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Norwood v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 10, 2019

MICHAEL NORWOOD, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner, Michael Norwood, is a federal prisoner currently incarcerated at FCI Danbury in Danbury, Connecticut. He is proceeding pro se and had filed an amended motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 4). The Court denied the motion on November 28, 2016. (ECF Nos. 49, 50). Currently before the Court is Petitioner's motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6). (ECF No. 54). Respondent filed an opposition, and Petitioner filed a reply. (ECF Nos. 57, 58). For the following reasons, the Court will deny Petitioner's motion for relief from judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         As Petitioner is intimately familiar with the facts of his case and because the Court has already set forth the lengthy background of this case in its earlier Opinion, the Court will only state those facts necessary to address the instant motion. (ECF No. 49).

         This case arises from Petitioner's convictions for bank robbery, armed bank robbery, carjacking, possession of a firearm by an armed career criminal, and two counts of use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. (Id. at 2). After several § 2255 petitions and appeals, this Court resentenced Petitioner in June of 2013, and the Third Circuit affirmed. United States v. Norwood, 566 Fed.Appx. 123, 129 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 344 (2014). The Supreme Court thereafter denied Petitioner's petition for certiorari in October of 2014, United States v. Norwood, 135 S.Ct. 344 (2014), and Petitioner filed his most recent § 2255 motion in April of 2015.

         While that § 2255 motion was pending, Petitioner sought leave to amend to add claims that three of his convictions were unconstitutional under Johnson v. U.S., 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), and that his New York state conviction for attempted aggravated assault on a police officer was not a qualifying predicate offense under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), also in light of Johnson. The Government did not object to the motion to amend, and the Court granted the motion on July 6, 2016. (ECF No. 42). A few weeks later, however, Petitioner filed a motion to withdraw his Johnson related claims, (ECF No. 44), and the Court granted the motion to withdraw. (ECF No. 46).

         In November of 2016, the Court denied Petitioner's § 2255 motion and denied a certificate of appealability, (ECF Nos. 49, 50), and thereafter, the Third Circuit also denied a certificate of appealability. (ECF No. 53).

         Nearly two years later, Petitioner filed the instant motion for relief from judgment. Petitioner seeks to revive one of his withdrawn claims, his claim that one of his prior convictions did not qualify as a predicate under the ACCA. Respondent filed an opposition (ECF No. 57), and Petitioner filed a reply (ECF No. 59).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “Rule 60(b) allows a party to seek relief from a final judgment, and request reopening of his case, under a limited set of circumstances including fraud, mistake, and newly discovered evidence.” Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 528 (2005). Specifically, at issue in this case is Rule 60(b)(6), which “is a catch-all provision that authorizes a court to grant relief from a final judgment for any . . . reason other than those listed elsewhere in the Rule.” Cox v. Horn, 757 F.3d 113, 120 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted), cert. denied sub nom., Wetzel v. Cox, 135 S.Ct. 1548 (2015).

         Rule 60(b) motions are left to the sound discretion of the trial court, consistent with accepted legal principles applied in light of all relevant circumstances. See Pierce Assoc. Inc. v. Nemours Found, 865 F.2d 530, 548 (3d Cir. 1988). A court may only grant a Rule 60(b) motion if a movant shows extraordinary circumstances, and a Rule 60(b) motion is not appropriate to reargue issues. Burns v. Warren, No.13-1929, 2018 WL 1942516, at *2 (D.N.J. Apr. 25, 2018); see also Cox, 757 F.3d at 120.

         To establish “extraordinary circumstances” a movant must demonstrate that an “extreme” and “unexpected” hardship will result. Tatar v. United States, No. 13-3317, 2017 WL 945015, at *8 (D.N.J. Mar. 10, 2017) (quoting Michael v. Wetzel, 570 Fed.Appx. 176, 180 (3d Cir. 2014)). A judgment precluding an adjudication on the merits may sometimes satisfy the “hardship” requirement, but rarely “when a party seeks relief from a judgment that resulted from the party's deliberate choices.” Id.

         Further, where, as here, a district court must consider a Rule 60(b) motion after it has denied a petitioner's § 2255 application, a court must first determine if the motion constitutes a second or successive application under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”). Cf. Burns, 2018 WL 1942516, at *2 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2244).

         If a petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion attacks the manner in which he received a habeas judgment and not the underlying conviction, a court may adjudicate the Rule 60(b) motion on the merits. However, when the Rule 60(b) motion seeks to collaterally attack the petitioner's underlying conviction, a court should treat the ...


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