STOKES v. THE DIST. ATTY. PHIL, et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION, FILED. SIGNED BY HONORABLE TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE ON 1/29/13. 1/29/13 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE, COUNSEL AND E-MAILED.(fb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF THE
COUNTY OF PHILADELPHIA, et al.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 98-5182
January 29, 2013
Petitioner, a state prisoner serving a life sentence for murder imposed in 1984,
seeks relief from Judge Katz’s May 18, 1999 judgment denying his petition for a writ of
habeas corpus as time-barred. Petitioner argues that, in light of the Supreme Court’s
recent decision in Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S. Ct. 1309 (2012), we should relieve him from
that judgment because he is entitled to equitable tolling.
Because petitioner seeks relief from an allegedly incorrect procedural ruling, his
motion is a true 60(b) motion rather than an unauthorized second or successive petition
for habeas relief. See Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 532 (2005); see also Adams v.
Thaler, 679 F.3d 312, 319 (5th Cir. 2012). Thus, we shall consider his motion.
To obtain relief from a judgment based on an intervening change in law under Rule
60(b)(6), a movant must establish “extraordinary circumstances” that justify setting aside
the judgment. See Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 535. “[I]ntervening developments in the law by
themselves rarely constitute the extraordinary circumstances required for relief under Rule
60(b)(6).” Morris v. Horn, 187 F.3d 333, 341 (3d Cir. 1999); see also Gonzalez, 545 U.S.
at 536. Furthermore, a petitioner cannot establish extraordinary circumstances if the newly
announced rule does not affect the integrity of the court’s earlier judgment. See Wilson v.
Fenton, 684 F.2d 249, 251 (3d Cir. 1982) (per curiam) (no extraordinary circumstances
when new Supreme Court decision did not apply to the petitioner’s circumstances).
In Martinez, the Supreme Court held that “[w]here, under state law, claims of
ineffective assistance of trial counsel must be raised in an initial-review collateral
proceeding, [i.e., a collateral proceeding that provides the first occasion for a defendant to
raise a claim that trial counsel was ineffective,] a procedural default will not bar a federal
habeas court from hearing a substantial claim of ineffective assistance at trial if, in the
initial-review collateral proceeding, there was no counsel or counsel in that proceeding was
ineffective.” 132 S. Ct. at 1320. “Martinez does not mention statute of limitations
arguments under § 2244(d) or the effect its holding should have on timeliness analyses
[with respect to] requests for habeas relief[.]” Williams v. Ives, Civ. A. No. 12-652, 2012
WL 3939981, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Sept. 10, 2012). Accordingly, several courts have held that
it has no bearing on whether a habeas petition was timely filed. Id.; Chambers v. Medina,
Civ. A. No. 12-1808, 2012 WL 4478984, at *5 (D. Colo. Sept. 28, 2012) (“[A]lthough
Martinez might be relevant if [petitioner] were seeking to overcome a procedural default in
the context of exhaustion of state court remedies, nothing in Martinez demonstrates the
existence of any extraordinary circumstances sufficient to justify equitable tolling of the
one-year limitation period.”); Terry v. Cathel, Civ. A. No. 12-5263, 2012 WL 4504590, at
*4 (D.N.J. Sept. 27, 2012) (“No aspect of the Martinez decision implicated, addressed or
even reflected on the issue of untimeliness of the litigant's federal habeas petition.”);
Stromberg v. Varano, Civ. A. No. 09-401, 2012 WL 2849266, at *5 n.37 (E.D. Pa. July 11,
2012) (“Martinez is not controlling in this case because the Court denied the Petition as
time-barred, not procedurally defaulted.”). Therefore, Martinez does not provide a basis
for disturbing the judgment in this case.
To the extent that petitioner claims he is entitled to equitable tolling independently
of Martinez because he did not receive his legal work in a timely manner and because
post-conviction counsel failed to notify him that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied
review in his case, he still is not entitled to relief under 60(b).
While his petition was
pending, petitioner argued, as he does in the instant motion, that he should be entitled to
equitable tolling because he did not receive his legal work in time to file a habeas petition
within the limitations period. To the extent petitioner alleges that Magistrate Judge Wells
and District Judge Katz erred in rejecting that argument, or in failing to hold a hearing on
the issue, he is not entitled to relief because legal error “without more does not justify the
granting of relief under Rule 60(b)(6).”1 Pridgen v. Shannon, 380 F.3d 721, 728 (3d Cir.
2004). Similarly, petitioner could have argued for equitable tolling based on post-conviction
counsel’s alleged failure to keep him informed about his case while his habeas petition was
pending. His attempt to do so now, over a decade later, renders his motion clearly
untimely. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(c)(1) (a motion made pursuant to Rule 60(b)(6), such as
Petitioner’s, must be made “within a reasonable time”).
For the above reasons, petitioner’s motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Rule
60(b)(6) shall be denied.
Despite petitioner’s allegations of error, the Third Circuit affirm ed the judgm ent in this case on
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