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Lenin v. Johnson

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 15, 2019

ISAAC LENIN, Petitioner,
STEPHEN JOHNSON et al., Respondents.


          FREDA L. WOLFSON, U.S. Chief District Judge.

         This matter having been brought before the Court by Petitioner pro se, Isaac Lenin's (“Petitioner”) request for reconsideration of the Court's Memorandum and Order denying without prejudice his request for counsel (ECF No. 10), and Respondents' motion to dismiss the petition as untimely under The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”) of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, tit. I, § 101 (1996). (ECF No. 11.) For the reasons explained in this Memorandum and Order, the motion for reconsideration is denied without prejudice to Petitioner' filing of a new motion for counsel. The Court also denies without prejudice Respondents motion to dismiss and directs them to file a full answer.

         The Court recounts only the facts that are relevant to the instant motions. On November 11, 2018, another inmate submitted on Petitioner's behalf a letter requesting that the Court appoint counsel to represent him in his habeas proceeding. (See ECF No. 7.) By Memorandum and Order dated April 10, 2019, the Court denied without prejudice the request for counsel and directed Respondents to answer the Petition. (ECF No. 8.)

         In denying the request for counsel, the Court explained that a habeas petitioner has no constitutional or statutory right to representation by counsel. Reese v. Fulcomer, 946 F.2d 247, 263 (3d Cir. 1991), superseded by statute on other grounds 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Nevertheless, under 18 U.S.C. § 3006A, courts may appoint counsel to habeas petitioners if they are “financially eligible” and if “the interests of justice so require.” 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(a)(2)(B). In determining whether the interests of justice support the appointment of counsel, “the district court must first decide if the petitioner has presented a nonfrivolous claim and if the appointment of counsel will benefit the petitioner and the court.” Reese, 946 F.2d at 263. Such an inquiry includes consideration of the petitioner's likelihood of success on the merits, the proceeding's legal complexity, and the petitioner's ability to investigate and present his case. See, e.g., Fuscaldo v. Nogan, Civ. No. 16-4198 (JMV), 2016 WL 5660436, at *1-2 (D.N.J. Sept. 28, 2016); Shelton v. Hollingsworth, Civ. A. No. 15-1249 (JBS), 2015 WL 5116851, at *2 (D.N.J. Aug. 31, 2015).

         The Court declined to appoint counsel prior to an Answer because the Petition was articulately drafted and extremely detailed, and there was no evidence before the Court of Petitioner's financial eligibility under § 3006A. The Court noted that in the event an evidentiary hearing was necessary, the Court would sua sponte reconsider Petitioner's application. (See ECF No. 8.)

         Petitioner now seeks reconsideration of the Court's denial of his request for counsel. “[R]econsideration is an extraordinary remedy, that is granted very sparingly.” Brackett v. Ashcroft, No. 03-3988, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21312, at *5, 2003 WL 22303078 (D.N.J. Oct. 7, 2003). A court will grant a motion for reconsideration only if the movant establishes: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not previously available; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice. Max's Seafood Cafe ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing N. River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir.1995)). Under Local Civil Rule 7.1(i), a party making a motion for reconsideration must submit a “brief setting forth concisely the matter or controlling decisions which the party believes the Judge ... has overlooked.” D.N.J. Civ. R. 7.1(i). In other words, the movant may address only matters that were presented to the Court, but were not considered by the Court in making the decision at issue. United States v. Compaction Sys. Corp., 88 F.Supp.2d 339, 345 (D.N.J. 1999).

         In his request for reconsideration, Petitioner has provided a certified account statement establishing his indigence. Providing new information to the court that was previously available is not a valid basis for reconsideration. Petitioner has further asserted that the issues in his habeas petition are complex, and that he lacks the knowledge required to litigate this matter, including the ability to read and do legal research. Petitioner also states that he has limited access to the law library and that paralegal assistance is not readily available at South Woods State Prison.[1] (See ECF No. 10.) In that regard, the Court notes that it has conducted a search of the New Jersey Inmate Locator, and it appears that Petitioner is no longer housed at South Woods State Prison and is currently incarcerated at Northern State Prison.[2] Thus, it is not clear if Petitioner now has access to paralegals to assist him at Northern State Prison. For all these reasons, the Court will deny the motion for reconsideration without prejudice to Petitioner's filing of a new motion for counsel.

         On May 28, 2019, Respondents moved to dismiss the petition as untimely in lieu of an Answer. (ECF No. 11.) Petitioner filed a response on June 12, 2019. (ECF No. 13.) In the motion to dismiss, Respondents assert that the Petition is untimely under AEDPA, which generally requires a state prisoner file his or her federal habeas petition within one year after his or her conviction becomes final. See Thompson v. Adm'r N.J. State Prison, 701 Fed.Appx. 118, 121 (3d Cir. 2017); Ross v. Varano, 712 F.3d 784, 798 (3d Cir. 2013). Specifically, AEDPA provides that:

(d)(1) A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court. The limitation period shall run from the latest of-
(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;
(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was prevented from filing by such State action;
(C) the date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
(D) the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.
(2) The time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward ...

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