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Simpson v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

February 17, 2015

CHRISTOPHER SIMPSON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

E. RICHARD WEBBER, Senior District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner's "Motion for Relief from Judgment Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)" [ECF No. 14].

I. BACKGROUND

On March 2, 2010, Petitioner pled guilty to one count of Felon in Possession of a Firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)(a)(1) [Case 4:09CR00120 ERW, ECF No. 41]. Probation's Presentence Investigation Report recommended Petitioner's criminal history points to be 22, with a criminal history category of VI [Case 4:09CR00120 ERW, ECF No. 43]. According to the Presentence Report, Petitioner was considered an Armed Career Criminal pursuant to Section 4B1.4(a), as he had "three prior felony convictions for crimes of violence including: Robbery Second Degree, Aggravated Battery and Residential Burglary" [Case 4:09CR00120 ERW, ECF No. 43 at 6]. Petitioner's Total Offense Level was 30. On September 28, 2010, the Court sentenced Petitioner, as an Armed Career Criminal, to a term of 180 months imprisonment [Case 4:09CR00120 ERW, ECF No. 42]. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the sentence. United States v. Simpson, 419 Fed.Appx. 691, 2011 WL 2473037 (8th Cir. 2011).

On June 19, 2014, Petitioner filed his "Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody" [ECF No. 1]. In dismissing the § 2255 Motion, this Court provided two separate and independent bases. First, the Court determined Petitioner's Motion was "time barred" under "the statute of limitations contained in 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f), which provides for [a] one-year limitations period" [ECF No. 12 at 5]. In doing so, the Court rejected Petitioner's contention the Supreme Court's decision in Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013), tolled the statute of limitations in his case [ECF No. 12 at 7].[1] Second, the Court also determined Petitioner's § 2255 Motion should be "dismissed due to procedural default" [ECF No. 12 at 7]. Specifically, the Court determined the "sole ground for relief" asserted in Petitioner's § 2255 Motion was "essentially the same claim of error addressed by the Eighth Circuit in his direct appeal.[2] Consequently [Petitioner] is barred from raising that same argument in a § 2255 motion" [ECF No. 12 at 7]. Subsequently, Petitioner filed the pending "Motion for Relief from Judgment Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)" [ECF No. 14].

II. DISCUSSION

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) allows a party to seek relief from a final judgment and request the reopening of the case under a limited set of enumerated circumstances. Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 528 (2005); Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). In particular, while Rule 60(b)(1)-(5) entitles a moving party to relief from judgment on several specific grounds, Rule 60(b)(6) includes a catch-all category, permitting the reopening of a case when the movant shows "any other reason" justifying relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1)-(6). Here, Petitioner's Motion fails to identify the exact Rule 60(b) provision under which he seeks relief. The Court will assume Petitioner intended to bring his Motion under Rule 60(b)(6).

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals "has maintained consistently that Rule 60(b) was not intended as a substitute for a direct appeal from an erroneous judgment." Spinar v. Board of Regents of South Dakota, 796 F.2d 1060, 1062 (8th Cir. 1986) (citing Hartman v. Lauchli, 304 F.2d 431, 432 (8th Cir. 1962); Fox v. Brewer, 620 F.2d 177, 180 (8th Cir. 1980)) (internal quotations omitted). Simply asserting a court made a legal error does not set forth a ground for relief cognizable under Rule 60(b). Spinar, 796 F.2d at 1062. Additionally, all motions made under Rule 60(b) must "be made within a reasonable time." Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(c)(1). Further, the Supreme Court requires all movants seeking relief under Rule 60(b)(6) to show "extraordinary circumstances" justifying the reopening of the final judgment. Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 535 (citing Ackermann v. United States, 340 U.S. 193, 199 (1950)); see also Harley v. Zoesch, 413 F.3d 866, 871 (8th Cir. 2005) ("Relief is available under Rule 60(b)(6) only where exceptional circumstances have denied the moving party a full and fair opportunity to litigate his claim and have prevented the moving party from receiving adequate redress."). However, the Supreme Court has recognized "[s]uch circumstances will rarely occur in the habeas context." Id.

