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Leonor v. Houston

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

September 27, 2017



          Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on Petitioner Juan Luis Leonor's (“Leonor”) Motion for Leave to Amend Habeas Corpus Petition (Filing No. 103) and Motion to Reopen Judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6) (Filing No. 104). For the reasons that follow, the motions will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The court denied Leonor habeas relief on July 5, 2007. (Filing No. 53; Filing No. 54.) In that ruling, the court determined that certain ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims were procedurally defaulted. (Filing No. 53 at CM/ECF pp. 9-14, 19.) Leonor ultimately appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Filing No. 79.) The Court denied Leonor's petition for writ of certiorari on June 20, 2008. (Id.)

         On June 13, 2012, Leonor filed a Rule 60(b) motion predicated upon Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012) (holding that where, under state law, claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel must be raised in an initial-review collateral proceeding, a procedural default will not bar a federal habeas court from hearing a substantial claim of ineffective assistance at trial if, in the initial-review proceeding, there was no counsel or counsel in that proceeding was ineffective). (Filing No. 82.) The court denied Leonor's motion. (Filing No. 83.) It first stated that it had “serious doubts” about (1) whether Martinez applies to Nebraska because Nebraska does not bar ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims on direct appeal or in motions for new trial, and (2) whether Leonor's ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims were “substantial” within the meaning of Martinez. (Id.) Ultimately, the court determined that there was a simpler explanation: Martinez “does not present the required ‘extraordinary circumstance' justifying reopening the defaulted claims, particularly because this case has been final for many years and murder cases like this one are especially deserving of finality.” (Id.) (citation omitted)

         Leonor appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied him a certificate of appealability and dismissed the appeal. (Filing No. 85; Filing No. 99.) The mandate was issued on May 28, 2014. (Filing No. 102.) Over three years later, Leonor filed the motions now pending before the court.


         Pursuant to Rule 60(b), Leonor seeks to reopen the court's judgment regarding his procedurally-defaulted claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. (Filing No. 104.) He argues that Trevino v. Thaler, 133 S.Ct. 1911, 1912 (2013) (extending Martinez to state procedural frameworks where “by reason of its design and operation, makes it highly unlikely in a typical case that a defendant will have a meaningful opportunity to raise an ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim on direct appeal”) applies to Nebraska, thereby extending Martinez to Nebraska, and that he is now entitled to relief from judgment under Rule 60(b) as shown by Buck v. Davis, 137 S.Ct. 759 (2017). (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 1-9.) In conjunction with his Rule 60(b) motion, Leonor seeks to amend his procedurally-defaulted claims. (Filing No. 103.) He argues that his proposed amendments relate back to his original claims, because “they all arise out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence.” (See Id. at CM/ECF pp. 14, 48.)

         A. Motion to Amend

         Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a party may amend its pleadings with the opposing party's consent or the court's leave. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). In addition, the rule states the “court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Id. “A district court may appropriately deny leave to amend where there are compelling reasons such as undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motive, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the non-moving party, or futility of the amendment.” Horras v. Am. Capital Strategies, Ltd., 729 F.3d 798, 804 (8th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Leonor moves to amend his habeas petition over ten years after the court denied him habeas relief. His proposed amendments include factual allegations that Leonor knew when the court first allowed him to amend his habeas petition in 2005. (See Filing No. 12; Filing No 103.) The court, over four years ago, rejected Leonor's first Rule 60(b) motion also predicated on Martinez, primarily because Martinez did not present the required “extraordinary circumstance” to justify reopening Leonor's procedurally-defaulted claims. Now, Leonor seeks to amend his claims under the belief that they will qualify as “substantial” within the meaning of Martinez, which Leonor asserts was extended to Nebraska through Trevino. (See Filing No. 104 at CM/ECF pp. 17, 19, 32.) Trevino was decided over four years ago, in 2013. Leonor also seeks to avoid the one-year statute of limitations for filing § 2254 habeas petitions, see 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). (Id. at CM/ECF p. 2.) The court will, therefore, deny leave to amend for the compelling reasons of undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motive, but also because, as discussed below, futility of the amendment.

         B. Motion to Reopen Judgment Under Rule 60(b)(6)

         Leonor's Rule 60(b) motion is convoluted because some of his “amended” claims are actually new claims attacking his conviction for second degree murder and others appear to be Leonor expanding on arguments for claims in his original amended habeas petition (Filing No. 12) that challenged the same conviction.[1]

A Rule 60(b) motion is a second or successive habeas corpus application if it contains a claim. For the purpose of determining whether the motion is a habeas corpus application, claim is defined as an “asserted federal basis for relief from a state court's judgment of conviction” or as an attack on the “federal court's previous resolution of the claim on the merits.” Gonzalez [v. Crosby], 545 U.S. [524, ] 530, 532, 125 S.Ct. 2641');">125 S.Ct. 2641 [2005]. “On the merits” refers “to a determination that there exist or do not exist grounds entitling a petitioner to habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2254(a) and ...

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