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Hugueley v. Mays

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

November 17, 2017

TONY MAYS, Warden, Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, Respondent.



         On August 29, 2017, Petitioner, Stephen Hugueley, through counsel, filed a motion to alter or amend judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), seeking relief from the Court's orders dated August 3 and 9, 2017 (Docket Entry (“D.E.”) 144; D.E. 145). (D.E. 147 at PageID 7842.) On September 21, 2017, Respondent filed a response. (D.E. 152.) Hugueley's motion is DENIED for failure to satisfy the requirements of Rule 59.

         I. STANDARD

         A motion filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) allows a court to alter or amend a judgment. “The purpose of Rule 59(e) 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) (quoting York v. Tate, 858 F.2d 322, 326 (6th Cir. 1988)). “To grant a motion filed pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, there must be ‘(1) a clear error of law; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) an intervening change in controlling law; or (4) a need to prevent manifest injustice.” Betts v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 558 F.3d 461, 474 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Henderson v. Walled Lake Consol. Schs., 469 F.3d 479, 496 (6th Cir. 2006)). The Sixth Circuit has “repeatedly held” that “Rule 59(e) motions cannot be used to present new arguments that could have been raised prior to judgment.” See Howard, 533 F.3d at 475 (citation omitted). “Rule 59(e) allows for reconsideration; it does not permit parties to effectively ‘re-argue a case.'” Id. (quoting Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Engler, 146 F.3d 367, 374 (6th Cir. 1998)). A motion to alter or amend is an “extraordinary remedy” that should be granted “sparingly.” Cole v. Lester, No. 3:12-cv-00704, 2015 WL 1650275, at *1 (M.D. Tenn. Apr. 14, 2015). “The grant or denial of a Rule 59(e) motion is within the informed discretion of the district court . . . .” Betts, 558 F.3d at 467 (quoting Scotts Co. v. Central Garden & Pet Co., 403 F.3d 781, 788 (6th Cir. 2005), abrogated on other grounds by Allied Indus. Scrap, Inc. v. OmniSource Corp., 776 F.3d 452 (6th Cir. 2015)).

         II. ANALYSIS

         Hugueley alleged that the State violated Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), in the race-based striking of potential jurors Hudson, Gibbs, Pirtle, and Prewitt[1] and requests that the Court alter or amend its orders with regard to these Batson claims. (D.E. 147 at PageID 7842; D.E. 58 at PageID 4663-64.) He asserts that the Court should grant an evidentiary hearing on the procedurally defaulted Batson claims and grant de novo review on the Pruitt claim. (D.E. 147 at PageID 7843.) In the alternative, Hugueley contends that the Court should amend its judgment to grant a certificate of appealability (“COA”) on these claims. (Id. at PageID 7843-44, 7853.)

         A. Hudson, Gibbs, and Pirtle

         Hugueley did not object at trial to the removal of prospective jurors Hudson, Gibbs, and Pirtle based on Batson. See State v. Hugueley, 185 S.W.3d 356, 369 (Tenn. 2006). On direct appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court determined that the claims were waived under Tenn. R. App. P. 36(a). Id. Rule 36(a) states that “[n]othing in this rule shall be construed as requiring relief be granted to a party responsible for an error or who failed to take whatever action was reasonably available to prevent or nullify the harmful effect of an error.” This Court determined that the claim was procedurally barred from review and denied habeas relief. (See D.E. 144 at PageID 7736-41.)

         Hugueley argues that the Court made a “clear error of law.” (D.E. 147 at PageID 7843.) He contends that there is a well-recognized exception to Tennessee's waiver rule in capital cases and that waiver is not an adequate and independent state law ground that bars the merits review of this claim. (D.E. 147 at PageID 7843-45.) Hugueley relies on State v. Rimmer, 250 S.W.3d 12, 32 (Tenn. 2008), for the assertion that there is an exception to the waiver doctrine in capital cases. (Id. at PageID 7844-45.) He cites State v. Duncan, 698 S.W.2d 63, 67-68 (Tenn. 1985), and State v. Martin, 702 S.W.2d 560, 564 (Tenn. 1985), [2] for the argument that “non-waiver” exists in capital cases. (Id. at PageID 7845.) Duncan and Martin address the admissibility or suppression of evidence at trial and jury instructions, not Batson.

