Hughbanks v. Hudson
CORRECTED DECISION AND ORDER ON MOTION TO AMEND - Hughbanks' Motion for Leave to File an Amended Petition (ECF No. 203) is GRANTED. He shall file not later than April 24, 2017, a Third Amended Petition including all (but only) the grounds for relief he has been permitted to plead heretofore. Signed by Magistrate Judge Michael R. Merz on 4/12/2017. (kpf)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
WESTERN DIVISION AT CINCINNATI
Case No. 1:07-cv-111
- vs Magistrate Judge Michael R. Merz
STUART HUDSON, Warden,
CORRECTED DECISION AND ORDER ON MOTION TO AMEND
This capital habeas corpus case is before the Court on the Petitioner’s Motion for Leave
to File an Amended Petition (ECF No. 203). The Warden opposes the Motion (ECF No. 204)
and Hughbanks has filed a Reply in Support (ECF No. 209).
The parties have unanimously consented to plenary magistrate judge jurisdiction in this
case under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(ECF No. 13).
Hughbanks seeks to add a Twenty-Second Ground for Relief as follows:
Gary Hughbanks Execution Under Ohio Law Will Violate The
Eighth Amendment Because Any Method That The Ohio
Department Of Corrections And Rehabilitation Employs Has A
Substantial, Objectively, Intolerable Risk Of Causing Unnecessary,
Severe Pain, Suffering Degradation, Humiliation, And/Or
(ECF No. 203-1, PageID 15783.)
Hughbanks’ original Petition was filed February 12, 2007, pleading fourteen grounds for
relief, but not including any constitutional attack on lethal injection as a method of execution.
On May 2, 2012, the Court allowed an amendment to add the following claims:
Fifteenth Ground for Relief: Ohio’s lethal injection protocol will
cause Petitioner to be executed in a manner that constitutes cruel
and unusual punishment. United States Constitution, Eighth and
Sixteeenth [sic] Ground for Relief: Ohio’s lethal injection
protocol will cause petitioner to be executed in a manner that
violates equal protection. United States Constitution, Eighth and
(ECF No. 131, PageID 1798-99.) The Amended Petition including these claims was then filed
May 22, 2012 (ECF No. 134).
On February 12, 2016, Hughbanks again moved to amend (ECF No. 182) which the
Court granted in part on June 14, 2016 (ECF No. 187) resulting in the filing of Petitioner’s
Second Amended Petition on June 24, 2016 (ECF No. 188). That document includes the
notation that Hughbanks’ Lethal Injection Habeas Claim (Ground Twenty-Two) was “dismissed
without prejudice.” Id. at PageID 15245. Actually, the Court had denied leave to add Ground
Twenty-Two without prejudice to its renewal within thirty days of issuance of the mandate by
the Sixth Circuit in the Stanley Adams habeas corpus case (ECF No. 187, PageID 15236). The
instant motion was timely filed on that schedule.
The general standard for considering a motion to amend under Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a) was
enunciated by the United States Supreme Court in Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178 (1962):
If the underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a plaintiff
may be a proper subject of relief, he ought to be afforded an
opportunity to test his claim on the merits. In the absence of any
apparent or declared reason -- such as undue delay, bad faith or
dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure
deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice
to the opposing party by virtue of any allowance of the
amendment, futility of amendment, etc. -- the leave sought should,
as the rules require, be "freely given."
371 U.S. at 182. See also Fisher v. Roberts, 125 F.3d 974, 977 (6th Cir. 1997)(citing Foman
In considering whether to grant motions to amend under Rule 15, a court should consider
whether the amendment would be futile, i.e., if it could withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6). Hoover v. Langston Equip. Assocs., 958 F.2d 742, 745 (6th Cir. 1992); Martin v.
Associated Truck Lines, Inc., 801 F.2d 246, 248 (6th Cir. 1986); Marx v. Centran Corp., 747 F.2d
1536 (6th Cir. 1984); Communications Systems, Inc., v. City of Danville, 880 F.2d 887 (6th Cir.
1989); Roth Steel Products v. Sharon Steel Corp., 705 F.2d 134, 155 (6th Cir. 1983);
Neighborhood Development Corp. v. Advisory Council, 632 F.2d 21, 23 (6th Cir. 1980); United
States ex rel. Antoon v. Cleveland Clinic Found., 978 F. Supp. 2d 880, 887 (S.D. Ohio
2013)(Rose, J.); William F. Shea, LLC v. Bonutti Research Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39794,
*28 (S.D. Ohio March 31, 2011) (Frost, J.).
