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Needham v. State

United States District Court, D. Utah

September 27, 2018

AARON DAVID TRENT NEEDHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF UTAH, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER DENYING OR DISMISSING PETITIONER'S POST-JUDGMENT MOTIONS

          JILL N. PARRISH United States District Judge.

         Before the court are five motions filed pro se by Petitioner, Aaron David Trent Needham: (1) Motion of Rule 60(b) (ECF No. 50); (2) Motion for Rehearing for COA (ECF No. 61); (3) Motion for Extension of Time (ECF No. 63); (4) Motion for Electronic Filing (ECF No. 64); and (5) Motion for Extension of Time to File (ECF No. 67).

         BACKGROUND

         In 2007, Aaron David Trent Needham was charged with passing or issuing a bad check. On November 17, 2009, Needham entered a guilty plea in abeyance. On June 27, 2014, Needham was convicted of the third-degree felony of “Issuing or Passing a Bad Check” and committed to prison for zero to five years, having failed to complete his plea in abeyance. State v. Needham, No. 071500692 (5th Judicial Dist. Ct., Iron County, Utah 2014).

         On July 15, 2014, Needham filed a notice of appeal alleging abuse of discretion for entering a conviction on a guilty plea for which Needham had failed to complete the abeyance. Docketing Statement, State v. Needham, No. 20140658-CA (Utah Ct. App. 2015); See Memorandum in Support, Exhibit 5, ECF No. 54-5. On September 29, 2015, the Utah Court of Appeals affirmed Needham's conviction, rejecting his arguments on procedural grounds. State v. Needham, No. 20140658-CA, slip. op. at 2 (Utah Ct. App. Sept. 29, 2015).

         Needham then filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Utah Supreme Court in October, 2015, which was denied as premature. See Order, April 13, 2016, Needham v. State, No. 20151091-SC (Utah Jan. 27, 2016). Needham filed a second petition for writ of certiorari on December 14, 2015, which was denied as well. Needham v. State, 369 P.3d 451 (Utah 2016). He did not apply for state post-conviction relief.

         On March 18, 2016, Needham filed a pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 seeking relief from the Utah state court conviction. Needham's arguments included: unknowing, involuntary plea; error of not disqualifying the prosecutor; defense counsel conflict of interest; wrongful denial of the opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea; wrongful denial of state trial court recusal; and error regarding ruling on Rule 60(b) motion. On January, 5, 2018, this court granted the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 24) filed by Respondent, the State of Utah, and denied Needham's habeas petition and his conditions-of-confinements claims raised in the petition. Memorandum Decision and Order, ECF No. 42. The Court reasoned that the challenges brought by Petitioner were procedurally barred in state court, and thus also barred in a federal habeas petition, and that no exception applied to excuse the procedural bar.

         Needham then appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, he did so without first requesting a certificate of appealability (“COA”) from the district court. Under 28 USC § 2253(c), a petitioner cannot appeal a “final order in a habeas corpus proceeding in which the detention complained of arises out of process issued by a State court” without having been issued a COA from a circuit justice or circuit or district judge. Fed. R. App. P. 22(b)(1). Following United States v. Higley, No. 17-1111 (10th Cir. 2017) (holding that a district court must decide whether to issue a COA in the first instance), the Tenth Circuit abated the appeal and directed a limited remand to the district court to determine whether to issue a certificate of appealability (“COA”). ECF No. 47.

         On February 14, 2018, this court determined that no “jurist of reason could debate the conclusion that Mr. Needham's claims were procedurally barred and not subject to an exception.” Order Denying Certificate of Appealability 2, ECF No. 48. The Tenth Circuit then lifted the abatement of the appeal on February 15, 2018. Order, February 15, 2018, App. No. 18-4014, Doc. 01019945870. The order was entered in the district court on February 28, 2018. ECF No. 49.

         Also on February 28, 2018, Petitioner filed a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) seeking relief from judgment on grounds of “mistakes; inadvertence; excusable neglect; newly discovered evidence; fraud; [and] any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment.” Motion of Rule 60(b) (“Motion”) 1, ECF No. 50.

         While Petitioner's Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion was pending in this court, on July 16, 2018, the Tenth Circuit denied Needham's COA request and dismissed his appeal. Order Denying Certificate of Appealability, July 16, 2018, App. No. 18-4014, Doc. 010110022964; Mandate of USCA and Order Denying COA, ECF No. 59. On July 25, 2018, Needham filed a motion for “Rehearing for COA” in the district court (“Rehearing Motion”). These two motions, the Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) Motion and the Rehearing Motion, are before the court. Also before the court are three other procedural motions filed by Needham, two motions for extension of time and a motion for electronic filing.

         ANALYSIS

         I.

         Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 60(b) Motion

         Needham files his Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) Motion seeking relief from judgment on grounds of “mistakes; inadvertence; excusable neglect; newly discovered evidence; fraud; [and] any other reason justifying relief from the operation of judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) Motion 1. Specifically, he makes six claims for relief: “Count I: Denial of access to the courts;” “Count II: Ineffective assistance of counsel;” “Count III: ineffective assistance of counsel;” “Count IV: Prosecutorial misconduct;” “Count 5: Judicial Error;” “Count IV: Denial of Access to the Courts - ineffective counsel.” For reasons that will be discussed below, Counts I-IV and VI are dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and Count V is denied.

         A. ...


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