits determined favorably on the basis of an entirely new claim of error in the trial
court, it is not properly an argument for reconsideration at all, but potentially a second
or successive § 2255 motion. See Ward v. Norris, 577 F.3d 925, 932 (8th Cir. 2009)
(quoting Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 532 (2005)).
Yet, even if Saquil-Orozco’s second challenge were properly construed as a Rule
59(e) motion to reconsider, it must be denied. Assuming for the sake of argument that
my comments and conduct in response to Saquil-Orozco’s motion for mistrial exceeded
a judge’s proper “limited” role under Rule 11—which consists of “‘acceptance or
rejection of agreements after a thorough review of all relevant factors,’” see United States
v. Thompson, 770 F.3d 689, 695 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting United States v. Gallington,
488 F.2d 637, 640 (8th Cir. 1973))—and trespassed into the zone of “participation” by
“giv[ing] an opinion as to the strength of the government’s case in an effort to convince
[Saquil-Orozco] to plead guilty,” see id. (citing United States v. Hemphill, 748 F.3d 666,
674 (5th Cir. 2014)), Saquil-Orozco has failed to show that any error on my part affected
his substantial rights. See id. at 696. In the context of his case, Saquil-Orozco cannot
show that there was a “‘reasonable probability that but for the error, he would not have
entered a guilty plea.’” Id. (quoting United States v. Todd, 521 F.3d 891, 895 (8th Cir.
2008)). As I explained in my Ruling On § 2255 Motion, the possible “prejudice” at issue
was to Saquil-Orozco’s ability to evaluate whether to go to trial or to accept a plea
agreement, in light of the alleged Brady violation, but any such “prejudice” was fully
cured when the prosecution agreed to reoffer and Saquil-Orozco accepted the pretrial plea
offer after the alleged Brady violation was revealed. There is not the merest hint that
Saquil-Orozco would have obtained some better result by continuing to a jury verdict,
obtaining a completely new trial, or demanding a different plea agreement. Although he
complains that he was only offered (and ultimately accepted) the same plea offer after the
alleged Brady violation as he was offered before trial, when he was unaware of the police
officer’s recantation of the identification of a “bald” suspect, nothing better was on offer
from the prosecution nor was anything better the least bit probable.
Finally, Saquil-Orozo has not convinced me that either his original arguments or
his arguments in his Motion For Reconsideration warrant a certificate of appealability.
He has not shown, and I do not believe, that any of his claims are debatable among
reasonable jurists, that a court could resolve any of the issues raised in those claims
differently, or that any question raised in those claims deserves further proceedings. See
28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)(B); Miller–El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 335-36 (2003); Cox v.
Norris, 133 F.3d 565, 569 (8th Cir. 1997).
THEREFORE, petitioner Daniel Saquil-Orozco’s July 8, 2015, Motion For
Reconsideration [Pursuant To] FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e) (Motion For Reconsideration)
(docket no. 24) is denied in its entirety.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED this 5th day of August, 2015.
MARK W. BENNETT
U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA
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