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Hughes v. Keith

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 17, 2017

RANDY HUGHES
v.
TIM KEITH, WARDEN

         SECTION: “J”

          ORDER & REASONS

         Before the Court is a Motion for Reconsideration (R. Docs. 26, 27) filed by Petitioner, Randy Hughes (“Petitioner”), and an opposition thereto (R. Doc. 35) filed by the State of Louisiana on behalf of Respondent, Warden Tim Keith (“Respondent”). Having considered the motion and legal memoranda, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that Petitioner's motion should be DENIED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Petitioner Hughes is a convicted inmate who asks this Court to “declare all judgments [rendered against him] an absolute nullity” under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) due to “fraud upon the Court by respondent and in the interest of justice.” (R. Doc. 26.) On March 17, 2008, Petitioner was charged by bill of information with one count of attempted distribution of cocaine in violation of Louisiana Revised Statute § 40:979/967(A) and one count of possession of cocaine in violation of Louisiana Revised Statute § 40:967(C). (R. Doc. 15.) Petitioner pleaded guilty to both counts and was sentenced to fifteen years for the attempted distribution of cocaine charge and five years on the count of possession of cocaine, each sentence to run concurrently. Id. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Petitioner also stipulated to being a fourth felony offender in exchange for the mandatory minimum sentence of twenty years at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Id. After exhausting his state court review, Petitioner filed a §2254 petition in the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, R. Doc. 1, which was thereafter transferred to this Court. (R. Doc. 2.)

         In his original petition, Petitioner first argued that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel failed to advise him of his right to enter an Alford plea, thus making his guilty plea involuntary. (R. Doc. 1 at 2); see North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25 (1970). Second, Petitioner argued that he was denied his Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights when he was not advised of his rights under Louisiana Revised Statute § 15:529.1(D). Id. Third, Petitioner argued that he was denied effective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel failed to move to quash the multiple bill of information, and when trial counsel “did not challenge proof of the ten year cleansing period linking his 1987 conviction in the multiple offender proceeding. . . .” Id. at 3. Finally, Petitioner argued that the trial court violated his Fifth Amendment right to due process by finding his claims for relief procedurally barred and non-cognizable. Id.

         On December 23, 2013, Magistrate Judge Alma Chasez issued a Report and Recommendations on Petitioner's original federal habeas petition. (R. Doc. 15.) The magistrate determined that Petitioner's first three claims, as respectively described above, were procedurally barred and dismissed with prejudice. Id. at 35. As to Petitioner's fourth and final claim, the magistrate noted that “a federal habeas court does not sit to correct errors made by state courts in interpreting and applying state law.” Id. (citing Narvaiz v. Johnson, 134 F.3d 688, 695 (5th Cir. 1998)). The magistrate determined that this claim was beyond the scope of the Court's review and dismissed with prejudice. Id. at 36. On January 8, 2014, this Court adopted the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendations over Petitioner's objections. (R. Doc. 17.) On April 25, 2016, the Fifth Circuit affirmed this Court's judgment. (R. Doc. 25; R. Doc. 25-1.)

         On June 27, 2016, Petitioner filed the present Rule 60(b) Motion for Reconsideration. (R. Docs. 26, 27.) Petitioner's motion presents several arguments, some new and some old. First, Petitioner argues that “the State of Louisiana has obtained judgment by reliance of State v. Cotton, 45 So.3d 1030 (La. 10/15/10) retroactively to [his] conviction and sentence. . . .” (R. Doc. 26 at 2.) Petitioner argues that all state court judgments are absolutely null as a result thereof. Id. Second, Petitioner argues that Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 881.2 prohibited him from seeking review of his sentence in conformity with the plea bargain which was set forth in the record at the time of the plea. Id. Third, Petitioner argues that his post-conviction counsel was ineffective by not challenging the multiple bill adjudication and sentence, because he was not advised of the minimum and maximum sentences to which he may be subject, was not advised of his right to a trial by judge or jury, was not “Boykinized, ” and was not advised of his right to confront and cross examine his accusers. Id. at 3. Petitioner further argues that he was “subjected to ineffective counsel during the multiple bill adjudication hearing and sentence due to [counsel's] failure to investigate the constitutionality of the underlying prior felonies being used for multiple bill purposes under Louisiana Revised Statute 15:529.1 and available defenses and file a Motion to Quash the Multiple Bill of Information prior to advisement to plead guilty resulting in the increase of sentence.” (R. Doc. 26-1 at 4.) Fourth, Petitioner argues that he had a protected due process and equal protection right to attack his conviction and sentence. (R. Doc. 27.) Finally, Petitioner argues that “the trial court lacked jurisdiction to entertain [his] Motion to Retract (Withdraw) Guilty Plea filed on February 28, 2010 . . . since [his] right to appeal had yet to lapse.” Id.

         Respondent filed an opposition to Petitioner's motion. (R. Doc. 35.) Respondent argues that Petitioner's motion raises new claims and arguments that were not raised previously. As a result, Respondent argues Petitioner's motion should be denied as unexhausted and procedurally defaulted. Id. at 5. Further, Respondent argues that Petitioner is attempting to file an unauthorized second or successive petition. Id. Respondent also argues that Petitioner's motion is untimely. However, even if the motion was filed timely, Respondent argues that Petitioner has not demonstrated that fraud or other misconduct occurred and has not demonstrated that any such misconduct prevented him from fully and fairly presenting his case. Id. at 8. Finally, Respondent argues that Petitioner has not demonstrated any extraordinary circumstances that would entitle him to relief under Rule 60(b)(6).

         DISCUSSION

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)-(c) provides:

(b) Grounds for Relief from a Final Judgment, Order, or Proceeding. On motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons:
(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;
(2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b);
(3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by an ...

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