Fontenelle v. Narcisse et al
ORDER ADOPTING 6 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS. IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that that Plaintiff's objection (Rec. Doc. 7 ) is OVERRULED, and the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendations (Rec. Doc. 6 ) are APPROVED and ADOPTED as the Court's opinion. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff Eric Fontenelle's petition for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Signed by Judge Carl Barbier on 11/19/2021.(am)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
SECTION: “J” (2)
ORDER & REASONS
Before the Court is a petition for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus (Rec. Doc.
1); a response in opposition filed by Defendant (Rec. Doc. 5); the Magistrate Judge’s
Report and Recommendation (Rec. Doc. 6); and an objection filed by Petitioner (Rec.
Doc. 7). Having considered the petition, the applicable law, the Magistrate Judge’s
Report and Recommendation, and Petitioner’s objection, the Court hereby approves
the Report and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge and adopts
it as its opinion in this matter.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
This case arises from Plaintiff’s 2016 guilty plea to two counts of indecent
behavior with a juvenile under age thirteen. (Rec. Doc. 6, at 1–2). Following Plaintiff’s
guilty plea, he submitted a letter requesting that his guilty plea be set aside, a motion
which the trial court denied. (Id. at 2). After a series of unsuccessful appeals, Plaintiff
submitted the instant petition for federal habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
(Id. at 4–5). The matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Currault for a report and
recommendation. Plaintiff subsequently filed an objection to Judge Currault’s report,
claiming that the inadequacy of the library in the detention center in which he is
incarcerated constitutes a state-created impediment under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(B).
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”)
requires that a § 2254 petition be filed within one year from the latest of:
(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of
direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;
(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by
State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States
is removed, if the applicant was prevented from filing by such State
(C) the date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially
recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly recognized
by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on
collateral review; or
(D) the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims
presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due
28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). In his objection, Plaintiff specifically cites the Fifth Circuit
case Egerton v. Cockrell and argues that he was subject to a state-created impediment
because he did not have access to sufficient legal material while incarcerated. 334
F.3d 433 (5th Cir. 2003); (Rec. Doc. 7, at 2–3). In Egerton, the court held that an
inadequate prison library may constitute a state-created impediment under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2244(d)(1)(B). However, since Egerton was decided, most courts have found that its
scope is limited to the unique facts of that case. Specifically, one court noted:
In making that ruling [in Egerton], the Court stopped short of
permitting a dearth of research material to excuse every late filing,
concluding, “an inadequate prison law library may constitute a state
created impediment that would toll the AEDPA’s one-year limitations
period pursuant to § 2244(d)(1)(B).” [Egerton, 334 F.3d] at 439 (emphasis
added). In Egerton, no copy of the AEDPA was available in the prison,
but the prisoner promptly filed his state, and then his federal, habeas
petitions after being moved to a facility with an adequate law library.
As the district court stated in Neal v. Bradley, Civil Action No. 2:05cv67,
2006 WL 2796404 at *2 (N.D. Miss., Sept. 25, 2006), the rule adopted in
Egerton is “extremely circumscribed,” and inmates are attempting to
expand its holding far beyond the narrow set of facts to which it applies.
Egerton was incarcerated prior to 1996, and was unaware of AEDPA’s
passage; and since his facility had no copy of the AEDPA, he had no way
of learning of its passage until after the limitations period had run. Id.
Madison v. Scott, Civ. Action No. 11-cv-00243, 2011 WL 7561510, at *3 (S.D. Miss.
Aug. 4, 2011), adopted, 2012 WL 930932 (S.D. Miss. Mar. 19, 2012); see also Hamm
v. Deville, Civ. Action No. 15-5012, 2016 WL 8578101, at *3-4 (E.D. La. Apr. 20, 2016);
Marshall v. Hedgemon, Civ. Action No. 16-285, 2016 WL 8739198, at *4-5 (E.D. La.
Nov. 4, 2016); Dufrene v. Ramos, No. 16-13822, 2016 WL 6311122, at *3-4 (E.D. La.
Oct. 6, 2016).
Additionally, in 2011, the Fifth Circuit revisited its Egerton decision and noted
the narrowness of its scope. In Krause v. Thaler, the Fifth Circuit wrote:
To prevail, [a petitioner] must allege more than that the library was
inadequate. The Supreme Court has stated: “an inmate cannot establish
relevant actual injury simply by establishing that his prison’s law
library or legal assistance program is subpar in some theoretical sense .
. . [T]he inmate must go one step further and demonstrate that the
alleged shortcomings in the library or legal assistance program hindered
his efforts to pursue a legal claim.”
Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351, 116 S.Ct. 2174, 135 L.Ed.2d 606
(1996) (noting that there is no “abstract, freestanding right to a law
library or legal assistance”); see also Miller v. Marr, 141 F.3d 976, 978
(10th Cir. 1998) (“It is not enough to say that the Minnesota facility
lacked all relevant statutes and case law or that the procedure to request
specific materials was inadequate.”). Rather, he must also show that the
lack of adequate legal materials actually prevented him from timely
filing his habeas petition. See Felder, 204 F.3d at 171 n.9 (5th Cir. 2000)
(holding that where a prisoner filed his habeas petition before he had
access to AEDPA, the lack of access to AEDPA was not an [sic] did not
prevent him from filing an application) . . . .
637 F.3d 558, 561 (5th Cir. 2011). Accordingly, courts have held that the inquiry
turns only on whether a petitioner has shown that the deficiencies in the prison
library actually prevented him from seeking relief in a timely manner. Dufrene, 2016
WL 6311122, at *4.
Here, Fontenelle has failed to make such a showing. Instead, he simply states:
“[T]he facility is . . . really foreign with legal access better yet foreign with federal
rules for state prisoners seeking federal review” and claims that there were “[n]o
AEDPA rules available . . . there’s no legal aid to enlighten petitioner about a
protective federal petition.” (Rec. Doc. 7, at 2–3). Such conclusory allegations, on their
own, are insufficient to establish that the deficiencies in the prison library prevented
petitioner from timely seeking relief. As such, this Court cannot conclude that 28
U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(B) applies in this case and Fontenelle’s petition is, therefore,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that that Plaintiff’s objection (Rec. Doc. 7) is
OVERRULED, and the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendations (Rec. Doc.
6) are APPROVED and ADOPTED as the Court’s opinion.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff Eric Fontenelle’s petition for
issuance of a writ of habeas corpus is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 19th day of November, 2021.
CARL J. BARBIER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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