HOLDEN v. THE ATTORNEY GENERAL ODF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Stanley R. Chesler on 1/8/2021. (sm)
Case 2:19-cv-00401-SRC Document 21 Filed 01/08/21 Page 1 of 4 PageID: 1022
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
PHILIP A. HOLDEN,
Civil Action No. 19-401 (SRC)
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, et al.,
IT APPEARING THAT:
1. On or about January 10, 2019, Petitioner filed his habeas petition in this matter. (ECF
2. Following briefing, on December 1, 2020, this Court issued an order and opinion
denying Petitioner’s habeas petition and denying him a certificate of appealability. (ECF Nos. 1819).
3. On January 4, 2021, this Court received from Petitioner a motion brought pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), in which Petitioner requests that this Court vacate its order
denying his habeas petition, permit him to raise a completely new claim based on allegedly “newly
discovered” evidence of third-party guilt, and stay this matter pending the exhaustion of this
“newly discovered” claim. (ECF No. 20).
4. “Rule 60(b) allows a party to seek relief from a final judgment, and request reopening
of his case, under a limited set of circumstances including fraud, mistake, and newly discovered
evidence.” Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 528 (2005). “The remedy provided by Rule 60(b)
is extraordinary, and special circumstances must justify granting relief under it.” Jones v.
Case 2:19-cv-00401-SRC Document 21 Filed 01/08/21 Page 2 of 4 PageID: 1023
Citigroup, Inc., Civil Action No. 14-6547, 2015 WL 3385938, at *3 (D.N.J. May 26, 2015)
(quoting Moolenaar v. Gov’t of the Virgin Islands, 822 F.3d 1342, 1346 (3d Cir. 1987). While
Rules 60(b)(1)-(5) permit reopening a judgment for specific, enumerated reasons including fraud
or mistake, Rule 60(b)(6) permits a party to seek relief form a final judgment for “any . . . reason
that justifies relief.” “The standard for granting a Rule 60(b)(6) motion is a high one. The movant
must show ‘extraordinary circumstances’ to justify reopening a final judgment.” Michael v.
Wetzel, 570 F. App’x 176, 180 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 536). “[A] showing
of extraordinary circumstances involves a showing that without relief from the judgment, ‘an
“extreme” and “unexpected” hardship will result.’” Budget Blinds, Inc. v. White, 536 F.3d 244,
255 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Mayberry v. Maroney, 558 F.2d 1159, 1163 (3d Cir. 1977)).
5. Where a habeas petitioner seeks in his Rule 60(b) motion to raise a new claim for relief
which was not contained in his original motion to vacate sentence, including claims raising “newly
discovered evidence,” his motion is not in fact a Rule 60(b) motion, but instead “is in substance a
successive habeas petition and should be treated accordingly.” Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 530-32.
District Courts are without jurisdiction to consider a second or successive habeas petition unless
and until the petitioner seeks and is granted leave to file such a motion by the appropriate court of
appeals. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3). Where a habeas petitioner files a second or successive habeas
petition without previously been granted leave to do so by the court of appeals, this Court is
required to either dismiss the motion for lack of jurisdiction or transfer the motion to the Third
Circuit as an application for leave to file a second or successive § 2255 motion. See, e.g., United
States v. Hawkins, 614 F. App’x 580, 582 (3d Cir. 2015). Transfer, however, will only be
warranted where the claim presented in the second or successive petition prima facie satisfies one
of the criteria for the granting of leave presented in § 2244(b)(2). Id. Only two types of claims
Case 2:19-cv-00401-SRC Document 21 Filed 01/08/21 Page 3 of 4 PageID: 1024
will on their face be able to satisfy those criteria – claims based on newly discovered evidence
which was not previously available and which would establish by clear and convincing evidence
that no reasonable juror could find the petitioner guilty, or “a new rule of constitutional law, made
retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable.”
28 U.S.C. § 22244(b)(2).
6. Under Gonzalez, Petitioner’s Rule 60(b) motion is clearly in substance a second or
successive habeas petition – it seeks to have the denial of his petition vacated so that he can pursue
an entirely new ground for relief. As Petitioner has not received certification from the Court of
Appeals, this Court is without jurisdiction to hear that claim. Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 530-32; 28
U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3). This Court must therefore dismiss the motion unless it prima facie satisfies
one of the two criteria set out in § 2244(b)(2), in which case it must be transferred to the Court of
Appeals. Although Petitioner pins his hopes on allegedly newly discovered evidence – police
reports from the fall of 2010 indicating another individual was in possession of a pistol which he
believes may have been the murder weapon in his case some eight months after the fact – Petitioner
has utterly failed to present any evidence that would even prima facie indicate that these reports
could not have been discovered previously due to reasonable diligence. Likewise, the reports
Petitioner submits do not even prima facie meet the requirement that a newly discovered evidence
claim “if proven . . . would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that, but for
constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found the applicant guilty.” Although
Petitioner believes these reports show that another individual possessed the handgun used in his
case eight months after the fact, they establish no such thing – the reports Petitioner submits show
only that this other individual possessed a pistol of the same caliber and a similar sweatshirt eight
months after the shooting in which Petitioner was clearly identified by two eye witnesses, and that
Case 2:19-cv-00401-SRC Document 21 Filed 01/08/21 Page 4 of 4 PageID: 1025
this pistol was used in an unrelated incident for which this other individual was criminally charged.
On its face, Petitioner’s “newly discovered evidence” claim would not prima facie satisfy the
requirements of § 2244(b)(2), and his successive habeas petition disguised as a Rule 60(b) motion
must therefore be dismissed without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction. Hawkins, 614 F. App’x at
In conclusion, Petitioner’s Rule 60(b) motion (ECF No. 20) is DISMISSED
WITHOUT PREJUDICE as a successive habeas petition brought without leave of the Court of
Appeals. An appropriate order follows.
/s/ Stanley R. Chesler
Hon. Stanley R. Chesler,
United States District Judge
Dated: January 8, 2021
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?