         Hugueley insists that he did not violate a clearly established, regularly applied state procedural rule by raising these Batson challenges for the first time on appeal. (Id. at PageID 7844.) He contends that this Court overlooked the “laundry list” of cases where the Tennessee Supreme Court addressed claims on the merits despite the fact that those claims were not raised in the trial court. (Id. at PageID 7845-46.) Hugueley states that he need not show that the exception was applied consistently, but only that the exception is “not ‘firmly established and regularly followed.'” (Id. (quoting Parker v. Bagley, 543 F.3d 859, 861 (6th Cir. 2008)).)

         Petitioner made the same argument in his response to the motion for summary judgment. (See D.E. 127 at PageID 5667-73.) Rule 59(e) “does not afford parties an opportunity to reargue their case.” Leisure Caviar, LLC v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., 616 F.3d 612, 615 (6th Cir. 2010).

         Respondent argues that, even if Tennessee's contemporaneous-objection rule is discretionary in capital cases, a discretionary rule may still be firmly established and regularly followed for purposes of barring habeas review. (D.E. 152 at PageID 7875-76.)

         The Tennessee Supreme Court stated that “Rules 13(b) and 36(a) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, considered together, give appellate courts considerable discretion to consider issues that have not been properly presented in order to achieve fairness and justice.” In re Kaliyah S., 455 S.W.3d 533, 540 (Tenn. 2015). The Tennessee Supreme Court also held that “[i]n an ordinary, non-capital criminal case, arguments not first raised in the trial court are waived on appeal.” State v. Willis, 496 S.W.3d 653, 707 (Tenn. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 1224 (2017).[3] In Stephenson, the Tennessee Supreme Court noted that the General Assembly did not contemplate that the doctrine of waiver should not apply at capital sentencing. State v. Stephenson, 195 S.W.3d 574, 592 (Tenn. 2006), abrogated on other grounds by State v. Watkins, 362 S.W.3d 530 (Tenn. 2012). The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals in Lewis ruled that “failure to object to a Batson issue prior to the swearing of the jury results in waiver of the issue on direct appeal.” Lewis v. State, No. W2015-01249-CCA-R3P-C, 2016 WL 7654956, at *13 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 21, 2016), cert. denied (Tenn. Jan. 20, 2017); see Johnson v. State, No. 02C01-9707-CR-00292, 1999 WL 608861, at *13-14 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 12, 1999) (waiver of Batson claim in a capital case by raising issue for the first time on direct appeal); cf. State v. Godwin, No. W2013-01602-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 895497, at *9-10 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 6, 2014) (although inclined to invoke waiver due to defense counsel's failure to make a contemporaneous objection or argument, the appellate court reviewed the merits of the Batson claim because the trial court proactively raised the Batson issue sua sponte and reviewed the race-neutral reasons for the strikes, thus creating an “understanding” that the court had ruled on the Batson claims). Tennessee courts have found waiver of other types of claims in capital cases besides Batson issues for failure to object to them at trial. See, e.g., State v. Henretta, 325 S.W.3d 112, 125 (Tenn. 2010) (failure to object to prosecutor's argument at capital sentencing hearing resulted in waiver on appeal); State v. Howell, 868 S.W.2d 238, 254 (Tenn. 1993) (based on Tenn. R. App. P. 36(a), the court waived a trial court error claim about redaction of preliminary hearing testimony that was not raised until the motion for new trial).

         As shown here and in the Court's August 3, 2017 order, the purported exception to the waiver doctrine in capital cases has not been applied consistently. A discretionary state procedural rule like Tenn. R. App. P. 36(a) is as an adequate ground to bar federal habeas review. See Beard v. Kindler, 558 U.S. 53, 60-61 (2009); Stone v. Moore, 644 F.3d 342, 345 (6th Cir. 2011) (“even wholly discretionary state procedural rules may constitute adequate state grounds for foreclosing federal review of a habeas claim”). Hugueley has not ...

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