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Rhines v. Young

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division

February 16, 2016

CHARLES RUSSELL RHINES, Petitioner,
v.
DARIN YOUNG, Warden, South Dakota State Penitentiary; Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KAREN E. SCHREIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Petitioner, Charles Rhines, moves the court to reconsider its August 5, 2015 order denying his request to hold this proceeding in abeyance for an additional 180 days. Rhines also moves the court for leave to file a supplemental response to respondent, Darin Young’s, motion for summary judgment, for leave to file a second amended petition for habeas corpus, and to strike respondent’s supplemental statement of material facts. Rhines, acting pro se, has filed a motion to suppress evidence and a motion to investigate the Federal Public Defender’s Office. Respondent resists the motions. The court denies the motion for reconsideration, denies the motion for leave to file a supplemental response, denies the motion for leave to file a second amended habeas petition, grants the motion to strike, and denies Rhines’s two pro se motions.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Rhines was convicted of premeditated first-degree murder and third-degree burglary. On January 26, 1993, a jury found that the death penalty should be imposed, and the trial judge sentenced Rhines to death by lethal injection. Rhines appealed his conviction and sentence to the South Dakota Supreme Court. Fourteen issues were raised on direct appeal. The South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed Rhines’s conviction and sentence, and the United States Supreme Court denied further review on December 2, 1996.

Rhines applied for a writ of habeas corpus in state court on December 5, 1996. In his state habeas, Rhines raised numerous issues. The trial court denied Rhines’s state habeas on October 8, 1998. The South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the denial on February 9, 2000.

On February 22, 2000, Rhines filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. An amended petition for writ of habeas corpus was filed on November 20, 2000, which alleged thirteen grounds for relief. Respondent alleged that several of the grounds had not been exhausted and were, therefore, procedurally defaulted. On July 3, 2002, this court found that eight of Rhines’s grounds were unexhausted. This court stayed the petition pending exhaustion of Rhines’s claims in state court on the condition that Rhines file a petition for habeas review in state court within 60 days and return to federal court within 60 days of completing the state proceedings. The state appealed.

On direct appeal, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the stay and remanded the case so this court could determine whether Rhines could proceed by dismissing the unexhausted claims from his petition. Rhines v. Weber, 346 F.3d 799 (8th Cir. 2003). Rhines filed a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether a district court may issue an order of stay and abeyance in a mixed petition for habeas corpus, that is, a petition containing exhausted and unexhausted claims. Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269 (2005). The Court held that stay and abeyance is permissible under some circumstances. Id. at 277. The Court remanded the case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals so it could determine whether this court abused its discretion in granting the stay. Id. at 279. The Court specifically stated that “once the petitioner exhausts his state remedies, the district court will lift the stay and allow the petitioner to proceed in federal court.” Id. at 275-76 (emphasis added).

Because this court did not have the benefit of the controlling Supreme Court authority when it issued the order of stay and abeyance in 2002, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case to this court to analyze the petition for writ of habeas corpus under the new test enunciated in Rhines. Rhines v. Weber, 409 F.3d 982, 983 (8th Cir. 2005). This court was directed to analyze each unexhausted claim to: (1) determine whether Rhines had good cause for his failure to exhaust the claims in state court, (2) determine whether the claims were plainly meritless, and (3) consider whether Rhines had engaged in abusive litigation tactics or intentional delay. Id. (citing Rhines, 544 U.S. at 277-28). On December 19, 2005, this court found that Rhines had good cause for failing to exhaust the claims, the claims were not plainly meritless, and Rhines had not engaged in abusive litigation tactics. Docket 150. The court stayed Rhines’s petition for habeas corpus pending exhaustion in state court. Id.

