Simpson v. United States of America
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER re: 14 MOTION for Relief From Judgment Under Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 60(b) filed by Petitioner Christopher Simpson Motion is Denied. Without any remaining arguments as to the statute of limitations ruling, Petitioner ca nnot prevail here. Specifically, because Petitioner cannot properly overcome the statute of limitations issue, which is a pre-requisite for relief here, none of the procedural default arguments found in Part II, Section B can provide Petitioner wi th relief.6 Thus, having failed to overcome the prior statute of limitations ruling, Petitioners Motion will be denied. Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Petitioners "Motion for Relief from Judgment Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)" [ECF No. 14 is DENIED. Signed by District Judge E. Richard Webber on 2/17/15. (EAB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
No. 4:14CV01119 ERW
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner’s “Motion for Relief from Judgment
Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)” [ECF No. 14].
On March 2, 2010, Petitioner pled guilty to one count of Felon in Possession of a
Firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)(a)(1) [Case 4:09CR00120 ERW, ECF No. 41].
Probation’s Presentence Investigation Report recommended Petitioner’s criminal history points
to be 22, with a criminal history category of VI [Case 4:09CR00120 ERW, ECF No. 43].
According to the Presentence Report, Petitioner was considered an Armed Career Criminal
pursuant to Section 4B1.4(a), as he had “three prior felony convictions for crimes of violence
Robbery Second Degree, Aggravated Battery and Residential Burglary” [Case
4:09CR00120 ERW, ECF No. 43 at 6]. Petitioner’s Total Offense Level was 30. On September
28, 2010, the Court sentenced Petitioner, as an Armed Career Criminal, to a term of 180 months
imprisonment [Case 4:09CR00120 ERW, ECF No. 42]. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
upheld the sentence. United States v. Simpson, 419 Fed.Appx. 691, 2011 WL 2473037 (8th Cir.
On June 19, 2014, Petitioner filed his “Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set
Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody” [ECF No. 1]. In dismissing the §
2255 Motion, this Court provided two separate and independent bases.
First, the Court
determined Petitioner’s Motion was “time barred” under “the statute of limitations contained in
28 U.S.C. § 2255(f), which provides for [a] one-year limitations period” [ECF No. 12 at 5]. In
doing so, the Court rejected Petitioner’s contention the Supreme Court’s decision in Descamps v.
United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013), tolled the statute of limitations in his case [ECF No. 12 at
7]. 1 Second, the Court also determined Petitioner’s § 2255 Motion should be “dismissed due to
procedural default” [ECF No. 12 at 7]. Specifically, the Court determined the “sole ground for
relief” asserted in Petitioner’s § 2255 Motion was “essentially the same claim of error addressed
by the Eighth Circuit in his direct appeal. 2 Consequently [Petitioner] is barred from raising that
Specifically, Petitioner had argued “his claim was not time-barred, because the June 20, 2013
Descamps decision established a new rule that could not previously [have] been foreseen and
constitutes a substantive rule narrowing the ACCA’s scope, which applies retroactively to claims
raised in habeas corpus” [ECF No. 12 at 6]. Accordingly, Petitioner contended his Motion was
timely because he filed it within one year of the Descamps decision [ECF No. 12 at 6].
In his § 2255 Motion, Petitioner challenged the ACCA enhancement of his sentence based on
violent felony convictions, specifically referring to his aggravated battery and domestic battery
convictions [ECF No. 1 at 4]. In his direct appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals,
Petitioner had claimed this Court erred in enhancing his sentence under the ACCA based on his
three prior convictions for violent felonies. U.S. v. Simpson, 419 Fed.Appx. 691, 691 (8th Cir.
2011). Specifically, Petitioner argued his conviction for second-degree robbery did not qualify
for the ACCA enhancement. Id. The Eighth Circuit found “no occasion to doubt that this
offense counted under § 924(e),” and that court also mentioned this Court had found the
domestic battery conviction to be a violent felony, noting Petitioner had failed to challenge that
holding on appeal. Id. at 692.
Again, in dismissing Petitioner’s § 2255 Motion, this Court found the sole ground of
relief asserted in the Motion to “essentially [be] the same claim of error addressed by the Eighth
Circuit” [ECF No. 12 at 7]. However, this Court also noted the Eighth Circuit’s mention of
Petitioner’s failure to challenge, on appeal, the violent felony ruling regarding the domestic
battery conviction. Accordingly, to the extent Petitioner’s ground in his § 2255 Motion was not
“essentially the same claim” as the issue discussed by the Eighth Circuit, this Court alternatively
found the claim to be procedurally defaulted for failure to raise the issue on direct appeal [See
ECF No. 12 at 8 (“Generally, absent a showing of either cause and prejudice, or actual
same argument in a § 2255 motion” [ECF No. 12 at 7]. Subsequently, Petitioner filed the
pending “Motion for Relief from Judgment Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)” [ECF No. 14].
