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United States v. Rinaldi

May 8, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
MICHAEL RINALDI, APPELLANT.



On Appeal From the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 98-cr-00294-2), District Judge: Honorable Edwin M. Kosik.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Fuentes, Circuit Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued: January 17, 2006

Before: ROTH, FUENTES, and BECKER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

This case comes to us following a protracted and convoluted series of motions filed by Michael Rinaldi as part of his effort to collaterally attack his federal criminal sentence. Rinaldi, currently in federal custody, appeals an order of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania denying his motion-filed pursuant to Rule 4(a)(6) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure-to reopen the time to file an appeal in his federal habeas corpus proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The issue presented by this appeal is whether a certificate of appealability ("COA") is required to appeal the denial of a Rule 4(a)(6) motion in a § 2255 proceeding. For the reasons that follow, we hold that a § 2255 movant must obtain a COA before appealing an order denying such a motion. Furthermore, because Rinaldi has failed to make the requisite showing to merit a COA, we will dismiss his appeal.

I. Background

Following a jury trial, Rinaldi was found guilty of four counts relating to cocaine distribution and firearms possession: conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute in excess of five kilograms of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); knowingly using and carrying firearms during and in relation to drug trafficking crimes, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); and possession of firearms by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The District Court sentenced Rinaldi to an aggregate sentence of over 20 years in prison. We affirmed on direct appeal, and the Supreme Court denied Rinaldi's petition for a writ of certiorari.

In 2001, Rinaldi filed a § 2255 habeas motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence.*fn1 Rinaldi made a number of claims for relief, including that his trial counsel rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance. The District Court appointed counsel for Rinaldi's § 2255 proceedings and held an evidentiary hearing at which Rinaldi's trial counsel testified. In June of 2002, the District Court denied Rinaldi's § 2255 motion on the merits, and subsequently denied his motion for reconsideration. Thereafter, Rinaldi filed a motion seeking the issuance of a COA, which we denied on September 3, 2003. In our order denying the COA, we noted that Rinaldi had not made "'a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right' on any of the claims raised in the § 2255 proceeding."

The following month, Rinaldi filed a motion in the District Court for relief from the denial of his § 2255 motion pursuant to Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn2 Rinaldi attacked the integrity of his § 2255 proceeding on the ground that the District Court should have permitted him-rather than his court-appointed counsel-to cross-examine his trial counsel at the evidentiary hearing. Rinaldi also challenged his conviction, arguing that the District Court lacked jurisdiction over his criminal prosecution and that his trial counsel was ineffective for not raising this issue. The District Court denied Rinaldi's Rule 60(b) motion on November 5, 2003, noting our September 3, 2003 order denying Rinaldi's request for a COA.

Thereafter, Rinaldi filed a motion pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,*fn3 seeking reconsideration of the District Court's denial of his Rule 60(b) motion. Rinaldi argued that the District Court improperly relied on this Court's denial of a COA with respect to the District Court's denial of his § 2255 motion because the issues presented in his Rule 60(b) motion were different from those in his § 2255 motion. The District Court denied the motion to reconsider on December 3, 2003, two days after it was filed.

Rinaldi's time to appeal the denial of his Rule 59(e) motion-and, by extension, his Rule 60(b) motion-expired on February 2, 2004.*fn4 On February 11, 2004, Rinaldi filed a motion to reopen the time in which to file his appeal of the denial of his Rule 59(e) and Rule 60(b) motions. Rinaldi based his motion upon Rule 4(a)(6) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, which allows a district court to reopen the time to file an appeal if certain conditions are satisfied.*fn5 The District Court denied Rinaldi's Rule 4(a)(6) motion on February 26, 2004. This appeal followed.*fn6

II. Discussion

Under 28 U.S.C. ยง 2253(c)(1)(B), "[u]nless a circuit justice or judge issues a certificate of appealability, an appeal may not be taken to the court of appeals from the final order in a proceeding under section 2255." This Court has not addressed whether a COA is required to ...


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