Likewise, a motion to amend may be denied if it is brought after undue delay or with
dilatory motive. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178 (1962); Prather v. Dayton Power & Light Co.,
918 F.2d 1255, 1259 (6th Cir. 1990); Bach v. Drerup, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35574, *1
(Ovington, M.J.); Crawford v. Roane, 53 F.3d 750, 753 (6th Cir. 1995), cert denied, 517 U.S. 112
(1996)(amendment should be denied if it “is brought in bad faith, for dilatory purposes, results in
undue delay or prejudice to the opposing party, or would be futile.”). In Brooks v. Celeste, 39
F.3d 125 (6th Cir. 1994), the court repeated and explicated the Foman factors, noting that
“[d]elay by itself is not a sufficient reason to deny a motion to amend. Notice and substantial
prejudice to the opposing party are critical factors in determining whether an amendment should
be granted. Id. at 130, quoting Head v. Jellico Housing Authority, 870 F.2d 1117, 1123 (6th Cir.
1989). These considerations apply as well in capital habeas corpus cases. Coe v. Bell, 161 F.3d
320, 341 (6th Cir. 1998), quoting Brooks, supra.
The Warden opposes the requested amendment on that grounds that it would be futile
because it could not withstand a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) because the
proposed new claim is not cognizable in habeas corpus and is barred by the AEDPA one-year
statute of limitations (Opposition, ECF No. 204).
Hughbanks replies that his proposed new ground is cognizable under the authority of
Adams v. Bradshaw, 826 F.3d 306, 320-21 (6th Cir. 2016)(Adams III ).1
In Adams I the circuit court held, over Ohio’s objection, that a challenge to the method of
lethal injection could be brought in habeas corpus as well as in a § 1983 action. That is to say,
availability of the § 1983 cause of action did not logically imply the absence of a § 2254 cause of
action. Attempting to obey Adams I, this Court permitted amendments of habeas petitions to add
lethal injection claims and indeed treated those claims as newly arising whenever Ohio’s lethal
There are three published opinions of the Sixth Circuit in Stanley Adams habeas corpus case: Adams v. Bradshaw,
644 F.3d 481, 483 (6th Cir. 2011); Adams v. Bradshaw, 817 F.3d 284 (6th Cir. March 15, 2016); and Adams v.
Bradshaw, 826 F.3d 306 (6th Cir. June 13, 2016), referred to herein as Adams I, Adams II, and Adams III
injection protocol was amended. This reading informed the Magistrate Judge’s allowance of the
Amended Petition (ECF No. 68).
Then the Supreme Court appeared to call this Court’s practice into question with its
decision in Glossip v. Gross, 135 S.Ct. 2726 (2015):
Petitioners contend that the requirement to identify an alternative
method of execution contravenes our pre-Baze [v. Rees, 533 U.S.
35 (2008)] decision in Hill v. McDonough, 547 U. S. 573, 126 S.
Ct. 2096, 165 L. Ed. 2d 44 (2006), but they misread that decision.
The portion of the opinion in Hill on which they rely concerned a
question of civil procedure, not a substantive Eighth Amendment
question. In Hill, the issue was whether a challenge to a method of
execution must be brought by means of an application for a writ of
habeas corpus or a civil action under §1983. Id., at 576, 126 S. Ct.
2096, 165 L. Ed. 2d 44. We held that a method-of-execution
claim must be brought under §1983 because such a claim does
not attack the validity of the prisoner’s conviction or death
sentence. Id., at 579-580, 126 S. Ct. 2096, 165 L. Ed. 2d 44.
135 S.Ct. at 2738(emphasis added).
Changing course, this Court concluded the “must be
brought” language precluded what it had been doing under Adams I. Then, in Adams II as
clarified by Adams III, the Sixth Circuit decided Glossip did not implicitly overrule Adams I:
Adams challenged the constitutionality of lethal injection on direct
appeal, asserting that "[d]eath by lethal injection constitutes cruel
and unusual punishment and denies due process under the state and
federal constitutions." The Ohio Supreme Court rejected this
claim, explaining it had "previously rejected similar arguments."
Adams, 817 N.E.2d at 56 (citing State v. Carter, 89 Ohio St. 3d
593, 2000 Ohio 172, 734 N.E.2d 345, 358 (Ohio 2000)). Adams
again challenged the constitutionality of execution by lethal
injection in his federal habeas corpus petition. The district court
denied this claim, noting that "lethal injection is the law of the
republic. No federal court has found the lethal injection protocol to
be unconstitutional." Adams, 484 F. Supp. 2d at 796 (citation
As an initial matter, we note our recent holding that lethal injection
does not violate the Constitution. See Scott v. Houk, 760 F.3d 497,
512 (6th Cir. 2014) ("Simply put, lethal injection does not violate
the Constitution per se . . . ."). In Scott, a similar challenge to the
implementation of lethal injection was raised, as a panel of this
court observed that "Scott's petition alleges that lethal injection
'inflicts torturous, gratuitous and inhumane pain, suffering and
anguish upon the person executed.'" Id. at 511. Accordingly, the
Ohio Supreme Court's denial of Adams's challenge to the
constitutionality of lethal injection as a means of execution did not
constitute an unreasonable application of Supreme Court
The Supreme Court's decision in Glossip does not alter our
precedent. Glossip concerned a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action
challenging Oklahoma's execution protocol. . . .
