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Carrascosa v. Hoffman

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 8, 2018

MARIA JOSE CARRASCOSA, Petitioner,
v.
JOHN J. HOFFMAN, et al., Respondents.

          OPINION

          JOHN MICHAEL VAZQUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Petitioner Maria Jose Carrascosa (“Petitioner” or “Carrascosa”), has submitted a pro se amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Am. Pet., ECF No. 4.) For the reasons stated herein, the amended petition shall be dismissed without prejudice and no certificate of appealability shall issue.

         II. BACKGROUND

         This matter's procedural history is lengthy and convoluted as a result of Petitioner's routine practice of submitting voluminous, procedurally improper, and legally meritless applications and filings to the District of New Jersey, the Third Circuit, and the New Jersey state courts while simultaneously disregarding each court's procedural rules and specific filing directives. See, e.g., Carrascosa v. Hauck, No. 2:12-cv-5173 (SDW), 2013 WL 6816177, at *1 n.1 (D.N.J. Dec. 20, 2013) (detailing Petitioner's “many lawsuits and petitions” in the District of New Jersey); In re Carrascosa, 616 Fed.Appx. 475 (3d Cir. 2015) (providing a succinct procedural history of many of Petitioner's filings in the Third Circuit, the District of New Jersey, and the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court (the “Appellate Division)).

         The Third Circuit's opinion in In re Carrascosa, 671 Fed.Appx. 856 (3d Cir. 2016) (per curiam), succinctly summarizes many of the facts that are germane to this Court's disposition of Petitioner's amended petition:

In November 2009, Carrascosa was found guilty following a jury trial in the Bergen County, New Jersey Superior Court of eight counts of interference with custody and one count of fourth degree contempt of a judicial order. On December 23, 2009, Carrascosa was sentenced to an aggregate term of imprisonment of 14 years. In November 2011, the [Appellate Division] dismissed Carrascosa's direct appeal because of deficiencies in her brief. The Appellate Division then gave Carrascosa until January 27, 2012 to file a proper merits brief or suffer the permanent dismissal of her appeal. Carrascosa did not file a conforming merits brief by this date.
In August 2013, Carrascosa filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C.§ 2254, in the [District of New Jersey], challenging the 2009 conviction and sentence, see Carrascosa v. Warden, D.N.J. Civ. No. 12-cv-05173. The District Judge then assigned to the case, the Honorable Susan D. Wigenton, denied the petition in December 2013. On January 20, 2015, [the Third Circuit] denied Carrascosa's request for a certificate of appealability, see C.A. No. 14-1074, but noted in [that] order that the dismissal of the petition was without prejudice to the filing of another habeas corpus petition once state court remedies were exhausted. [The Third Circuit] subsequently denied Carrascosa's petition for rehearing en banc.
In February 2015, Carrascosa moved in the [Appellate Division] to reinstate her appeal and to vacate that court's November 2011 dismissal. [(ECF No. 10-24.)] By order filed on March 18, 2015, the Appellate Division denied her motion. [(ECF No. 10-25.)] Carrascosa then filed a petition for writ of mandamus in [the Third Circuit], in which she argued that her habeas corpus case could now proceed because she had no remaining state court remedies.
[The Third Circuit] denied the mandamus petition by way of an opinion filed on June 11, 2015, see In re[] Carrascosa, 616 [F. App'x] 475 (3d Cir. 2015), and noted that Carrascosa could either move [in the District Court] to have her habeas corpus case reopened or, more properly, file a new petition in the District Court.
On August 4, 2015, [the present habeas matter] was opened on Carrascosa's behalf by Judge Wigenton . . . . On August 7, 2015, Carrascosa filed [her current] amended petition, in which she argue[s] that trial counsel was ineffective, that the prosecutor committed misconduct, and that she is actually innocent of the interference and contempt convictions. [(ECF No. 4.)] The State submitted an answer to the petition and the state court record, including the transcripts from the trial. [(See ECF Nos. 10 and 11.)] . . . . On November 25, 2015, Carrascosa submitted a reply to the State's answer. [(ECF No. 12.)]
. . . . [This] case was reassigned . . . from Judge Wigenton to the [undersigned] on February 29, 2016.