On December 21, 2005, Rhines returned to state court to exhaust his claims. On February 27, 2013, the Circuit Court for the Seventh Judicial Circuit of South Dakota entered judgment in favor of respondent on all of Rhines’s claims. Rhines timely requested a Certificate of Appealability from both the state Circuit Court and the Supreme Court of South Dakota. His request was denied on July 17, 2013. Rhines filed a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. The Court denied the petition on January 21, 2014. Docket 223. On February 4, 2014, this court lifted the stay on Rhines’s federal habeas corpus proceeding. Docket 224.

After the stay was lifted, respondent moved for summary judgment to deny Rhines’s petition for habeas corpus. Docket 225. During the pendency of respondent’s summary judgment motion, Rhines moved the court for another stay of this proceeding for a minimum of 180 days. On August 5, 2015, this court denied Rhines’s motion for a stay. Docket 272. Oral argument on respondent’s motion for summary judgment was then set for October 23, 2015. Docket 273.

Two days before the scheduled oral argument, Rhines moved the court to reconsider the denial of his motion for a stay. Docket 279. Rhines also sought leave to file a supplemental response to respondent’s summary judgment motion and for leave to file a second amended habeas corpus petition. Docket 281; Docket 282. Following oral argument, this court allowed the parties to submit additional briefing on two issues: first, on the interplay between the standards of review applicable to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and 28 U.S.C. § 2254; and second, on the relationship between Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012) and Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170 (2011). The parties have completed the round of supplemental briefing.

DISCUSSION

I. Rhines’s Motion for Reconsideration

Rhines moved for a stay of respondent’s summary judgment motion so Rhines’s most recently appointed counsel would have time to investigate additional ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims that he argues fall within the purview of Martinez. This court denied the motion after finding that any additional ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims would not fall under Martinez’s holding. The court found that Rhines received independent counsel between his initial-review collateral proceeding and his federal habeas proceedings. Thus, there was no conflict of interest that interfered with Rhines’s federal habeas counsel. Additionally, the court found that Rhines’s federal habeas petition raised ten ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims that were considered and rejected by the state habeas courts. Because Rhines was unable to identify any potentially meritorious ineffective assistance claims that should have been raised and were not, the court found that the narrow exception laid out in Martinez did not apply to Rhines. Finally, the court found that Martinez was decided almost two years before the court lifted the stay on Rhines’s federal habeas petition, but Rhines did not seek leave to conduct his investigation until approximately fifteen months later. Because the holding in Martinez was an equitable one, the court found that Rhines’s delay was a further reason to deny his request for a stay.

Here, Rhines’s motion is styled as one for reconsideration of the court’s August 5, 2015 order. Because Rhines has not identified any rule of procedure entitling him to the relief he seeks, the court presumes that Rhines intended to seek relief pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). Under that rule, a party can seek relief from a 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 opposing party;
(4) the judgment is void;
(5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or
(6) any other reason that justifies relief.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). The substance of Rhines’s motion is that he disagrees with the court’s conclusions and asks the court to reconsider his arguments again. See, e.g., Docket 279 at 1 (“This Court’s [order] fails to consider the unusual factual scenario that exists in Mr. Rhines’ case. Mr. Rhines has not simultaneously had the benefit of effective, independent counsel[.]”). That is not, however, a sufficient justification for reconsideration of the court’s order under any provision of Rule 60(b). See Spinar v. S.D. Bd. of Regents, 796 F.2d 1060, 1062 (8th Cir. 1986) (“In other words, the motion asserts that the District Court made a legal error. So construed, the motion does not set forth a ground for relief cognizable under Rule 60(b).”); see also Hartman v. Lauchli, 304 F.2d 431, 432 (8th Cir. 1962) (“Rule 60(b) was not intended as a substitute for a direct appeal from an erroneous judgment. The fact that a judgment is erroneous does not constitute a ground for relief under the Rule.”).

Facially, then, Rhines is not entitled to relief on his motion for reconsideration. But rather than deny the motion on this basis, the court will assume for the purposes of this discussion that Rhines has advanced a cognizable basis for relief under Rule 60(b) for the ...


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