United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR
RELIEF FROM JUDGMENT
H. CLELAND, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
habeas corpus case initially came before the court on
petitioner Andrew Roush's pro se “Motion
to Vacate Judgment Due to Lack of Subject Matter
Jurisdiction.” The court construed the motion as a
habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 because it
challenged Petitioner's 1997 conviction and life sentence
for one count of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree.
Petitioner claimed in his motion that he had a history of
psychiatric problems and that his constitutional right to a
fair trial was violated because he was tried and convicted
while incompetent. He maintained that there was no
justification or legitimate excuse for the state trial
court's failure to order a psychiatric evaluation and
failure to conduct a competency hearing before his trial.
13, 2016, the court transferred Petitioner's case to the
United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit as a
second or successive habeas petition. The court noted that
Petitioner had challenged the same conviction for
first-degree criminal sexual in a prior petition for the writ
of habeas corpus and that he had not acquired permission from
the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to file a second or
successive petition, as required by 28 U.S.C. §
2244(b)(3)(A). Following the transfer, Petitioner sought
authorization from the Sixth Circuit for this court to
adjudicate the substantive merits of his competency claim.
The Sixth Circuit denied Petitioner's request and
returned his subsequent motion for a rehearing en
banc without filing it because the Court of Appeals was
prohibited from revisiting its decision. See In re Andrew
Roush, No. 16-1819 (6th Cir. Jan. 12, 2017 and Jan. 26,
before this court is Petitioner's motion for relief from
this court's order transferring his case to the Sixth
Circuit Court of Appeals. Petitioner alleges in his motion
that he never intended his motion to vacate judgment to be
filed as a habeas petition. Petitioner further alleges that
the court erred by recharacterizing his motion to vacate
judgment as a second or successive habeas petition without
first giving him an opportunity to withdraw his motion or to
show cause why the court should rule on the merits of his
argument instead of transferring his case.
brings his motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
60(b), which “allows a party to seek relief from a
final judgment, and request reopening of his case under a
limited set of circumstances including fraud, mistake, and
newly discovered evidence.” Gonzalez v.
Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 528 (2005). “Rule 60(b)(6),
the particular provision under which [P]etitioner brought his
motion, permits reopening when the movant shows ‘any .
. . reason justifying relief from the operation of the
judgment' other than the more specific circumstances set
out in Rules 60(b)(1)-(5).” Id. at 528-29.
Relief under Rule 60(b) is the exception, not the rule, and
[courts] are guided by the constraints imposed by a
“public policy favoring finality of judgments and
termination of litigation.” Waifersong, Ltd. Inc.
v. Classic Music Vending, 976 F.2d 290, 292 (6th Cir.
1992). Particularly strict standards apply to motions made
pursuant to Rule 60(b)(6), under which a court may grant
relief “only in exceptional or extraordinary
circumstances” where principles of equity
“mandate” relief. Olie v. Henry & Wright
Corp., 910 F.2d 357, 365 (6th Cir. 1990) (quoting
Hopper v. Euclid Manor Nursing Home, Inc., 867 F.2d
291, 294 (6th Cir. 1989)).
Franklin v. Jenkins, 839 F.3d 465, 472 (6th Cir.
2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 2188 (2017).
noted above, Petitioner titled his initial pleading in this
case a “Motion to Vacate Judgment due to Lack of
Subject Matter Jurisdiction.” Although he did not use
the term “habeas corpus” in his motion,
“for purposes of § 2244(b) an
‘application' for habeas relief is a filing that
contains one or more ‘claims, ' ” and
“a ‘claim' as used in § 2244(b) is an
asserted federal basis for relief from a state court's
judgment of conviction.” Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at
motion to vacate judgment was the equivalent of a habeas
corpus petition because it challenged his state conviction on
the basis of a new claim that the state trial court failed to
determine whether he was competent to stand trial. Petitioner
was required to seek permission from the Sixth Circuit Court
of Appeals before filing his pleading in this court because
he previously filed a habeas petition that challenged the
same conviction and was decided on the merits. 28 U.S.C.
§ 2244(b)(3)(A). Absent pre-authorization from the Court
of Appeals, this court lacked jurisdiction to consider
Petitioner's pleading. Franklin, 839 F.3d at 473
(citing 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3) and Burton v.
Stewart, 549 U.S. 147, 149 (2007) (per curiam)).
nevertheless, contends that the court should have given him
notice before recharacterizing his motion to vacate judgment
as a habeas petition. In some circumstances, however, federal
courts may ignore the legal label used by a pro se
litigant and recharacterize a motion to place it within a
different legal category. Castro v. United States,
540 U.S. 375, 381 (2003). “They may do so in order to
avoid an unnecessary dismissal, to avoid inappropriately
stringent application of formal labeling requirements, or to
create a better correspondence between the substance of a
pro se motion's claim and its underlying legal
basis.” Id. at 381-82 (internal and end
the rule prohibiting recharacterization of pleadings and
requiring notice to the litigant applies when a pro
se litigant's first pleading is
recharacterized as something other than what the litigant
labeled it. See id. at 383 (noting that the
limitation on recharacterizing pleadings “applies when
a court recharacterizes a pro se litigant's
motion as a first § 2255 motion”). The
Castro rule applies to pleadings recharacterized as
habeas petitions under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Martin v.
Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 713 (6th Cir. 2004).
case, the court construed Petitioner's second
challenge to his state conviction as a habeas petition.
Further, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that,
when a prisoner files a second or successive habeas petition
in the district court without prior authorization from the
Court of Appeals, the district court must transfer the case
to the Court of Appeals pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1631.In re Sims, 111 F.3d 45, 47 (6th
Cir. 1997). The Sixth Circuit has not ordered district courts