United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER DENYING OR DISMISSING
PETITIONER'S POST-JUDGMENT MOTIONS
N. PARRISH United States District Judge.
the court are six motions and two supplemental pleadings
filed by Petitioner Aaron David Trent Needham: Motion for New
Trial (ECF No. 44); Supplemental Pleadings (ECF No. 50 &
52); Motions to Compel Discovery (ECF No. 53 & 61);
Motions for Extension of Time (ECF No. 63 & 73); and
Motion for Electronic Filing (ECF No. 67). For the reasons
stated below the motions are denied or dismissed. The court
also denies petitioner a Certificate of Appealability as to
the dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus (ECF No. 43)
and as to the denial of these motions.
January 15, 2013, a jury found Needham guilty of eight counts
of communications fraud and one count of pattern of unlawful
activity in the Fifth Judicial District Court, Washington
County, Utah. He was sentenced on October 2, 2013. State
v. Needham, No. 101500067 (5th Judicial Dist. Ct.
Washington County, Utah). Needham appealed to the Utah Court
of Appeals on June 5, 2014. State v. Needham, 2016
UT App. 235, No. 20140483-CA (2016).
2014, Needham filed an application for state post-conviction
relief under the Utah Post-Conviction Remedies Act in the
Fifth Judicial District Court, Washington County, Utah.
Needham v. State, No. 140500439 (5th Dist. Ct.,
Washington County, Utah). On February 6, 2015, the petition
was dismissed based on the pendency of the direct appeal.
Ruling Dismissing Petition, Needham v. State, No.
140500439 (Feb. 6, 2015).
March 3, 2015, Needham filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas
Corpus in the U.S. District Court, District of Utah.
Needham v. State, No. 2:15-cv-00146-DB (D. Utah
2016). District Court Judge Benson dismissed the petition
without prejudice on August 16, 2016, for failure to exhaust
state remedies. Needham appealed to the Tenth Circuit on
August 29, 2016. The Tenth Circuit denied Needham a
certificate of appealability (“COA”) on November
15, 2016 and dismissed the appeal. Needham v. State,
No. 16-4157 (10th Cir. Nov. 15, 2016).
December 8, 2016, the Utah Court of Appeals affirmed the
state court conviction, finally closing the pending direct
appeal. State v. Needham, 391 P.3d 295 (Utah Ct.
App. 2016). Needham's motion for a rehearing was denied
on March 14, 2017. Order, No. 20140483-CA (Utah Ct. App. Mar.
January 30, 2017, Needham received an extension to file his
writ of certiorari with the Utah Supreme Court. On April 13,
2017, Needham filed another motion for extension with the
Utah Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of Utah granted the
motion on April 20, giving Needham until May 15, 2017 to file
his petition for writ of certiorari and making clear that
Rule 48(e) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure would not
permit further extensions. State v. Needham, No.
20140483 (Utah April 20, 2017). The Supreme Court denied a
second request dated May 4, 2017. Needham did not file a
petition for writ of certiorari, but filed a motion to stay
and motion to submit for decision on May 16, 2017, which the
Utah Supreme Court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
before filing the first motion for an extension in the Utah
Supreme Court, on April 12, 2017, Needham filed another
petition for writ of habeas corpus in this federal district
court.Needham v. State, No.
2:17-cv-00115 (D. Utah).
on May 9, 2017, Needham appealed the denial of his
post-conviction relief petition to the Utah Court of Appeals.
The appeal was dismissed on an order of default. Needham
v. State, No. 20170380-CA (Utah. Ct. App. June 5, 2017).
This was not appealed.
January 11, 2018, this court dismissed the petition for writ
of habeas corpus with prejudice, finding that Needham's
claims were procedurally defaulted for failure to meet the
exhaustion requirement in Utah state court, without an
exception that would excuse the failure. ECF No. 42, 43. On
January 26, 2018, Needham filed a Motion for New Trial. ECF
No. 44. On February 28, 2018, Needham filed a Notice of
Appeal to the United State Court of Appeals for the Tenth
Circuit. That appeal has been abated by the Tenth Circuit
pending the resolution of his post-judgment relief motion.
for New Trial and Supplemental Pleadings
A. Nature of Motion
filed a motion for new trial under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a).
Because there has been no trial in this case, we will
construe his motion as a motion for post-judgment relief. In
order to seek post-judgment relief, Needham could have
brought either a “Rule 59(e) (motion to alter or amend
the judgment) or Rule 60(b) (relief from judgment for mistake
or other reason).” Phelps v. Hamilton, 122
F.3d 1309, 1323-24 (10th Cir. 1997). The two rules are
different, but can be difficult to distinguish. The Tenth
Circuit “has previously held that regardless of how it
is styled or construed, a motion filed within ten days of the
entry of judgment that questions the correctness of the
judgment is properly treated as a Rule 59(e) motion.”
Phelps, 122 F.3d at 1323-24 (10th Cir. 1997)
(quoting Vreeken v. Davis, 718 F.2d 343, 345 (10th
Cir.1983)). Needham filed his motion within fifteen days,
which is outside the ten-day window, but still within the
twenty-eight days allowed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e).
question then becomes whether the substance of Needham's
motion seeks relief consistent with that available under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) motion. A Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) motion asks
the court for “reconsideration of matters properly
encompassed in a decision on the merits.” Jennings
v. Rivers, 394 F.3d 850, 854 (10th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Osterneck v. Ernst & Whinney, 489 U.S. 169, 174
(1989)) (internal citations omitted). Needham appears to be
asking for a reconsideration of the merits of his case. He
asserts that although his claims were procedurally defaulted
in state court, his claims qualify for one of the narrow
carve-outs recognized in Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S.
1 (2012), which allows a petitioner to “obtain federal
review of a defaulted claim by showing cause for the default
and prejudice from a violation of the federal law.”
Trevino v. Thaler, 569 U.S. 413, 414 (2013) (quoting
Martinez, 566 U.S. at 10).
though Needham's motion appears to seek relief available
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), in the habeas context,
post-judgment relief motions most comport with the federal
habeas statutes, including the ones most applicable here: 28
U.S.C. § 2244 and 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In Gonzalez
v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 529 (2005), the Supreme Court
held that “Rule 60(b), like the rest of the Rules of
Civil Procedure, applies in habeas corpus proceedings under
28 U.S.C. § 2254 only ‘to the extent that [it is]
not inconsistent with' applicable federal statutory
provisions and rules.” A Rule 60(b) motion is
inconsistent with these rules when it constitutes a
“second or successive habeas petition, ” which
must be governed by 28 U.S.C. § 2244. Id.
Tenth Circuit has held that Gonzalez applies to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) motions as well. United States v.
Pedraza, 466 F.3d 932, 933-34 (10th Cir. 2006). Under
Tenth Circuit precedent, to the extent that a “Rule
59(e) motion challenge[s] the substance of the district
court's resolution of [a habeas] claim on the merits, it
present[s] second or successive habeas claims requiring
authorization.” United States v. Vazquez, 615
Fed.Appx. 900, 902 (10th Cir. 2015) (internal citations
omitted). While the district court may rule on true
Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) or 59(e) arguments, “second or
successive” issues must be “certified by a panel
of the [Tenth Circuit] pursuant to § 2244 before [they]
may proceed in district court.” Spitznas v.
Boone, 464 F.3d 1213, ...