In re Carrascosa, 671 Fed.Appx. at 857-58.

         As noted, the Appellate Division “dismissed Carrascosa's direct appeal [in November 2011] because of deficiencies in her brief.” Id. at 857. The record is clear that the Appellate Division dismissed Petitioner's direct appeal only after it first provided several notices to Petitioner detailing those various deficiencies, afforded Petitioner multiple opportunities to correct her deficient appeal, and repeatedly warned Petitioner that her direct appeal would be dismissed if she did not correct those deficiencies. (See, e.g., App. Div.'s Aug. 30, 2011 Order, ECF No. 10-10 at Page ID: 365, App. Div.'s Dec. 7, 2011 Order, ECF No. 10-13 at PageID: 653.) It is also clear that the Appellate Division afforded Petitioner ample time to correct her procedurally deficient appeal. Indeed, “the [Appellate Division] had indicated, as recently as September 23, 2014, that Carrascosa could still attempt to pursue a direct appeal.” In re Carrascosa, 616 Fed.Appx. at 477 (3d Cir. 2015).

         Petitioner never corrected the filing deficiencies noted by the Appellate Division. Petitioner did, however, submit numerous other filings to that court during the pendency of her unperfected direct appeal, including motions to proceed pro se, to compel the production of trial evidence and transcripts, to supplement the record with new evidence and witness testimony, to vacate her criminal judgment based on this new evidence, to obtain judicial assistance in prosecuting her ex-husband, and to compel the prison administrator to present her at the Appellate Division to file her brief. (See, e.g., ECF Nos. 10-11 and 10-14.) In light of the foregoing, it is clear that Petitioner's failure to correct the deficiencies highlighted by the Appellate Division was not the result of her lack of access to that court; it was instead caused by her willful disregard of the Appellate Division's rules, procedures, and explicit directives to correct the noted deficiencies.

         The record is also clear that after the Appellate Division dismissed Petitioner's direct appeal, Petitioner stopped pursuing additional avenues of relief in the state courts until February 2015. Tellingly, it was only after the Third Circuit ruled in January 2015 that Petitioner could not pursue her Section 2254 petition until she properly exhausted her state court remedies that Petitioner moved before the Appellate Division to have that court reinstate her direct appeal and vacate its prior order of dismissal. (See ECF No. 10-24.) Petitioner's February 2015 motion to the Appellate Division represents her only subsequent attempt to exhaust her state court remedies. Indeed, Petitioner concedes that she never appealed the Appellate Division's March 18, 2015 denial of her reinstatement motion to the New Jersey Supreme Court.[1] (Am. Pet., ECF No. 4 at PageID: 143.) The record also makes clear that Petitioner has not availed herself - at any point - of New Jersey's separate post-conviction relief (“PCR”) procedures, i.e., the State's procedural mechanism to collaterally attack a criminal conviction based on errors of a constitutional dimension that occurred during trial and/or on direct appeal and that were not and/or could not have been raised on direct appeal.

         In her current habeas petition, Petitioner avers that in light of the Appellate Division's March 18, 2015 order denying her motion to reinstate her direct appeal, she has now “[e]xhaust[ed] the State venue [thereby] rendering any remedies futile, if any available, which they are not, as it is proven by the history of the case.” (Am. Pet., ECF No. 4 at PageID: 143.) Petitioner has previously explained - in a more articulate fashion - that she failed to pursue additional avenues of relief in the state courts because she believes the courts of New Jersey will not provide her the relief she seeks. (See Pet'r's July 29, 2015 Br., ECF No. 71-1 in Civil Action No. 2:12-cv-5173, at PageID: 6166 (“The State of New Jersey will never provide a lawful remedy to Carrascosa. Ten and a half years of malicious prosecution and of Legal Actions, and nine of imprisonment prove her efforts to be futile and the State's continual denial of Justice to her. . . . Only the Federal Courts . . . can remediate this ...


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