WATSON v. THOMAS et al
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF CHIEF MAGISTRATE JUDGE RUETER, AND OVERRULING THE OBJECTIONS OF PETITIONER TRACEY WATSON. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED THAT THE PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS IS DISMISSED WITHOUT A HEARING, AND THAT THE CLERK OF COURT SHALL MARK THIS MATTER CLOSED FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES. SIGNED BY HONORABLE JAMES KNOLL GARDNER ON 10/31/11. 11/1/11 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE' AND E-MAILED.(ky, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JOHN C. THOMAS;
THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF THE
COUNTY OF PHILADELPHIA,
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE
O R D E R
NOW, this 31st day of October, 2011, upon consideration
of the following documents:
(1) Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person
in State Custody filed by petitioner Tracey Watson
pro se on January 5, 20101 (Document 1);
(2) Response to Petition for Writ of Habeas
Corpus, which response was filed by respondents on
May 14, 2010 (Document 9);
(3) Report and Recommendation of Chief United
States Magistrate Judge Thomas J. Rueter filed
May 25, 2010 (Document 10);
(4) Written Objections to Report & Recommendation,
which objections were filed by petitioner on
June 8, 2010 (Document 12); and
Although the docket entries reflect that the petition for writ of
habeas corpus was filed January 7, 2010, petitioner Tracey Watson indicated
next to his signature that he executed the petition on January 5, 2010.
(See petition at 19.) Pursuant to the prison mailbox rule, this court will
consider the date of filing as January 5, 2010. The prison mailbox rule deems
a motion to have been filed on the date the petitioner delivered his petition
to prison officials to mail. Burns v. Morton, 134 F.3d 109, 113
(3d Cir. 1997).
(5) Response to Petitioner's Objections to Report
and Recommendation, which response was filed by
respondents on June 24, 2010 (Document 15),
it appearing after review of this matter that Chief Magistrate
Judge Rueter's Report and Recommendation correctly determined the
legal and factual issues presented in the petition for habeas
IT IS ORDERED that the objections of petitioner to the
Report and Recommendation of Chief Magistrate Judge Rueter are
When objections are filed to a magistrate judge’s report and
recommendation, I am required to make a de novo determination of those
portions of the report, findings or recommendations made by the magistrate
judge to which there are objections. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Rule 72.1(IV)(b)
of the Rules of Civil Procedure for the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Furthermore, district judges have wide
latitude regarding how they treat recommendations of the magistrate judge.
See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 100 S.Ct. 2406, 65 L.Ed.2d 424
Indeed, by providing for a de novo determination, rather than a
de novo hearing, Congress intended to permit a district judge, in the exercise
of his or her sound discretion, the option of placing whatever reliance the
court chooses to place on the magistrate judge’s proposed findings and
conclusions. I may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part any of the
findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. Raddatz, supra.
Petitioner is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional
Institution Rockview in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, where he is serving a
sentence of eight-to-twenty-years imprisonment, imposed by the Court of Common
Pleas of Philadelphia County. Because petitioner became a fugitive,
petitioner received an in absentia trial, and a jury convicted him of
possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, in violation of
Section 13 of The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, Act of
April 14, 1972, P.L. 233, No. 64, § 13, as amended, 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(30).
The factual and procedural history underlying petitioner's request for federal
habeas relief is well-summarized in the Report and Recommendation at pages
1-2, and is incorporated here.
Petitioner raises eight numbered objections to the Report and
Recommendation. Although petitioner’s objections are not clearly
differentiated, it appears that most of petitioner’s objections challenge
Chief Magistrate Judge Rueter's determination that petitioner's time-barred
habeas petition is not entitled to equitable tolling.
(Footnote 2 continued):
(Continuation of footnote 2):
Specifically, petitioner contends that the one-year statute of
limitations for habeas petitions should be equitably tolled because petitioner
alleges that the trial judge had a conflict of interest, and petitioner
contends that he timely made a motion for recusal which was improperly denied.
In addition, the remainder of petitioner's objections appear to re-argue the
merits of the claims raised in his underlying habeas petition.
I conclude that petitioner's objections regarding equitable
tolling are without merit. As correctly determined by Chief Magistrate Judge
Rueter, petitioner's habeas petition is time-barred pursuant to the
Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). 28 U.S.C.
§ 2244(d). Petitioner does not appear to challenge that his petition is
time-barred pursuant to the AEDPA. Thus, this court can only consider the
merits of petitioner’s habeas petition if the statute of limitations is
subject to equitable tolling.
Petitioner is entitled to have the statute of limitations
equitably tolled if he establishes that, in seeking federal habeas relief,
(1) he exercised reasonable diligence in pursuing his rights; and (2) some
extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and prevented him from timely
filing. Holland v. Florida, __ U.S. __, __, 130 S.Ct. 2539, 2562,
177 L.Ed.2d. 130, 145 (2010). Petitioner bears the burden of showing that he
diligently pursued his rights, and that an extraordinary event prevented him
from timely filing. Urcinoli v. Cathel, 546 F.3d 269, 273 (3d Cir. 2008).
I conclude, as also correctly determined by Chief Magistrate Judge
Rueter, that the statute of limitations should not be equitably tolled.
Petitioner's objections completely fail to address how petitioner was
prevented from timely filing his habeas petition. Petitioner's objections
likewise fail to describe any actions he took that show he exercised
reasonable diligence in pursuing his rights. Petitioner’s contentions that
the trial judge had a conflict of interest, and that his motion for recusal
was timely, are irrelevant to determining whether his habeas petition is
subject to equitable tolling. Accordingly, I overrule petitioner's objections
regarding equitable tolling.
Further, I conclude that the remainder of the contentions included
in petitioner's objections are nothing more than a restatement of the
underlying claims contained in his petition. Accordingly, I do not address
those objections. See Morgan v. Astrue, 2009 U.S.Dist. LEXIS 101092, at *8
(E.D.Pa. Oct. 30, 2009)(Buckwalter, S.J.). Moreover, upon review of Chief
Magistrate Judge Rueter’s Report and Recommendation, together with de novo
review of this matter, I conclude that the Report and Recommendation correctly
determined the legal issues raised by petitioner.
Accordingly, I approve and adopt Chief Magistrate Judge Rueter’s
Report and Recommendation, and overrule petitioner’s objections to the Report
and Recommendation. Moreover, because petitioner has not met statutory
requirements to have his case heard, and no reasonable jurist could find this
procedural ruling debatable, and because petitioner fails to demonstrate
denial of a constitutional right, a certificate of appealability is denied.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2); Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484,
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Report and
Recommendation of Chief Magistrate Judge Rueter is approved and
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the petition for a writ of
habeas corpus is dismissed without a hearing.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that petitioner has not met
statutory requirements to have his case heard, and no reasonable
jurist could find this procedural ruling debatable, and because
petitioner fails to demonstrate denial of a constitutional right,
a certificate of appealability is denied.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of Court shall
mark this matter closed for statistical purposes.
BY THE COURT:
/s/ James Knoll Gardner
James Knoll Gardner
United States District Judge
120 S.Ct. 1595, 1604, 146 L.Ed.2d 542, 555 (2000).
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