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) allows a party to seek relief from a final judgment
and request the reopening of the case under a limited set of enumerated circumstances. Gonzalez
v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 528 (2005); Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). In particular, while Rule 60(b)(1)-(5)
entitles a moving party to relief from judgment on several specific grounds, Rule 60(b)(6)
includes a catch-all category, permitting the reopening of a case when the movant shows “any
other reason” justifying relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(1)-(6). Here, Petitioner’s Motion fails to
identify the exact Rule 60(b) provision under which he seeks relief. The Court will assume
Petitioner intended to bring his Motion under Rule 60(b)(6).
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals “has maintained consistently that Rule 60(b) was
not intended as a substitute for a direct appeal from an erroneous judgment.” Spinar v. Board of
Regents of South Dakota, 796 F.2d 1060, 1062 (8th Cir. 1986) (citing Hartman v. Lauchli, 304
F.2d 431, 432 (8th Cir. 1962); Fox v. Brewer, 620 F.2d 177, 180 (8th Cir. 1980)) (internal
quotations omitted). Simply asserting a court made a legal error does not set forth a ground for
relief cognizable under Rule 60(b). Spinar, 796 F.2d at 1062. Additionally, all motions made
under Rule 60(b) must “be made within a reasonable time.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(c)(1). Further,
the Supreme Court requires all movants seeking relief under Rule 60(b)(6) to show
“extraordinary circumstances” justifying the reopening of the final judgment. Gonzalez, 545
U.S. at 535 (citing Ackermann v. United States, 340 U.S. 193, 199 (1950)); see also Harley v.
innocence, federal criminal defendants who fail to preserve a claim by objecting at trial and
raising it on direct appeal are procedurally barred from raising the claim in a § 2255 motion.”)
(citing Massaro v. U.S., 538 U.S. 500, 504 (2003))].
Zoesch, 413 F.3d 866, 871 (8th Cir. 2005) (“Relief is available under Rule 60(b)(6) only where
exceptional circumstances have denied the moving party a full and fair opportunity to litigate his
claim and have prevented the moving party from receiving adequate redress.”). However, the
Supreme Court has recognized “[s]uch circumstances will rarely occur in the habeas context.”
The Court previously dismissed Petitioner’s § 2255 Motion for two separate and
independent reasons: (1) failure to abide by the statute of limitations; and (2) a “procedural
default.” Regarding (1), Petitioner, in his 60(b) Motion, merely argues this Court made a legal
error in reaching its statute of limitations conclusion. Regarding (2), Petitioner makes similar
legal-error arguments about the Court’s “procedural default” ruling, and also presents arguments
seeking excusal of the default. For the reasons stated infra, the Court will deny Petitioner’s
Petitioner’s Legal-Error Arguments
Part II of the pending Motion is entitled, “The District Court’s Dismissal Rests on Clear
Error” [ECF No. 14 at 3]. In Section A of this part, Petitioner argues the Court’s prior statute of
limitations ruling constitutes legal error. Specifically, Petitioner disagrees with the Court’s
following determinations: (a) Descamps did not announce a “new rule”; and (b) the Supreme
Court has not made the Descamps decision retroactive [See ECF No. 12 at 6-7 (containing this
Court’s rulings)]. Petitioner cites numerous cases in arguing this Court erred in determining
Descamps was not retroactive [ECF No. 14 at 3-11]. For instance, Petitioner claims the Supreme
Court has made the Descamps decision “retroactive in collateral proceedings” through “multiple
holdings” [ECF No. 14 at 3-4]. Petitioner concludes, “In short, the Court’s memorandum
dismissing the retroactive reach of Descamps rests on mistake and stands in conflict with the
foregoing authorities” [ECF No. 14 at 11]. 3 These legal-error arguments constitute Petitioner’s
only asserted grounds for relief relating to the statute of limitations issue.
Similarly, Section B of Part II of the pending Motion also includes legal-error arguments,
this time relating to the Court’s prior “procedural default” ruling. 4 Petitioner argues this Court
“also clearly erred in denying relief on the basis that his right to habeas relief from his illegal
sentence is procedurally barred or defaulted” [ECF No. 14 at 12]. Specifically, Petitioner claims
he “did not procedurally default his pending challenge to his 15 year ACCA sentence because
Although the Court’s present ruling is based on finding Petitioner’s legal-error arguments to be
improper for a Rule 60(b) Motion, the Court notes Petitioner’s arguments fail to establish
retroactivity through multiple holdings. Petitioner cites no Supreme Court case explicitly and
directly finding the Descamps decision to be retroactive. Rather, Petitioner claims the Supreme
Court has made the Descamps decision “retroactive in collateral proceedings” indirectly through
“multiple holdings” [ECF No. 14 at 3-4 (citing Tyler v. Cain, 533 U.S. 656 (2001))]. Under this
“multiple holdings” theory, “[m]ultiple cases can render a new rule retroactive only if the
holdings in those cases necessarily dictate retroactivity of the new rule.” Tyler, 533 U.S. at 666.
