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Spencer v. Barret

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 27, 2015

WILLIAM SPENCER, Petitioner,
v.
JOSEPH BARRET, Respondent.

OPINION AND ORDER RESOLVING POST-JUDGMENT MOTIONS

TERRENCE G. BERG, District Judge.

In this case, Petitioner William Spencer, a state prisoner[1], filed a successive habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on February 21, 2014 (Dkt. 1) that was later amended to include a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Dkt. 22). Although his case was dismissed on January 14, 2015 (Dkts. 27-28), Petitioner has filed three post-judgment motions currently before the Court (Dkts. 29, 32-33). On February 10, 2015, Petitioner filed a motion asking the Court to "state its findings and conclusions" on his claims. (Dkt. 29.) On February 17, 2015, Petitioner filed a motion to alter or amend judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). (Dkt. 32.) Finally, on May 26, 2015, Petitioner filed a motion for leave to serve a supplemental pleading detailing Petitioner's most recent denial of parole. (Dkt. 33.)

For the reasons stated herein, the Court will construe Petitioner's motion to state findings and conclusions (Dkt. 29) and his motion to alter or amend judgment (Dkt. 32) as motions for reconsideration. The Court will DENY these motions because the dismissal of Petitioner's case was appropriate and will again DENY Petitioner a certificate of appealability and permission to appeal his SORA claim in forma pauperis because any such appeal would be frivolous. With regard to Petitioner's denial of parole claim[2] brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Court will conclude that an appeal from this order cannot be taken in good faith. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3); Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 445 (1962). Finally, because the Court will affirm its dismissal of Petitioner's denial of parole claim, Petitioner's motion for leave to serve a supplemental pleading related to this claim (Dkt. 33) will be DENIED AS MOOT and this case will remain closed.

On April 10, 2013, Petitioner filed a motion to file a successive petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Sixth Circuit as required by 28 U.S.C. §2244(b). ( In re Spencer, No. 13-1445, Dkt. 1 (6th Cir. 2013).) In his petition, Petitioner asserted that: (1) the 2011 and 2013 amendments to the Michigan Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) constitute an ex post facto law as applied to him, and thus undermine the voluntariness of his guilty plea[3]; and (2) his conviction is based upon insufficient evidence. ( Id. ) The Sixth Circuit denied the motion as to Petitioner's insufficient evidence claim[4], but it held that Petitioner was not required to obtain authorization to file a petition challenging certain SORA requirements "that did not exist prior to his initial petition."[5] ( In re Spencer, Dkt. 27, p. 4.)

Petitioner filed his successive petition with this Court on February 21, 2014, raising both his SORA and insufficient evidence claims despite the Sixth Circuit's order denying Petitioner authorization to file the latter claim. (Dkt. 1, pp. 3-4.) Then, on September 17, 2014, Petitioner filed a motion to amend his petition. (Dkt. 21.) On November 24, 2014, the Court granted this motion because, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1)(B), his amended petition could be filed within 21 days after service of a responsive pleading as a matter of course. (Dkt. 25, p. 2.) In his amended petition, Petitioner asserted, in addition to his two original habeas claims, that the denial of his parole, solely because he maintains his innocence, violated his rights under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments.[6] (Dkt. 22, p. 16.) This unrelated civil rights claim was brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ( Id. at p. 3, ¶ 5.)

The Court denied the amended petition on January 14, 2014, explaining that it only had jurisdiction to consider Petitioner's SORA claim and finding that this claim was without merit. (Dkt. 27, pp. 1-2, 9-13.) In addition, Petitioner was denied a certificate of appealability and permission to proceed on appeal in forma pauperis. ( Id. at 14.)

Petitioner has filed three post-judgment motions currently before the Court. As the Court explained in its Order dismissing the amended petition, Petitioner was not authorized to raise his insufficient evidence claim in this proceeding and therefore the Court will not reach Petitioner's renewed arguments related to that claim. (Dkt. 27, p. 6.) To the extent that Petitioner's post-judgment motions ask the Court to reconsider the dismissal of his SORA claim, however, the Court will affirm that its dismissal of that claim was appropriate.

Petitioner also asks the Court to reconsider the dismissal for lack of jurisdiction of his denial of parole claim. ( E.g., Dkt. 32, p. 5; Dkt. 33.) Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Petitioner argues that he is being denied parole solely because he maintains his innocence and that the Michigan Parole Board's conduct violates his First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.[7] (Dkt. 32, p. 23.) Petitioner maintains that his § 1983 claim is not a second or successive habeas petition and therefore does not require certification from the Court of Appeals. ( Id. at p. 2, ¶ 5.)

While the Court generally agrees that prior authorization from the Court of Appeals is not required to bring a § 1983 claim on its own, in this context dismissal was appropriate because, first, Petitioner's unrelated First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment claims were inappropriately joined to a successive habeas claim that was only approved by the Sixth Circuit to raise the SORA-related issues and second, these denial of parole claims are ultimately meritless. Because there are multiple reasons why the outcome of this case would not be altered, Petitioner's motions will be denied and this case will remain closed.

A. Petitioner's Post-Judgment Motions

Although this case was closed on January 14, 2015, Petitioner persists in asserting his insufficient evidence, denial of parole, and SORA claims. Because Petitioner was not authorized to bring his insufficient evidence claim, the Court will only address Petitioner's arguments in his post-judgment motions that relate to the dismissal of his SORA and denial of parole claims.[8]

1. Construing Petitioner's Motion to State Findings and Conclusions and Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment as Motions for Reconsideration

The Court will construe Petitioner's motion to state findings and conclusions (Dkt. 29) and his motion to alter or amend judgment (Dkt. 32) as motions for reconsideration. Petitioner raises arguments related to his SORA and denial of parole claims in these two post-judgment motions. In his motion to state findings and conclusions, Petitioner asks the Court "to amend and make additional findings as to whether": (1) "the SORA amendments enacted in 2011 and 2014 were considered" in United States v. Felts, 674 F.3d 599 (6th Cir. 2012); and (2) whether the Parole Board's actions "deprive Spencer of his property entitlement, and chill his freedom of speech and privilege against self-incrimination." (Dkt. 29, pp. 1, 11.) Because Petitioner is asking the Court to reconsider its reasons for dismissing Petitioner's SORA claim, the Court will construe this filing as a motion for reconsideration.

Petitioner then filed a motion to alter to amend judgment under Rule 59(e) on February 2, 2015, repeating his argument that the Court erroneously dismissed his SORA claim by relying on the "outdated" Felts case. (Dkt. 32, pp. 8-9.) Petitioner also asks the Court to reconsider his denial of parole claim. ( Id. at 10-21.) Although Petitioner captioned this motion as a motion to alter or amend judgment brought pursuant to Rule 59(e), Petitioner states the standard or review for a motion for reconsideration and requests relief "under Local Rule 7.1(h)(3), " or the local rule governing motions for reconsideration. ( Id. at 7-8.) Moreover, a motion to alter or amend judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) may properly be ...


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