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Massey v. Warren

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 31, 2013

LLOYD A. MASSEY, Petitioner,
CHARLES WARREN et al., Respondents.


RENÉE MARIE BUMB, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court upon the Court's review of the submissions made thus far in this action, and it appearing that:

On June 28, 2011, Petitioner Lloyd A. Massey ("Petitioner") submitted for filing a habeas petition ("Petition"), executed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his conviction and sentence rendered by the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division ("Law Division") on September 19, 2002. See Docket Entry No. 1, at 3. This Court, therefore, directed Respondents to answer Petitioner's challenges. See Docket Entry No. 5.[1]

On July 11, 2012, Respondents filed their answer. See Docket Entries Nos. 9 to 15. While Respondents' submission amounted, in toto, to seven-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-five (7, 785) pages, see id., Respondents' answer, with the caption and certification included, were a mere seven and a half pages. See Docket Entry No. 9. Respondents' index of the exhibits (which were the remainder of Respondents' submission) merely offered the Court a count from 1 to 105, thus requiring the Court to sift through thousands of pages, relate them to such docket entries identified merely as "1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, " and piece together an argument in Respondents' favor. See Docket Entry No. 9-1; see also Docket Entries Nos. 9 to 15.

Respondents' unacceptable answer contained neither a counter-statement of facts underlying Petitioner's conviction nor a summary of the procedural developments that took place in the state forum. See Docket Entry No. 9. Moreover, with regard to each of Petitioner's challenges, the answer failed to detail any of the facts or bases for the legal position taken or citations given. Rather, Respondents stated, in a conclusory fashion, that they disagreed with Petitioner's claims and "incorporate[d] the arguments set forth" in the prosecutorial briefs presented to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division ("Appellate Division"). Respondents also stated that they were in agreement with the Appellate Division's rulings, see, e.g., Docket Entry No. 9, at 2 ("[R]espondents rely upon the trial court's reasoning as it denied the admission of evidence, and later rejected [Petitioner's] motion for a new trial, partly on those grounds").[2]

Petitioner filed his traverse, see Docket Entries Nos. 17 and 18 (re-filed to comply with the Clerk's directive for redesignate the traverse as "Reply to Response" rather than "Reply to Answer"). The traverse informed this Court about the factual and procedural background of Petitioner's claims and stated his position with clarity.

For the reasons not entirely clear to the Court, Respondents responded to that filing by docketing a "quasi-reply" of multiple additional exhibits in the amount of 484 pages, which arrived accompanied by a single sentence stating that said submission was "a redacted copy of Exhibit 3." See Docket Entries Nos. 19 to 21. That brought the overall volume of Respondents' exhibits to a formidable mass of eight-thousand-two-hundred-sixty-nine (8, 269) pages.

Respondents' reply seemingly prompted Petitioner's filing of a de facto sur-reply, which was docketed on January 8, 2013, titled, puzzlingly, "Pre-trial Memorandum."[3] See Docket Entry No. 22.

While Petitioner here raised only a handful of claims, the case at bar is both complex and fact-sensitive because the issue at the heart of this case is a potential witness misidentification.[4] This Court cannot be expected to rule intelligently on the docket before it. Nor can the Court be expected to read thousands of pages, correlate each exhibit to a particular docket entry, and piece together Respondents' case. Moreover, this Court cannot rely on Respondents' unelaborated arguments or the position raised before the Appellate Division or that court's finding. Rather, the Court is obligated to examine those findings, as well as the findings made by the Law Division and the Supreme Court of New Jersey, and determine whether those decisions: (a) were "contrary to" the "governing legal principle set forth by the [United States] Supreme Court" at the time the state courts rendered their decisions; or (b) "confront[ed] a set of facts that [were] materially indistinguishable from a decision of the [United States Supreme] Court and nevertheless arrive[d] at a [different] result." Lockyer v. Andrade , 538 U.S. 63, 71, 72 (2003); Williams v. Taylor , 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000). Hence, Respondents' argument can be based only on the governing United States Supreme Court precedent, applied to the specific facts implicated by each of Petitioner's challenges, and it is Respondents - rather than the Court - who are obligated to establish to the Court's satisfaction that the decisions on which Respondents rely were not contrary to that precedent.

Therefore, as submitted, Respondents' filings are woefully deficient.

IT IS, therefore, on this 30th day of October 2013,

ORDERED that, within forty-five days from the date of entry of this Memorandum Opinion and Order, Petitioner shall file with the Clerk and serve upon Respondents Petitioner's amended petition and supporting memorandum of law stating each ground Petitioner wishes to raise in this matter, detailing the factual predicate and the legal claim asserted in support of each ground. In addition, Petitioner's legal position shall reflect on: (a) the arguments offered by Respondents thus far; and (b) the guidance provided by the Court of Appeals in the decisions interpreting the governing Supreme Court precedent; and it is further

ORDERED that, within forty-five days from the date of Petitioner's service of his amended petition upon Respondents, Respondents shall file with the Clerk and serve upon Petitioner Respondents' amended answer. That amended answer shall contain Respondents' counter-statement of facts and a summary of procedural developments that took place in the state courts. In addition, that amended answer shall address each of Petitioner's grounds by detailing the relevant facts and governing Supreme Court precedent, and the legal bases for Respondents' position why, under the governing test and interpretative guidance provided by the Court of Appeals, habeas relief is not warranted. Respondents shall neither make generic arguments of their disagreement with Petitioner (or their agreement with the favorable findings made by state courts) nor raise any arguments based on state law. In the event Respondents want to rely on federal law arguments raised during state proceedings, Respondents shall expressly detail the same, not asserting any "incorporation by reference" response. Respondents' failure to comply with these requirements will be addressed, if necessary. "The Court stresses that it takes its obligations in this and every action seriously, and so should Respondents, " Williams v. Ricci, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51959, at *6-7 (D.N.J. May 13, 2011); and it is further

ORDERED that all affirmative defenses, if any, shall be raised in Respondents' amended answer in addition to the defenses addressing the merits ...

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