If the Supreme Court “hold[s] in Case One that a particular type of rule applies retroactively to
cases on collateral review and hold[s] in Case Two that a given rule is of that particular type,
then it necessarily follows that the given rule applies retroactively to cases on collateral review.
In such circumstances,” the Supreme Court “can be said to have ‘made’ the given rule retroactive
to cases on collateral review.” Id. at 668-69 (O’Connor, J., concurring). The Tyler case makes
clear the Supreme Court is the only entity which can make a new rule retroactive; the combined
action of the Supreme Court and the lower courts cannot make a new rule retroactive. Id. at 663.
Thus, achieving retroactivity through “multiple holdings” requires multiple Supreme Court
holdings. Here, Petitioner provides a Supreme Court case generally proclaiming all “new
substantive rules” to “apply retroactively” [ECF No. 14 at 4], but he does not cite to a Supreme
Court case holding the Descamps decision is a “new substantive rule.” Petitioner merely argues
Descamps should be found to constitute such a “new substantive rule.” Without a second
Supreme Court case actually identifying the Descamps case as a “new substantive rule,”
Petitioner’s “multiple holding” argument fails. See Tyler, 533 U.S. at 666 (applying the same
logic to a discussion of prior holdings in a different context) (“The only holding in Sullivan is
that a Cage error is structural error. There is no second case that held that all structural-error
rules apply retroactively or that all structural-error rules fit within the second Teague
exception.”). Thus, the legal arguments propounded by Petitioner here, in opposition to the
Court’s prior statute of limitations ruling, would not provide him with relief even if they had
been properly brought before the Court.
However, as mentioned in Note 6, infra, Petitioner’s discussion of “procedural default” also
contains other types of arguments, including those relating to the “cause and prejudice” and
“miscarriage of justice” standards.
the ability to challenge a sentence exceeding the statutory maximum cannot be waived and, by
analogy, cannot be defaulted” [ECF No. 14 at 12].
In making these legal-error arguments, Petitioner has mistaken the purpose of Rule 60(b).
With these arguments, Petitioner is merely contending this Court erred as a matter of law in
dismissing the § 2255 Motion on statute of limitations and procedural default grounds. Such
arguments do not set forth a ground for relief cognizable under Rule 60(b), and the Court need
not address the merits of these arguments. See Spinar, 796 F.2d at 1062. Therefore, to the
extent Petitioner’s Motion asserts grounds for relief based on legal errors allegedly made by this
Court in its dismissal of Petitioner’s § 2255 Motion, this Motion will be denied.
In its prior ruling, the Court discussed the statute of limitations issue and the procedural
default issue as two separate and independent bases for dismissing Petitioner’s § 2255 Motion.5
Stated another way, Petitioner’s § 2255 Motion would have been dismissed even if the Court had
not found a “procedural default.” This being the case, a successful Rule 60(b) claim convincing
this Court “to set aside the prior ruling and consider the matter more fully to reach the merits of
[Petitioner’s] Descamps claim” [ECF No. 14 at 11] would need to address both of the Court’s
prior bases of dismissal. However, in the portion of his Motion dedicated to attacking the statute
of limitations ruling (Part II, Section A), Petitioner only makes the type of legal-error argument
discussed above, which the Court has determined does not set forth a ground for relief
cognizable under Rule 60(b). Having failed to set forth a ground for relief cognizable under
Rule 60(b) relating to the statute of limitations ruling, Petitioner has failed to establish
In dismissing Petitioner’s § 2255 Motion, the Court stated, “Moreover, even if [Petitioner’s]
claim was not time-barred, his claim would nevertheless be dismissed due to procedural default”
[ECF No. 12 at 7].
“exceptional circumstances” with regard to that issue.
Without any remaining arguments as to the statute of limitations ruling, Petitioner cannot
prevail here. Specifically, because Petitioner cannot properly overcome the statute of limitations
issue, which is a pre-requisite for relief here, none of the procedural default arguments found in
Part II, Section B can provide Petitioner with relief. 6 Thus, having failed to overcome the prior
statute of limitations ruling, Petitioner’s Motion will be denied.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Petitioner’s “Motion for Relief from Judgment Under
Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)” [ECF No. 14] is DENIED.
So Ordered this 17th Day of February, 2015.
E. RICHARD WEBBER
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Admittedly, the latter portion of Section B in Petitioner’s Motion includes arguments separate
from any allegations the Court made legal errors in its prior ruling. For instance, after arguing
the Court’s prior procedural default ruling was made in error, Petitioner then contends he can
establish “cause and prejudice” [ECF No. 14 at 15-19]. He also argues his procedural default
should be excused because he suffered a “miscarriage of justice” [ECF No. 14 at 15]. However,
because Petitioner has not properly brought any arguments relating to the statute of limitations
issue, and therefore cannot prevail, the Court need not address the remaining arguments in
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