Stinson v. Wakefield et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry).Signed by Honorable Yvette Kane on 3/6/17. (rw)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
CHARLES HOWARD STINSON,
DAVID WAKEFIELD, et al.,
On July 9, 2007, Petitioner Charles Howard Stinson, a
state inmate, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
(Doc. No. 1.)
On February 1, 2012, the
court in a 60-page memorandum addressed the nine issues raised by
Stinson and in a separate order denied Stinson’s petition.
The court also denied a certificate of appealability.
On February 27, 2012, Stinson filed an appeal to the Court
of Appeals for this circuit. (Doc. No. 66.) In the appeal to Third
Circuit Stinson raised, inter alia, the following issues: (1) the
admission of preliminary hearing testimony during the state court
trial; (2) the use of fingerprint evidence and a photo array; and
(3) several ineffective assistance of counsel claims. See Stinson
v. Wakefield, et al., C.A. No. 12-1559 (ECF No. 003110892306)
On August 16, 2012, the Court of Appeals issued an order
denying Stinson’s application for a certificate of appealability.
Id., ECF No. 003110989794. In the order the Court of Appeals
stated that Stinson “failed to make a substantial showing of the
denial of a constitutional right.” Id.
On December 17, 2012, the
Court of Appeals denied Stinson’s petition for rehearing en banc.
Id., ECF No. 003111110321.
Thereafter, on March 18, 2013, the
United States Supreme Court denied Stinson’s petition for writ of
certiorari. Stinson v. Bickell, 133 S.Ct. 1625 (2013).
On February 6, 2013, Stinson filed in this court a
document entitled “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, Rule
60(b)(1)(2)(3)(6) Motion for Relief from a Final Judgment Order.”
(Doc. No. 71.)1
On February 21, 2013, Stinson filed a document
entitled “Supplement to Rule 60(b) Motion.” (Doc. No. 74.)
Stinson delineates his motion as one for reconsideration. (Doc.
Stinson’s Rule 60(b) motion for reconsideration raises
issues concerning the manner in which this court reviewed and
issued the 60-page memorandum of February 1, 2012.
The motion for
reconsideration is fully briefed and for the reasons set forth
below will be denied.
Stinson’s motion is brought pursuant to several
subsections of Rule 60(b), specifically subsections (1), (3) and
1. A duplicate copy of the motion was filed on February 8, 2013.
(Doc. No. 72.)
Rule 60(b)(1),(3) and (6) state in relevant part as
Grounds for Relief from a Final Judgment,
Order, or Proceeding. On motion and just terms,
the court may relieve a party . . . from a final
judgment, order or proceeding for the following
(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable
fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or
extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct
by an opposing party;
(6) any other reason that justifies relief.
A motion under Rule 60(b) must be made within a reasonable time
and with respect Rule 60(b)(1) and (3) no more than a year after
the entry of the order in question.
Moreover, “[t]he grant or
denial of a Rule 60(b)(6) motion is an equitable matter left, in
the first instance to the discretion of a district court.” Cox v.
Horn, 757 F.3d 113, 124 (3d Cir. 2014).
A guiding maxim in equity
is that “he who comes into equity must come with clean hands” and
this maxim “is far more than a mere banality” but “a self-imposed
ordinance that closes the doors of a court of equity to one
tainted with inequitableness or bad faith relative to the matter
2. Stinson’s initial Rule 60(b) motion was also brought pursuant
to subsecton (b)(2). However, Stinson stated in his “Supplement
to Rule 60(b) Motion” that Rule 60(b)(2) was not applicable.
(Doc. No. 74, at 11).
in which he seeks relief[.]” Precision Instrument Mfg. Co. V.
Automotive Maintenance Machinery Co., 324 U.S. 806, 814 (1945).
The Court of Appeals for this circuit, in addressing
whether or not a Rule 60(b) motion should be granted, stated as
Motions filed pursuant to Rule 60(b) are “directed
to the discretion of the trial court, and its
exercise of that discretion will not be disturbed
unless there is a clear error and abuse of discretion.”
SEC v. Warren, 583 F.2d 115, 120 (3d Cir. 1978).
Relief should only be made available if the claimant
presents circumstances that overcome the “interest
in the finality and repose of judgments.” Harris v.