The Court previously dismissed Petitioner's § 2255 Motion for two separate and independent reasons: (1) failure to abide by the statute of limitations; and (2) a "procedural default." Regarding (1), Petitioner, in his 60(b) Motion, merely argues this Court made a legal error in reaching its statute of limitations conclusion. Regarding (2), Petitioner makes similar legal-error arguments about the Court's "procedural default" ruling, and also presents arguments seeking excusal of the default. For the reasons stated infra, the Court will deny Petitioner's Motion.

A. Petitioner's Legal-Error Arguments

Part II of the pending Motion is entitled, "The District Court's Dismissal Rests on Clear Error" [ECF No. 14 at 3]. In Section A of this part, Petitioner argues the Court's prior statute of limitations ruling constitutes legal error. Specifically, Petitioner disagrees with the Court's following determinations: (a) Descamps did not announce a "new rule"; and (b) the Supreme Court has not made the Descamps decision retroactive [ See ECF No. 12 at 6-7 (containing this Court's rulings)]. Petitioner cites numerous cases in arguing this Court erred in determining Descamps was not retroactive [ECF No. 14 at 3-11]. For instance, Petitioner claims the Supreme Court has made the Descamps decision "retroactive in collateral proceedings" through "multiple holdings" [ECF No. 14 at 3-4]. Petitioner concludes, "In short, the Court's memorandum dismissing the retroactive reach of Descamps rests on mistake and stands in conflict with the foregoing authorities" [ECF No. 14 at 11].[3] These legal-error arguments constitute Petitioner's only asserted grounds for relief relating to the statute of limitations issue.

Similarly, Section B of Part II of the pending Motion also includes legal-error arguments, this time relating to the Court's prior "procedural default" ruling.[4] Petitioner argues this Court "also clearly erred in denying relief on the basis that his right to habeas relief from his illegal sentence is procedurally barred or defaulted" [ECF No. 14 at 12]. Specifically, Petitioner claims he "did not procedurally default his pending challenge to his 15 year ACCA sentence because the ability to challenge a sentence exceeding the statutory maximum cannot be waived and, by analogy, cannot be defaulted" [ECF No. 14 at 12].

In making these legal-error arguments, Petitioner has mistaken the purpose of Rule 60(b). With these arguments, Petitioner is merely contending this Court erred as a matter of law in dismissing the § 2255 Motion on statute of limitations and procedural default grounds. Such arguments do not set forth a ground for relief cognizable under Rule 60(b), and the Court need not address the merits of these arguments. See Spinar, 796 F.2d at 1062. Therefore, to the extent Petitioner's Motion asserts grounds for relief based on legal errors allegedly made by this Court in its dismissal of Petitioner's § 2255 Motion, this Motion will be denied.

B. Conclusion

In its prior ruling, the Court discussed the statute of limitations issue and the procedural default issue as two separate and independent bases for dismissing Petitioner's § 2255 Motion.[5] Stated another way, Petitioner's § 2255 Motion would have been dismissed even if the Court had not found a "procedural default." This being the case, a successful Rule 60(b) claim convincing this Court "to set aside the prior ruling and consider the matter more fully to reach the merits of [Petitioner's] Descamps claim" [ECF No. 14 at 11] would need to address both of the Court's prior bases of dismissal. However, in the portion of his Motion dedicated to attacking the statute of limitations ruling (Part II, Section A), Petitioner only makes the type of legal-error argument discussed above, which the Court has determined does not set forth a ground for relief cognizable under Rule 60(b). Having failed to set forth a ground for relief cognizable under Rule 60(b) relating to the statute of limitations ruling, Petitioner has failed to establish "exceptional circumstances" with regard to that issue.

Without any remaining arguments as to the statute of limitations ruling, Petitioner cannot prevail here. Specifically, because Petitioner cannot properly overcome the statute of limitations issue, which is a pre-requisite for relief here, none of the procedural default arguments found in Part II, Section B can provide Petitioner with relief.[6] Thus, having failed to overcome the prior statute of limitations ruling, Petitioner's Motion will be denied.

Accordingly,

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Petitioner's "Motion for Relief from Judgment Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)" [ECF No. 14] is DENIED.

So Ordered.


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