MORALES v. SCI CHESTER
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 45 Motion for Reconsideration. See Memorandum Opinion for details. Signed by Magistrate Judge Cynthia Reed Eddy on 11/14/2017. (bsc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JOSE VAZQUEZ MORALES,
DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF
ALLEGHENY COUNTY, and
SUPERINTENDENT OF SCI CHESTER,
Civil Action No. 2: 16-cv-0385
United States Magistrate Judge
Cynthia Reed Eddy
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Presently pending is Petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration (ECF No. 45), to which
Respondents have responded in opposition (ECF No. 48), and Petitioner has filed a Reply. (ECF
No. 49). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.
This case was initiated on April 4, 2016, by the pro se filing of a Motion for Leave to
Proceed in forma pauperis by Petitioner, Joseph Vazquez Morales. Attached to the motion was
a 15-page standard form Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, a two-page typewritten Brief
Statement of the Facts, and approximately 265 pages of exhibits. The Motion was denied
because, based on Petitioner’s submissions, it was clear that he could afford the $5 filing fee. On
May 24, 2016, Petitioner paid the $5.00 filing fee in full and his Petition, Brief Statement, and
Exhibits were filed at ECF No. 6.
Service was effectuated on Respondents and on August 23, 2016, Respondents filed an
Answer, and attached 70 pages of relevant state court documents. (ECF No. 14). On November
17, 2016, the Court received a handwritten document written in Spanish from Petitioner. (ECF
No. 21). The letter was returned to Petitioner with instructions that he may refile the document
in the English language. (ECF No. 22). On January 6, 2017, the Court received correspondence
dated December 22, 2016, submitted on behalf of Petitioner stating that the writer was concerned
because Petitioner “spoke little English and reads no English and was getting little to no help
from the DOC getting said documents translated.” (ECF No. 23). Concerned about an apparent
language barrier, on January 10, 2017, the Court appointed the Federal Public Defender’s Office
to assist Petitioner in his habeas case and instructed the Federal Public Defender’s Office to
advise the Court as to whether it anticipating filing any additional pleadings in the case. (ECF
On March 2, 2017, counsel for Petitioner filed a motion for leave to file an Amended
Petition. (ECF No. 27). Since appointment, counsel has requested four extensions of time in
which to file an Amended Petition. (ECF Nos. 29, 33, 35, and 40). Counsel has indicated that a
claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to adequately investigate and present a defense
of diminished capacity will be raised in the Amended Petition. Presently, the Amended Petition
is due to be filed by November 30, 2017. (ECF No. 43).
On October 26, 2017, counsel for Petitioner filed a motion for request for issuance of
subpoena duces tecum directed to the Behavior Assessment Unit for Allegheny County Court
(ECF No. 39), requesting all “notes, memorandums, reports, test results, and photographs”
regarding Petitioner’s criminal case.
On October 27, 2017, Respondents responded in
opposition. (ECF No. 41). Later that day, after considering the positions of both parties, the
Court denied without prejudice Petitioner’s request. The Court ordered as follows:
[A]t this time, Petitioner, has not established “good cause” for the discovery nor
has he demonstrated that the requested material is pertinent. This request is
denied without prejudice to Petitioner renewing the request for discovery after
Respondents have filed their amended answer to the amended petition for writ of
habeas corpus, which is due to be filed no later than November 30, 2017.
Text Order, 10/27/2017, ECF No. 44. It is this Order which is the subject of the instant Motion
for Reconsideration. (ECF No. 45).
On November 8, 2017, Respondents filed their Second Response to the Request for
Issuance of Subpoena Duces Tecum, again objecting to the subpoena; Petitioner filed a Reply.
(ECF No. 49). The matter is ripe for review.
Standard of Review
The purpose of a Motion for Reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or
to present newly discovered evidence. Howard Hess Dental Laboratories Inc. v. Dentsply
Intern.., Inc., 602 F.3d 237, 251 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906,
909 (3d Cir. 1985)). Generally, a Motion for Reconsideration will only be granted on one of the
following three grounds: (1) if there has been an intervening change in controlling law; (2) if new
evidence, which was not previously available, has become available; or (3) if it is necessary to
correct a clear error of law or to prevent manifest injustice. See Howard Hess Dental, 602 F.3d at
251 (citing Max's Seafood Café by Lou Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999)).
A Motion for Reconsideration “addresses only factual and legal matters that the Court
may have overlooked . . . . It is improper on a motion for reconsideration to ask the Court to
rethink what [it] had already thought through rightly or wrongly.” Glendon Energy Co. v.