Lastly, notwithstanding the warden's observation that a method-ofexecution challenge can only be brought in a § 1983 action under
Hill v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 573 (2006), Adams can bring this
claim in a § 2254 proceeding. As the warden submits, Glossip
stated that Hill "held that a method-of-execution claim must be
brought under § 1983 because such a claim does not attack the
validity of the prisoner's conviction or death sentence." Glossip,
135 S. Ct. at 2738. As we observed in Adams, 644 F.3d at 483,
however, Adams's case is distinguishable from Hill because
Adams argues that lethal injection cannot be administered in a
constitutional manner, and his claim "could render his death
sentence effectively invalid." Cf. Hill, 547 U.S. at 580. Our
decision in Adams is consistent with the Supreme Court's
reasoning in Nelson, which suggested that, under a statutory
regime similar to Ohio's, "a constitutional challenge seeking to
permanently enjoin the use of lethal injection may amount to a
challenge to the fact of the sentence itself." 541 U.S. at 644. Thus,
to the extent that Adams challenges the constitutionality of lethal
injection in general and not a particular lethal-injection protocol,
his claim is cognizable in habeas. Adams, 644 F.3d at 483.
However, as the Supreme Court observed in Glossip, a challenge
to a particular procedure that concedes the possibility of an
acceptable alternative procedure is properly brought in a § 1983
action. Glossip, 135 S. Ct. at 2738.
Adams v. Bradshaw, 826 F.3d 306, 318-21 (6th Cir. 2016), cert den. sub nom. Adams v. Jenkins,
137 S. Ct. 814, 196 L. Ed. 2d 602 (2017)(Adams III ). By denying certiorari, the Supreme Court
passed up a chance to clarify the meaning of Glossip as it relates to bringing lethal injection
claims in habeas corpus.
As this Magistrate Judge understands it, the current state of the law in the Sixth Circuit
after Adams III is that habeas corpus will lie to challenge “the constitutionality of lethal injection
in general” to wit, that “lethal injection cannot be administered in a constitutional manner, and
[that] claim ‘could render [Petitioner’s] death sentence effectively invalid.’” Adams III, quoting
Hill v. McDonough, 547 U.S. at 580.
Adams III supports the cognizability of Hughbanks’ new proposed lethal injection claim
which is a general claim of the type recognized as valid in Adams III : “no matter what protocol
it uses, Ohio cannot constitutionally execute me under the Eighth Amendment.” It is not per se
claims of the form “lethal injection is always and everywhere unconstitutional.” Such a claim
would be precluded by precedent, as Adams III recognizes. The Warden’s assertion that the
proposed Ground for Relief fails to state a claim on which habeas corpus relief can be granted is
overruled on the basis of Adams III .
Statute of Limitations
The Warden asserts this new Ground for Relief is barred by the statute of limitations, 28
U.S.C. § 2244(d), because Hughbanks’ conviction “has been final for more than a decade.”
(ECF No. 204, PageID 15860).
Hughbanks’ response is to point to Ohio’s current lethal injection protocol, adopted
October 7, 2016, and this Court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding that method
of execution in In re: Ohio Execution Protocol Litig (Phillips, Tibbetts, & Otte), ___ F. Supp. 3d
___, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11019 (S.D. Ohio Jan 26, 2017)(Merz, M.J.), affd., In re: Ohio
Execution Protocol, ___ F.3d ___, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 5946 (6th Cir. Apr. 6, 2017).
Hughbanks argues that these occurrences and perhaps others are “newly arising factual
predicates” for habeas corpus relief which “require amendment of his lethal injection claim for
relief.” (Reply, ECF No. 209, PageID 15875)
Newly Discovered Facts versus Newly Arising Claims
While these and other new facts may well be relevant to litigating Hughbanks’ general
lethal injection invalidity habeas corpus claim, that does not mean that such a claim is newly
arising every time new relevant facts occur or are discovered.
However, the affirmance in Adams III of the cognizability decision made in Adams I does
not logically imply that all the procedural incidents of the Adams I period are now reinstated.
The fact that a general lethal injection invalidity claim can be pleaded in habeas does not imply
that a new general lethal injection invalidity claim arises every time the protocol changes or
some other relevant facts occur. If the claim is truly general – Ohio can never constitutionally
execute me by lethal injection no matter what changes it makes in the protocol or administration
of the protocol – that claim arises when a person is sentenced to be executed by lethal injection
in Ohio. Adams III plainly implies that later-discovered or indeed later-occurring evidence may
be introduced in habeas to prove the general invalidity claim. But it does not imply that a new
general invalidity claim arises every time a relevant fact changes.