Martin, 834 F.2d 361, 364 (3d Cir. 1987)(citation
In re: Diet Drugs (Phentermine/Fenfluramine/Dextenfluramine)
Product Liability Litigation, 383 F. App’x 242, 246 (3d Cir. June
Respondents make several arguments including that this
court lacks jurisdiction to entertain Stinson’s Rule 60(b) motion
and, even if the court entertained the motion, the claims raised
are devoid of merit. The court agrees with both of those
With respect to the first argument, the Third Circuit
and the Supreme Court addressed Stinson’s appeals and ruled
The Court of Appeals has held that issues that are
“includable” in an appeal cannot be reviewed by the district court
pursuant to a Rule 60(b) motion. In Seese v. Volkswagenwerk, A.G,
679 F. 2d 336 (3d Cir. 1982), the Third Circuit found that a
district court is without jurisdiction to alter the mandate of the
Court of Appeals on the basis of matters included or includable in
the defendant’s prior appeal.3
Id. at 337.
Stinson challenges actions by this court which could
have been raised in his appeal to the Third Circuit.
this Court is without jurisdiction to consider matters that were
“included” in Stinson’s appeal to the Third Circuit.
F.2d at 337 & n.1.
Consequently, ths court is without
jurisdiction to entertain his Rule 60(b) motion and alter the
mandate of the Court of Appeals with respect to those issues which
were includable in the appeal.
See, e.g., Robinson v. Hicks, 2012
WL 825329, at *3 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 9, 2012).
In his “Supplement to Rule 60(b) Motion,” Stinson not
only discusses those issues challenging the District Court’s
actions in ruling on his habeas corpus petition, but argues
issues, such as an alleged discovery violation and the sufficiency
of the evidence.
Those latter issues were already considered and
ruled on by the Third Circuit Court.
Therefore, Stinson’s attempt
to re-litigate the issues of the alleged discovery violation and
insufficiency of the evidence in his “Supplement to Rule 60(b)
Motion” is unavailing. This Court has no jurisdiction to consider
those issues as well as those issues that could have been included
in the appeal.
3. The Seese Court held that the Supreme Court's denial of
certiorari ended the litigation. Seese, 679 F.2d at 337.
As for Respondents’ later argument that the claims are
devoid of merit, it is clear from the contentions raised by
Stinson and the briefs filed that subsections (1) and (3) have no
There is no indication of mistake,
inadvertence, surprise, excusable neglect, fraud,
misrepresentation or misconduct of the opposing party with respect
to this court’s entry of the memorandum and order February 1,
2012, or on the part of the court with respect to the denial of
his habeas petition.
Furthermore, the court discerns no other
reason that would justify relief under subsection (6).
however, at this point will briefly address Stinson’s arguments,
Stinson contends that this Court adjudicated his habeas
claims without reviewing transcripts from his state court
proceedings or briefs filed in the state courts. However,
Respondents submitted relevant portions of the state court record,
including a transcript of an evidentiary hearing held on October
18, 2006, and state court opinions which quoted portions from
other transcripts of testimony in the trial court, which the court
reviewed in its 60-page memorandum of February 1, 2012.
This Court carefully reviewed the state court’s findings
and evaluated them in accord with 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). That
section directs that the Court determine whether the adjudication
of the claims in the state court (1) resulted in a decision that
was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of,
clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme
Court of the United States, or (2) resulted in a decision that was
based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of
the evidence presented in the state court proceedings.
This court’s role in considering a habeas corpus claim
was to review the decisions of the state courts.
28 U.S.C. § 2254
provides that the determination of a factual issue by a state
court is presumed to be correct, unless the petitioner can show by
clear and convincing evidence that a factual finding was
erroneous. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). Stinson in this case failed to
make any such showing. Consequently, the Court was required to
give deference to the state courts’ factual findings, some of
which were based on testimony derived from the transcripts of the
proceedings before the trial court.
It was not necessary for this court to review the
complete transcripts from the state court proceedings or the
briefs filed in the state courts. In their various opinions, the
state courts evaluated the testimony of witnesses when discussing
the issues that were based on such testimony. In so doing, the
courts either quoted from or summarized the pertinent testimony
from the corresponding transcripts. This court based its findings
on its evaluation of the state court decisions, giving deference
to the state court findings when appropriate, as it was bound to
As noted above, the court also had the benefit of the
transcript from an October 18, 2006 evidentiary hearing which was
pertinent to several issues in this case.
Stinson also claims that this court acted as an advocate
for Respondents because the court addressed Stinson’s habeas
claims on the merits when Respondents had not done so.
this court had a duty to address the merits of Stinson’s habeas
petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a)(A habeas petition may be granted
“only on the ground that the [the petitioner] is in custody in
violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United
A habeas petition cannot be granted by default. See
Gordon v. Duran, 895 F.2d 610, 612 (9th Cir. 1990) (“The failure
to respond to claims raised in a petition for habeas corpus does
not entitle the petitioner to a default judgment.”); Aziz v.
