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Chavarria-Quezada v. United States

United States District Court, D. Utah

November 1, 2017

MANUEL CHAVARRIA-QUEZADA, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM JUDGMENT

          Ted Stewart United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner's Motion for Relief from Judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was charged with reentry of a previously removed alien on October 29, 2015. Petitioner pleaded guilty on February 8, 2016. As part of his plea agreement, Petitioner agreed to waive certain appeal and collateral appeal rights. Petitioner was sentenced on March 1, 2016. Petitioner did not file a direct appeal.

         Petitioner timely filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on December 29, 2016. Petitioner asserted a single claim: that his counsel was ineffective for failing to file an appeal after being instructed to do so. In response, Respondent sought to enforce the collateral appeal waiver in Petitioner's plea agreement. On March 23, 2017, the Court dismissed Petitioner's § 2255 motion based on the presence of the collateral appeal waiver. Petitioner now seeks relief from the Court's judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b).

         II. DISCUSSION

         The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has provided the “steps to be followed by district courts . . . when they are presented with a Rule 60(b) motion in a habeas or § 2255 case.”[1] The Court must first determine whether the motion is a true Rule 60(b) motion or a second or successive petition.[2] If the motion is a true motion, the Court rules on it as it would any other Rule 60(b) motion. “If, however, the district court concludes that the motion is actually a second or successive petition, it should refer the matter to [the Tenth Circuit] for authorization . . . .”[3]

         A Rule 60(b) “motion is a second or successive petition if it in substance or effect asserts or reasserts a federal basis for relief from the petitioner's underlying conviction.”[4]

Conversely, it is a “true” Rule 60(b) motion if it either (1) challenges only a procedural ruling of the habeas court which precluded a merits determination of the habeas application, or (2) challenges a defect in the integrity of the federal habeas proceeding, provided that such a challenge does not itself lead inextricably to a merits-based attack on the disposition of a prior habeas petition.[5]

         In some cases, a motion may be “mixed, ” “containing both true Rule 60(b) allegations and second or successive habeas claims.”[6] In that case, “the district court should (1) address the merits of the true Rule 60(b) allegations as it would the allegations in any other Rule 60(b) motion, and (2) forward the second or successive claims to [the Tenth Circuit] for authorization.”[7]

         As stated, the Court dismissed Petitioner's § 2255 motion based on the collateral appeal waiver contained in his plea agreement. The Tenth Circuit has held that “a 60(b) motion that challenges only the federal habeas court's ruling on procedural issues should be treated as a true 60(b) motion rather than a successive petition.”[8] “Thus, for example, a motion asserting that the federal district court incorrectly dismissed a petition for failure to exhaust, procedural bar, or because of the statute of limitations constitutes a true 60(b) motion.”[9]

         Because the Court did not reach the merits of Petitioner's § 2255 motion and found it to be barred by the collateral appeal waiver, Petitioner's Motion is largely a “true” 60(b) motion. However, certain portions of Petitioner's Motion reassert Petitioner's original claim for relief. For those portions, the Court must determine whether to refer the matter to the Tenth Circuit for authorization to file a second or successive petition. Because Petitioner's Motion is mixed, the Court will first address the merits of his true Rule 60(b) arguments and will then consider whether transfer is in the interests of justice.

         Rule 60(b) permits a court to relieve a party from a final judgment for the following reasons:

(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable ...

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