United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
JOANNE TRAGAS, Petitioner.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent,
ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTION FOR EXTENSION OF TIME
TO FILE OBJECTIONS, DENYING MOTION TO APPOINT COUNSEL, AND
DENYING MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY
L. LUDINGTON United States District Judge
22, 2015, Petitioner Joanne Tragas filed a motion to vacate
her sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. ECF No. 440. On
March 18, 2016, Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris issued a
report recommending that Tragas's motion be denied in its
entirety. ECF No. 466. In lieu of objecting to the report and
recommendation, Tragas filed two motions on April 6, 2016.
The first motion asked the Court to appoint counsel and
requested a 60 day extension of Tragas's deadline to file
objections to the report and recommendation. ECF No. 467. The
second motion asked the Court to compel one of Tragas's
former attorneys, Mr. Busse, to give Tragas her case file and
also sought extensive discovery from the Government. ECF No.
468. On May 20, 2016, the Court denied Tragas's motion
for appointment of counsel, held Tragas's request for an
extension of time to file objections in abeyance pending
resolution of her motion to compel, and directed the
Government to respond to Tragas's motion to compel. ECF
Government responded on June 3, 2016. ECF No. 470. In the
response, the Government argued that Tragas's motion to
compel was not a proper substitute for objections to the
Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation and that the
Government had no power to require Tragas's attorney to
produce her case file. The Government further argued that
Tragas was attempting to engage in a line of inquiry and
argumentation that was procedurally foreclosed.
23, 2016, Tragas replied to the Government's response.
She noted that she had requested an extension of time to file
objections and asserted that her motion to compel was meant
to “further substantiate her claims in her 2255
motion.” ECF No. 473 at 1. Tragas's reply asserted
that the discovery sought was specifically relevant because
it would aid Tragas in litigating a Fourth Amendment claim.
preparing or litigating a motion under § 2255 have
“no automatic right to discovery.” United
States v. Gabor, No. 1:10CR387, 2015 WL 3540058, at *2
(N.D. Ohio June 4, 2015). Rather, under the Rules Governing
Section 2255 Cases, “[a] party requesting discovery
must provide reasons for the request.” Rule 6(b),
“[I]t is within the district court's discretion to
grant discovery in a habeas case upon a fact specific showing
of good cause only. Gabor, 2015 WL 3540058, at *2.
The moving party bears the “burden of demonstrating the
materiality of information requested.” Stanford v.
Parker, 266 F.3d 442, 460 (6th Cir. 2001). A petitioner
cannot seek discovery merely to conduct a “fishing
expedition.” Id. See also Bracy v. Gramley,
520 U.S. 899, 908 (1997) (explaining that “good
cause” for discovery exists when the petitioner has
provided specific allegations which give the court reason to
believe that the petitioner would be entitled to relief if
the facts were fully developed) (quoting Harris v.
Nelson, 394 U.S. 286, 300 (1969)).
motion to compel production of her case file will be denied.
Regardless of whether Tragas is entitled, in general terms,
to her case file, the Mr. Busse's records are not
materially relevant to her current motion for relief under
§ 2255. Mr. Busse first appeared as Tragas's counsel
on October 6, 2009. ECF No. 118. On August 24, 2010, Mr.
Busse was substituted out as counsel for Tragas. ECF No. 270.
He did not represent Tragas at the final pretrial conference,
at trial, or on appeal. Mr. Busse represented Tragas for only
one potentially relevant proceeding: a motion to suppress
evidence. In Tragas's reply to the Government's
response, ECF No. 473, she asserts that the case file is
necessary to substantiate her Fourth Amendment claim
regarding seizure of a thumb drive from her home. However, as
the Government notes, Tragas cannot seek habeas corpus relief
on the “ground that evidence obtained in an
unconstitutional search or seizure was introduced at [her]
trial.” Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 494
(1976). More importantly, her claim regarding the thumb drive
appears to focus on Attorney Weiss's decision not to
challenge the admission of drive. See Pet. Reply Br.
at 2, ECF No. 473. Thus, Tragas is seeking a case file from
an attorney who did not make the allegedly ineffective
decision she is now challenging. The remaining reasons that
Tragas offers for needing the case file are speculative. She
has not provided any specific reasons for the Court to
conclude that, should the case file be provided, Tragas would
be entitled to relief. See United States v. Brock,
No. CR 6:12-53-DCR, 2016 WL 3079795, at *2 (E.D. Ky. May 31,
2016) (rejecting a petitioner's renewed request for a
case file for lack of specificity regarding the documents
sought); Kelley v. United States, No. 1:08-CR-51,
2014 WL 2921821, at *2 (E.D. Tenn. June 27, 2014) (rejecting
petitioner's request for documents from his
attorney's case file because the requests lacked
specificity regarding what the petitioner expected to find).
Tragas's motion to compel production of the case file
will be denied.
extent Tragas requests documents, exhibits, and other
discovery from the Government, that request will also be
denied. Tragas has not offered specific reasons why that
discovery will materially aid her in litigating the §
2255 motion for relief. To the extent she does reference
particular reasons, they all involve Fourth Amendment
evidentiary claims which, as already mentioned, are not
cognizable on § 2255 review. The absence of
non-speculative reasons for the discovery indicates that
Tragas is on a fishing expedition. Accordingly, her motion to
compel discovery will be denied.
Tragas's motion to compel will be denied, the Court may
now reach her motion for an extension of time to file
objections, previously held in abeyance. Although the case
file she seeks from Mr. Busse is not relevant to her claims,
she did request the extension within a reasonable amount of
time after the report and recommendation was issued. In order
to allow Tragas a full opportunity to make objections to the
report and recommendation, her extension will be granted in
part. Tragas will be given a renewed period of fourteen days
to make objections.
it is ORDERED that Tragas's motion to compel discovery,
ECF No. 468, is DENIED.
further ORDERED that Tragas's motion for an extension of
time is GRANTED IN PART, and Tragas's Motion to Appoint
Counsel is DENIED, ECF No. 467.
further ORDERED that Tragas is directed to file any
objections to the Magistrate Judge's report and