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Johnson v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 26, 2018

KEENAN JOHNSON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner Keenan Johnson's (“Petitioner”) motion to amend his § 2255 motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. (ECF No. 8). Respondent did not file a response to the motion to amend. For the reasons stated below, the motion for leave to amend his § 2255 motion is denied.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On October 3, 2014, Petitioner signed a plea agreement in which he agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a), 841(b)(1)(B), and 846. (ECF No. 6 at p. 3). On January 29, 2015, this Court found that Petitioner qualified as a career offender within the meaning of § 4B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“U.S.S.G.”) and sentenced Petitioner to 130 months of imprisonment and 5 years of supervised release.[1] (Id.).

         On January 25, 2016, Petitioner, through counsel, filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 1). On March 17, 2016, Respondent filed opposition to the § 2255 motion. (ECF No. 6). Petitioner filed a reply brief on April 27, 2016. (ECF No. 7). On March 21, 2017, Petitioner filed a motion for leave to amend his original § 2255 motion. (ECF No. 8).

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply fully to motions to amend habeas corpus petitions. United States v. Duffus, 174 F.3d 333, 337 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing Riley v. Taylor, 62 F.3d 86, 89 (3d Cir. 1995)). Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, leave to amend pleadings shall be “freely give[n]” when “justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). In Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178 (1962), the Supreme Court articulated the liberal policy of allowing amendments underlying Rule 15(a) as follows:

If the underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a plaintiff may be a proper subject of relief, he ought to be afforded an opportunity to test his claim on the merits. In the absence of any apparent or declared reason-such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc.-the leave sought should, as the rules require, be “freely given.”

Id. at 182; see also Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 115 (3d Cir. 2000). As is the case with ordinary civil complaints, in habeas corpus petitions, amendments made after the statute of limitations has run must relate back to the date of the original pleading, and only do so if the original and amended pleadings arise out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence. Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 544, 655 (2005) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(2)).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”) states that-absent new evidence or a new rule of constitutional law- § 2255 petitions must be filed within one year of the date on which the conviction became final. 28 U.S.C.A. § 2255(f)(1). This one-year statute of limitations bars new § 2255 motions, as well as amendments of existing motions to add new claims or legal theories after the one-year period has expired. See United States v. Thomas, 221 F.3d 430, 431 (3d Cir. 2000).

         Although amendments of existing petitions are ordinarily barred by the one-year statute of limitations, this Court has the authority to “permit an amendment which clarifies or amplifies a claim or theory in a timely filed § 2255 petition after the AEDPA's one-year period of limitations has expired.” Id. at 438. Amended pleadings “relate back” to the date of the original pleading if they share a common core of operative facts, such that the opposing party has “fair notice of the general fact situation and the legal theory upon which the amending party proceeds.” Glover v. F.D.I.C., 698 F.3d 139, 145-46 (3d Cir. 2012) (citation omitted); see also United States v. Hernandez, 436 F.3d 851, 858 (8th Cir. 2006) (where the facts in petitioner's original claim relating to the admission of evidence “were not such that would put the opposition on notice that cross-examination of witnesses was at issue, ” the court held that the claims were “not similar enough to satisfy the ‘time and type' test, nor [did] they arise out of the same set of operative facts”). Thus, where “the original and amended petitions state claims that are tied to a common core of operative facts, relation back will be in order.” Mayle, 545 U.S. at 664; see also Hodge v. United States, 554 F.3d 372, 378 (3d Cir. 2009) (“[T]he Court should [ask]-as we ask now-whether both the ineffective assistance claim in [Petitioner's] Supplemental Memorandum and the right-to-appeal claim in his original 2255 motion ‘are tied to a common core of operative facts.'” (quoting Mayle, 545 U.S. at 664)).

         Here, there is no question that Petitioner filed his motion for leave to amend after the expiration of AEDPA's one-year statute of limitations. Petitioner did not file an appeal, and his conviction became final when his time to appeal expired under the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, i.e. 14 days after the entry of judgment in district court. See Kapral v. United States, 166 F.3d 565, 577 (3d Cir. 1999); Fed. R. App. P. 4(b)(1) (“In a criminal case, a defendant's notice of appeal must be filed ... within 14 days after ... the entry of either the judgment [being] appealed.”). Therefore, Petitioner's conviction became final on February 12, 2015, and his one-year limitations period expired on February 12, 2016. Although Petitioner's initial § 2255 motion, filed on January 25, 2016, was timely, his motion for leave to amend filed on March 21, 2017, was not. See Duncan v. Walker, 533 U.S. 167, 181 (2001) (“[A]n application for federal habeas corpus ...


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