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Gibson v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

May 19, 2017

ANTOIWAN GIBSON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          THOMAS A. VARLAN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This pro se federal inmate has filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Doc. 126].[1] Petitioner has also filed the following motions which are before the Court: (1) motion for extension of time to file legal memorandum, for certain discovery, and for relief under Rule 36 [Doc. 127]; (2) motion to amend his § 2255 motion [Doc. 133]; (3) a second motion for extension of time to file legal memorandum, for certain discovery, and for relief under Rule 36 [Doc. 134]; and (4) motion for in forma pauperis status [Doc. 135]. The Court will address these motions in turn.

         I. Motions for Extension of Time and for Discovery

         Petitioner filed a motion for extension of time to file a legal memorandum and for discovery of certain sealed documents on January 23, 2017 [Doc. 127]. He filed an identical motion requesting the same relief on May 8, 2017 [Doc. 134]. The Court will first address the discovery request and will then turn to the request for an extension of time.

         As to Petitioner's request for discovery, “[a] judge may, for good cause, authorize a party to conduct discovery under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure or Civil Procedure, or in accordance with the practices and principles of law.” Rule 6(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings for the United States District Courts. The “party requesting discovery must provide reasons for the request.” Rule 6(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings for the United States District Courts. However, a petitioner is not entitled to discovery as a matter of ordinary course. Bracy v. Gramley, 520 U.S. 899, 904 (1997).[2]

         Thus, a court must provide discovery for a § 2255 motion only upon a showing of good cause. Good cause exists “where specific allegations before the court show reason to believe that the petitioner may, if the facts are fully developed, be able to demonstrate that he is . . . entitled to relief.” Id. at 908-09 (quoting Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S. 286, 300 (1969)).

         In this case, Petitioner seeks to have the Court: (1) conduct a review, “in camera or otherwise, ” of the sealed documents; (2) provide a summary of those documents to Petitioner and Respondent's counsel; and (3) rule provisionally that the documents be unsealed for Petitioner's use solely in connection with these § 2255 proceedings [Doc. 127 pp. 2-3]. Petitioner maintains that he has done his best to present cognizable issues for collateral review in his § 2255 motion, but that the sealed documents might contain crucial information which would allow him to present full argument in connection with those issues in his supporting memorandum brief [Id. at 1-2].

         Petitioner's blanket allegations that discovery might help him collect information germane to the claims offered in his § 2255 motion lacks factual elaboration. Petitioner has not indicated the ways in which the sought materials would help him develop the facts fully and he has not identified the issues in his § 2255 motion that he wishes to expand with further factual elaboration. He also has not shown how such facts may be able to demonstrate that he is entitled to relief.

         Lacking any inkling as to what Petitioner seeks to discover in these materials, the Court considers his request to be more in the nature of a fishing expedition. This is not a proper purpose for the discovery process. See Williams v. Bagley, 380 F.3d 932, 974 (6th Cir. 2004) (instructing that Rule 6 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases does not “sanction fishing expeditions based on conclusory allegations”) (quoting Rector v. Johnson, 120 F.3d 551, 562 (5th Cir. 1997)); Till v. United States, No. 107-CV-55, 2007 WL 1704397, at *7 (W.D. Mich. June 11, 2007) (citing Bagley, 380 F.3d at 974) (observing that a § 2255 movant may not “embark upon a ‘fishing expedition' based solely on conclusory allegations”).

         At this phase of the proceedings, the Court has no “reason to believe that the petitioner may, if the facts are fully developed, be able to demonstrate that he is . . . entitled to relief.” See Bracy, 520 U.S. at 908-09. Accordingly, Petitioner's request for discovery of sealed documents will be denied.

         Petitioner also asks the Court for a ninety day extension of time-a period to be triggered on the date of his receipt of the sealed documents-to file a legal memorandum in support of his § 2255 motion [Doc. 127 p. 2]. Because the Court will deny the discovery component of this motion, the Court declines to grant the lengthy extension of time Petitioner requests. Even so, the Court will allow Petitioner a lesser amount of time to file his supporting brief. Therefore, the part of the motion requesting additional time for Petitioner to submit a supporting brief will be granted, but only to the extent that Petitioner will have thirty days from the date on this Order to file his supporting brief.

         II. Relief Under Rule 36

         Petitioner also requests relief under Rule 36 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure for the Court to correct a clerical error in the judgment [Doc. 127 p. 3]. Rule 36 provides that courts “may at any time correct a clerical error in a judgment.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 36. Petitioner contends that the judgment reflects that he pled guilty to “distribute and possess with intent to distribute a kilogram or more, ” when he was actually convicted “of a drug quantity of 100 grams or more” [Doc. 127 p. 3]. The Court notes that the judgment states that Petitioner is guilty of “Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute 100 Grams or More of Heroin” [Doc. 101 p. 1], which is the same offense Petitioner contends he pled guilty to. Therefore, it does not appear that there is a clerical error and Petitioner's request for relief under Rule 36 will be denied.

         III. Motion for In Forma Pauperis Status ...


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