Borough of Glendon, 836 F. Supp. 1109, 1122 (E.D.Pa. 1993) (internal citation and quotes
omitted). Because federal courts have a strong interest in the finality of judgments, motions for
reconsideration should be granted sparingly. Rossi v. Schlarbaum, 600 F. Supp.2d 650, 670
The Court finds that there is no basis upon which the Court should grant this motion.
Petitioner’s motion does not satisfy any of the three possible grounds to grant a motion for
“A habeas petitioner, unlike the usual civil litigant in federal court, is not entitled to
discovery as a matter of course.” Bracy v. Gramley, 520 U.S. 899, 904 (1997). Under Rule 6 of
the Habeas Rules,1 “[a] judge may, for good cause, authorize a party to conduct discovery under
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and may limit the extent of discovery.” “Good cause” has
been defined as “specific allegations before the court [which] show reason to believe that the
petitioner may, if the facts are fully developed, be able to demonstrate that he is . . . entitled to
relief.” Bracy, 520 U.S. at 908-09.
Essentially, Petitioner is seeking pre-petition2 discovery of evidence supporting a claim of
ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to adequately investigate and present a defense of
diminished capacity. Rule 2(c) of the Habeas Rules does not require that a petitioner state facts
“Habeas Rules” refers to the Rules Governing 2254 Proceedings for the United States
The Court recognizes that one may argue that this is not a requests for pre-petition
discovery, as Petitioner filed a pro se petition, to which Respondents answered. In his original
petition, Petitioner raised the following grounds for relief: “ineffective of counsel; lack of
evidence; counsel failed to contact witnesses; false of testimonies of witnesses; lack of merit;
language barrier.” (Ground One, quoted verbatim). However, counsel has requested leave to file
an Amended Petition, which will now include a new ineffectiveness of counsel claim, to wit:
failure to investigate and present a defense of diminished capacity. This case has been stayed
pending filing of the Amended Petition.
showing he is entitled to relief; rather, a petitioner is required only to “state the facts supporting
each ground” of his petition. The Advisory Committee Notes to Rule 4 state that “[t]he petition
is expected to state facts that point to a ‘real possibility of constitutional error’.” Calderon v.
U.S. Dist. Court for the Northern Dist. of California, 98 F.3d 1102, 1109 (9th Cir. 1996).3 “Thus
the facts in a habeas petition need not be so detailed as to establish a prima facie entitlement to
habeas relief; they are sufficient if they suggest the real possibility that constitutional error has
been committed.” Id.
In this case, Petitioner has alleged in his motions that the records of the Behavior
Assessment Unit for Allegheny County Court may be material to his claim of ineffective
assistance of counsel. Once Petitioner has filed his Amended Petition outlining his factual
allegations, and Respondents have had an opportunity to respond to the amended petition, he may
refile his request for discovery and may be able to obtain Rule 6 discovery upon a showing of
good cause. With the limited record before the Court at this time, the Court is unable to
In Calderon, a California death row inmate (Robert Henry Nicolaus) filed a motion to
serve subpoenas on the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office and the Sacramento Police
Department seeking information related to his case. The district court granted his motion and the
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a writ of mandamus to vacate the discovery order and
prohibit the issuance of further discovery orders until the petitioner filed a federal petition for
writ of habeas corpus. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that “pre-petition
discovery is impermissible” because: (1) “a prisoner must first outline factual allegations in a
petition before a district court will be able to determine the propriety of discovery;” (2) “any right
to federal discovery presupposes the presentation of an unexhausted federal claim. . .”; (3) “Rule
6 is limited to ‘the processes of discovery available under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure’
and, with one inapplicable exception, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not permit precomplaint discovery;” and (4) “Courts should not allow prisoners to use federal discovery for
fishing expeditions.” United States v. Johnson, Crim. No. 08-374, 2017 WL 3034928 at *1
(W.D.Pa. July 18, 2017) (Conti, C.J.) (quoting Calderon, 98 F.3d at 1106). The exception arises
when a party can show the need to perpetuate testimony that may not be available later.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 27. In the instant case, Petitioner did not contend that his discovery request
qualifies for this exception.
determine the propriety of the requested discovery. Accordingly, until Petitioner has filed his
Amended Petition, and Respondents have responded, he cannot avail himself of Rule 6
An appropriate Order follows.
ORDER OF COURT
AND NOW, this 14th day of November, 2017, in accordance with the foregoing
Memorandum Opinion, it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that the
Motion for Reconsideration is DENIED.
Petitioner’s request for a subpoena duces tecum
directed to the Behavior Assessment Unit for Allegheny County Court is again denied without
prejudice to Petitioner renewing the request for discovery after Respondents have filed their
amended answer to the amended petition for writ of habeas corpus.
/s Cynthia Reed Eddy________
Cynthia Reed Eddy
United States Magistrate Judge
All counsel of record
(via ECF electronic notification)
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