United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
TIMOTHY C. WATSON, Petitioner,
TAMMY FORD, Respondent.
ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION TO ALTER OR
DANIEL BREEN, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the October 17, 2016 pro se “Motion to
Reconsider” filed by Petitioner, Timothy C. Watson.
(Docket Entry (“D.E.”) 66.) Respondent, Tammy
Ford, filed a response opposing the motion on November 1,
2016, (D.E. 68), and Watson has filed a reply (D.E. 73). For
the reasons that follow, Petitioner's motion is DENIED.
an inmate housed at Whiteville Correctional Facility
(“WCF”), previously filed a Petition for Writ of
Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (“2254
Petition”) against Ford, Warden of WCF, (D.E. 2), which
this Court denied on September 12, 2016 (D.E. 64). In his
2254 Petition, Watson attacked his state court conviction for
two counts of selling .5 grams or more of cocaine, raising
six allegations of constitutional violations, including three
claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. (D.E. 2.)
Additionally, he claimed that post-conviction counsel had a
conflict of interest, that the trial court improperly allowed
him to proceed pro se without conducting a competency
evaluation, and that he was prejudiced by the lost transcript
of the hearing where he was questioned about his competency
to proceed pro se. (Id.) After review, this Court
concluded that five of Watson's claims were procedurally
barred because he had not presented them to the Tennessee
Court of Criminal Appeals and had not shown cause for this
failure. (D.E. 64 at PageID 1386.) With respect to the
remaining claim-that his post-conviction counsel had a
conflict of interest-this Court also denied relief, noting
that the issue was supported only by conclusory allegations
and without any evidence. (Id. at PageID 1378.)
Following that determination, Watson filed the instant
“Motion to Reconsider” his 2254 Petition.
pro se petitioners file inartfully drafted post-conviction
motions, without specifying the legal basis for the requested
relief. District courts, in an effort to assist pro se
litigants unaware of the applicable statutory framework,
often recharacterize such filings . . . .” United
States v. McDonald, 326 F. App'x 880, 882 (6th Cir.
2009) (quoting In re Shelton, 295 F.3d 620, 621 (6th
Cir. 2002)). Watson's motion is most properly considered
as a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend judgment. Rule 59(e)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a party to
move to “alter or amend a judgment” within
“28 days after entry.” The Rule's purpose
“is to allow the district court to correct its own
errors, sparing the parties and appellate courts the burden
of unnecessary appellate proceedings.” Howard v.
United States, 533 F.3d 472, 475 (6th Cir. 2008)
(internal quotation marks omitted). “A Rule 59(e)
motion may be granted if there is a clear error of law, newly
discovered evidence, an intervening change in controlling
law, or to prevent manifest injustice.” Besser v.
Sepanak, 478 F. App'x 1001, 1001 (6th Cir. 2012).
not stated explicitly as such in his motion, the Court
construes Petitioner's claim as one of newly discovered
evidence. In his motion, Watson stated that he had attached
documents which showed that his post-conviction counsel,
Charles Kelly, had a conflict of interest “that grossly
deprived [him] of his Due Process Rights” in state
post-conviction proceedings. (D.E. 66 at PageID 1390.) As
mentioned above, Petitioner made this claim in his 2254
Petition but included no evidence to support it. As an
exhibit to the instant motion, Watson submitted a document
filed by the attorney in state court. (D.E. 66-1.) That
document is entitled “Petition for Review” and
was filed while Kelly was representing Watson's trial
attorney, Martin Howie, in a matter before the Tennessee
Board of Professional Responsibility (“TBPR”).
(Id.) This, Petitioner avers, proves that Kelly was
simultaneously representing Howie and Watson during the
course of the latter's post-conviction proceedings. (D.E.
66 at PageID 1390.) In his reply, Watson suggests that this
conflict of interest motivated Kelly's decision not to
call Howie to testify at the post-conviction evidentiary
hearing. (D.E. 73 at PageID 1439.)
although this document supports Watson's contention that
Kelly represented Howie before the TBPR, he does not explain
how that fact supports his motion or entitles him to relief.
The attorney represented Watson in his post-conviction
proceedings in 2010, (D.E. 64 at PageID 1369-71), but the
“Petition for Review” in Howie's case was not
filed until May 27, 2011 (D.E. 66-1). Consequently, this
evidence does not support Watson's contention that there
was a conflict of interest at the time Kelly represented him.
a claim that post-conviction counsel was ineffective is
viable in a federal habeas action in an extremely limited
factual scenario. Prior to 2012, federal habeas petitioners
were barred from proving cause for procedural default with a
claim of ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel.
See, e.g., Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S.
722, 731-32 (1991). However, in that year, the United States
Supreme Court adopted a narrow exception to this prohibition.
See Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012). In
Martinez, the Court held that “[i]nadequate
assistance of counsel at initial-review collateral
proceedings [could] establish cause for a prisoner's
procedural default of a claim of ineffective assistance at
trial.” Id. at 1315.
as discussed in this Court's previous order,
Martinez is inapplicable to the instant case.
Petitioner's procedural default resulted from his filing
an untimely pro se petition for post-conviction relief.
(See D.E. 64 at PageID 1386, n.12.) Kelly was not
appointed until after the procedural default
occurred and thus was not the ...