The Sixth Circuit has held that the statute of limitations for § 1983 lethal injection claims
begins to run anew every time the protocol is amended. Cooey (Beuke) v. Strickland, 604 F.3d
939, 942 (6th Cir. 2010). During the period when Adams I was the governing decision, this Court
was extending that holding to habeas, but without a good legal basis for doing so. Section 1983
litigation, at least in the capital context, is forward looking. Thus every time the State adopts a
new arguably unconstitutional practice, on death row or elsewhere, the two-year limitations
period for challenging that new practice begins.
The general law, made outside the death penalty context, is that in all constitutional tort
actions, the court borrows the statute of limitations for personal torts from the State where the
claim arose. Hardin v. Straub, 490 U.S. 536 (1989). The statute of limitations under Ohio law
for actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is two years. Ohio Revised Code § 2305.10.
Nadra v. Mbah, 119 Ohio St. 3d 305 (2008); Banks v. City of Whitehall, 344 F.3d 550, 551 (6th
Cir. 2003), citing Browning v. Pendleton, 869 F.2d 989 (6th Cir. 1989)(en banc). The statute of
limitations begins to run "when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is
the basis of his action." Trzebuckowski v. City of Cleveland, 319 F.3d 853, 856 (6th Cir. 2003),
citing Kuhnle Bros., Inc. v. County of Geauga, 103 F.3d 516 (6th Cir. 1997), quoting Sevier v.
Turner, 742 F.2d 262, 273 (6th Cir. 1984). In determining when the cause of action accrues in §
1983 cases, the Sixth Circuit looks to the event that should have alerted the typical lay person to
protect his or her rights. Id. citing Dixon v. Anderson, 928 F.2d 212, 215 (6th Cir. 1991). See
also Bell v. Ohio State University, 351 F.3d 240, 247 (6th Cir. 2003); Hughes v. Vanderbilt
University, 215 F.3d 540, 548 (6th Cir. 2000).
While this logic is fully applicable to § 1983 actions, the statute of limitations for habeas
cases, 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b), is completely a creature of federal law. In habeas in general, the
cause of action arises from the imposition of an unconstitutional detention; under § 2254 from
detention pursuant to an unconstitutional state court judgment. The cause of action arises when
the sentence is imposed. Of course it does not become final until some later date for purposes of
starting the running of the statute of limitations. Neither Hughbanks nor the other death row
inmates with whom he shares counsel has argued how their “newly arising claims” theory fits
within 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b).
Thus this Court declines to accept the rule that a habeas corpus lethal injection invalidity
claim “arises” for limitations purposes every time the Ohio protocol is amended or some other
fact relevant to the claim occurs.
In Adams III and previously, the Sixth Circuit has held that evidence obtained by a death
row inmate in a parallel § 1983 action can be used in support of a habeas corpus lethal injection
invalidity claim. See Scott v. Houk, 760 F.3d 497 (6th Cir. 2014); accord, Frazier v. Jenkins, 770
F.3d 485 (6th Cir. 2014). Hughbanks is a plaintiff in In re: Ohio Execution Protocol Litig., Case
No. 2:11-cv-1016, and can use evidence gathered there in support of his habeas lethal injection
Having rejected the “newly arising” theory of the statute of limitations, the Magistrate
Judge believes Hughbanks, as well as other capital habeas petitioners, is entitled to equitable
consideration of his situation. The state of the law on this point has been confused during the
time this case has been pending. Until Adams I it was reasonable for counsel to understand that
method of execution claims had to be brought in § 1983 proceedings. Following Adams I, this
Court accepted the extension of the logic of that case and of Cooey v. Strickland, 604 F.3d 939
(6th Cir. 2010), that not only did new § 1983 claims arise whenever the protocol was amended,
but so did habeas claims on the same substantive basis. On that basis, counsel could reasonably
have concluded they had a year from adoption of a new protocol to amend a client’s habeas
petition to add claims “newly arising” under that new protocol. Although this Court has now
concluded on the basis of Adams III and Landrum that the cognizability, second-or-successive,
and limitations questions must be kept separate, capital habeas petitioners should not be
penalized for following the Court’s lead during that period between Adams I and Adams III.
The State of Ohio has not claimed any prejudice would result from this approach since it will
have to litigate the lethal injection invalidity question in the § 1983 case in any event.
For the reasons set forth above, Hughbanks’ Motion for Leave to File an Amended
Petition (ECF No. 203) is GRANTED. He shall file not later than April 24, 2017, a Third
Amended Petition including all (but only) the grounds for relief he has been permitted to plead
April 12, 2017.
s/ Michael R. Merz
United States Magistrate Judge
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