Leferve, 830 F.2d 184, 187 (11th Cir.1987) (“[D]efault judgment is
not contemplated in habeas corpus cases....”); see also Holden v.
Mechling, 133 F. App’x 21, 23
(3d Cir. May 24, 2005)(a district
court can sua sponte raise the AEDPA’s statute of limitations and
summarily dismiss habeas petition as untimely filed).
This Court, therefore, had a duty to evaluate Stinson’s
habeas claims on their merits under relevant case law, even if the
Respondents did not think that it was necessary or appropriate for
them to do so. This Court was not acting as an advocate for
Respondents. Rather, the Court carefully considered Stinson’s
petition for writ of habeas corpus as was its duty.
In the present case, Respondents did not feel that
Stinson’s habeas corpus petition warranted relief on the merits
and argued that the petition should be denied on procedural
This court rejected the procedural challenge and rightly
addressed the merits of the issues he raised in his petition in
light of relevant statutory law and case law.
Finally, Stinson questions the court’s impartiality and
references 28 U.S.C. § 455(a).
There are two statutory provisions
for recusal: 28 U.S.C. §§ 1444 and 455.5
These two statutory
sections have been deemed in pari materia so that the test for
disqualification is similar under both sections.
United States v. Carignan, 600 F.2d 761 (9th Cir. 1979).
Section 144 provides:
Whenever a party to any proceeding in a district court
makes and files a timely and sufficient affidavit that
the judge before whom the matter is pending has a
personal bias or prejudice either against him or in
favor of any adverse party, such judge shall proceed no
further therein, but another judge shall be assigned to
hear such proceeding.
The affidavit shall state the facts and the reasons for
the belief that bias or prejudice exists, and shall be
filed not less than ten days before the beginning of
the term at which the proceeding is to be heard, or
good cause shall be shown for failure to file it within
such time. A party may file only one such affidavit in
any case. It shall be accompanied by a certificate of
counsel of record stating that it is made in good
28 U.S.C. § 144.
In relevant part, § 455 states that
Any justice, judge, or magistrate of the United States
shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his
impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
28 U.S.C. § 455(a).
warrant recusal under § 144, the motion and affidavit must allege
a factual basis for a finding of extrajudicial bias.
must harbor actual bias against the litigant that is not derived
from the evidence or conduct of the parties which the judge
observes in the course of the proceedings.
629 F.2d 287 (3d Cir. 1980).
an objective one.
Johnson v. Trueblood,
Under §455, the test for recusal is
A judge is obliged to recuse himself only if a
reasonable person knowing all the circumstances would harbor
doubts concerning the judge's impartiality.
United States v.
Dalfonso, 707 F.2d 757, 760 (3d Cir. 1983).
subjective allegations of bias will not satisfy the stringent
standards for recusal under either statute. Jones v. Pittsburgh
National Corporation, 899 F.2d 1350, 1356 (3d Cir. 1990).
Furthermore, frivolous or improperly based suggestions that a
judge should recuse himself or herself should be firmly declined.
City of Cleveland v. Krupansky, 619 F.2d 576 (6th Cir.), cert.
denied, 449 U.S. 834 (1980); Maier v. Orr, 758 F.2d 1578, 1583
(Fed. Cir. 1985); see also, Advisory Opinion 52, Advisory
Committee on Codes of Conduct, Judicial Conference of the United
States (April 15, 1977)(absent a Canon pointing to recusal, the
dignity of the bench, fulfillment of judicial duties, and concern
for judicial colleagues, require that a judge not recuse).
In the present case, Stinson does not argue that this
court possessed a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or
personal knowledge of a disputed fact in this case.
the undersigned had and has no bias against Stinson, and Stinson
has presented nothing more than a dissatisfaction with how the
undersigned has handled this case.
Stinson obviously is
dissatisfied with this court’s decision and the outcome of his
Stinson presents no reason to conclude that the
undersign’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned and his
claim that the undersigned was biased against him has absolutely
no merit whatsoever.
Furthermore, Stinson did not file a motion
for recusal prior to the date this court issued it memorandum and
order denying his habeas petition, and Stinson did not raise the
issue on appeal which was clearly an “includable” issue.
An appropriate order will be entered.
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