FUSCALDO v. NOGAN et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge John Michael Vazquez on 9/28/2016. (seb)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
PATRICK NOGAN, et al,
Civ. No. 16-4198 (JMV)
John Vincent Saykanic, Esq.
1135 Clifton Ave.
Clifton, NJ 07013
Counsel for Petitioner
VAZQUEZ, District Judge
On or about June 30, 2016, Petitioner Michael Fuscaldo, was granted permission by the
Third Circuit Court of Appeals to file a second petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28
U.S.C. § 2254. (ECF No. 1-8). Accordingly, Petitioner’s second or successive habeas corpus
petition and all supporting documentation were transferred to this Court and resulted in the
instant case. On July 20, 2016, this case was administratively terminated due to Petitioner’s
failure to either pay the filing fee or submit an application to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF
No. 2). On August 16, 2016, Counsel for Petitioner submitted a motion for leave to proceed in
forma pauperis as well as a request to be appointed as counsel under the Criminal Justice Act
(“CJA”) pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3006(a)(2). (ECF No. 4).
The Court finds Petitioner’s in forma pauperis application to be complete, and he is
granted leave to proceed without the prepayment of fees. See Local Civil Rule 81.2(b).
However, for the reasons set forth below, Counsel’s application to be appointed as CJA counsel
for Petitioner is DENIED.
In his motion, Counsel explains that he was retained as private counsel for Petitioner in
November of 2011. (Mot. ¶ 15, ECF No. 4-1). He filed a motion for a new trial in the Law
Division of the New Jersey Superior Court based on newly discovered evidence which was
denied on March 28, 2013. (Id. at ¶ 15-16). The Appellate Division affirmed the denial on June
12, 2015, and the New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification on November 6, 2015. (Id. at ¶
16). Because Petitioner had previously filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254, Counsel was required to obtain permission from the Third Circuit before filing a
second federal habeas petition, see 28 U.S.C. § 2244, and Counsel states that he commenced
work on that application on May 13, 2016. Accordingly, in his present motion, Counsel requests
that this Court assign him as CJA counsel nunc pro tunc to May 13, 2016 so that he can be
reimbursed for the work spent on preparing the § 2244 application to the Third Circuit. (Id. at ¶
As an initial matter, to the extent Counsel seeks reimbursement for work performed
before the Court of Appeals, he must request such relief from the Third Circuit. Therefore, to the
extent Counsel’s motion seeks nunc pro tunc CJA counsel designation to the time he began
drafting the § 2244 application to the Third Circuit, his request is denied.
As set forth above, Petitioner was granted permission to file a second petition for writ of
habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and the instant case was initiated before this Court
on July 12, 2016. Therefore, this Court will consider whether Counsel should be appointed as
Petitioner’s CJA attorney effective that date.
The Criminal Justice Act (“CJA”), was enacted “to promote the cause of criminal justice
by providing for the representation of defendants who are financially unable to obtain an
adequate defense in criminal cases in the courts of the United States.” 18 U.S.C. § 3006A. A
federal district court may appoint representation for any financially eligible person seeking
habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 when the interests of justice so require. See 18 U.S.C. §
3006A(2)(B); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) (“The court may request an attorney to represent
any person unable to afford counsel.”).
In determining whether the interests of justice require appointment of counsel, the Court
must examine whether or not the petitioner has presented a meritorious claim. See Dime v.
Aviles, No. 15-1410, 2015 WL 1114143, at *1 (D.N.J. Mar. 10, 2015) (citing Reese v. Fulcomer,
946 F.2d 247, 263-64 (3d Cir. 1991)) (other citations omitted); see also Gibbs v. Bartkowski, No.
11-1137, 2015 WL 7432347, at *2 (D.N.J. Nov. 23, 2015). Next, the Court must determine
whether the appointment of counsel will benefit the petitioner and the Court by examining the
legal complexity of the case and the petitioner’s ability to present his claims and investigate
facts. See id. (citing Reese, 946 F.2d at 264; Parham v. Johnson, 126 F.3d 454, 457-58 (3d Cir.
1997)) (other citations omitted). “Where these issues are ‘straightforward and capable of
resolution on the record,’ or when the petitioner has ‘a good understanding of the issues and the
ability to present forcefully and coherently his contentions,’ the court would not abuse its
discretion in declining to appoint counsel.” Id. (citations and quotations omitted); see also Paul
v. Attorney General of New Jersey, 1992 WL 184358 at * 1 (D.N.J. July 10, 1992) (stating that
the factors the court should consider in appointing counsel include: “(i) the likelihood of success
on the merits; (ii) the complexity of the legal issues raised by the complaint; and (iii) the ability
of the prisoner to investigate and present the case.”).
Here, even assuming that Petitioner has presented a meritorious claim, Counsel has failed
to address the remaining factors which district courts must consider in determining whether the
appointment of CJA counsel is warranted. Namely, Counsel has not described in his motion the
complexity of the legal issues raised in the Petition or the ability of the Petitioner to present his
case on his own. Finally, the Court notes that although Petitioner is deemed indigent based on
his in forma pauperis application, Counsel concedes that he has been retained as private counsel
for Petitioner since November of 2011. Therefore, it is unclear to this Court why CJA
appointment and reimbursement for fees is necessary at this juncture.
For the reasons set forth above, the application to proceed in forma pauperis is
GRANTED, and Counsel’s request to be assigned as CJA counsel nunc pro tunc is DENIED
without prejudice. This Court notes that it is obligated to conduct an independent gatekeeping
inquiry under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(4) to determine whether the claims presented in the Petition
satisfy the requirements of a second or successive habeas corpus application. See Goldblum v.
Klem, 510 F.3d 204, 219-20 (3d Cir. 2007). This review will be conducted in due course.
An appropriate Order will be entered.
s/ John Michael Vazquez
JOHN MICHAEL VAZQUEZ
United States District Judge
At Newark, New Jersey
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