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Amaral v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

December 19, 2017

Travis Wade Amaral, Petitioner,
v.
Charles L Ryan, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          JAMES A. TEILBORG SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Currently pending before the Court are two motions for reconsideration and one request to take an interlocutory appeal. The parties' dissatisfaction with the current state of this case stems from the fact that the state filed a “limited” answer (Doc. 33), and then the Magistrate Judge to whom this case was assigned issued a Report and Recommendation (Doc. 43) (“R&R”) based on this limited answer (rather than the case as a whole). This Court then addressed the R&R in a way both parties now seek to have reconsidered.

         In the state's limited answer, the state argued that Petitioner waived his right to pursue this collateral attack on his sentence via his plea agreement. (Doc. 33 at 11-14). The R&R concluded that the waiver did not preclude the claims in this case. (Doc. 43 at 7-9). This Court agreed with that conclusion albeit for different reasons. (Doc. 47 at 9-10). Although Respondents disagree with this conclusion, neither party seeks reconsideration on this point.

         The R&R went on to address the issue of exhaustion. (Doc. 43 at 4-7). The R&R concluded that the Supreme Court case of Montgomery v. Louisiana, ___ U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016) did not create a new claim that required exhaustion in state court and, alternatively, even if Montgomery did create a new claim, Petitioner had exhausted a Montgomery claim. (Id.) This Court disagreed with both of these conclusions. (Doc. 47; Doc. 52). Both parties have moved for reconsideration on one or both of these points.

         Turning first to the issue of whether Montgomery created a new claim, both parties now argue that this Court erred in finding that Montgomery created a new claim that must be exhausted in state court in addition to a claim based on Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2460 (2012).[1] Respondents argue, in part, that this Court holding that Montgomery created a new claim went beyond the scope of the state's limited answer. However, in objecting to the R&R, Respondents discussed Montgomery and whether it was a change in the law at length. Due to this ambiguity, the Court ordered supplemental briefing. (Doc. 52).

         Respondents now articulate three possible choices for what Montgomery did to the state of the law after Miller. Option 1 is nothing substantive. Montgomery merely procedurally made Miller retroactive and did not expand the scope of Miller in any way. (Doc. 53 at 6-7). Option 2 (which Respondents advocate as an alternative position in the event option 1 is rejected) is that Montgomery substantially expanded the scope of Miller, so much so that Montgomery created a new claim that would require separate exhaustion in the state courts. (Doc. 53 at 7-8). Finally option 3 is that Montgomery did not change the intended holding of Miller but did change the common understanding among courts of the actual holding in Miller. (Doc. 53 at 8-13).[2] As far as this Court can tell, option 1 is Respondents position. Option 3 is Petitioner's position (although Petitioner argues that at least one court's understanding of Miller was not changed by Montgomery).

         At this point on reconsideration, Respondents are arguing that it was wrong of this Court to decide that Montgomery created a new claim that required separate exhaustion because the Court effectively reached the merits of the Petition even though Respondents filed only a limited answer. (Doc. 48 at 2-3). Further, Respondents argue that, given that both parties agree that Montgomery did not create a new claim, the Court should determine whether Petitioner is entitled to relief based solely on Miller. (Doc. 53 at 1-2).[3] Petitioner seems to agree with the premise that Montgomery did not create a new claim that requires separate exhaustion in state court (Doc. 57 at 10-16).

         Given that both parties now agree that neither advocates that Montgomery created a new claim that must be exhausted in state court at this time (subject to this Court's review of the merits of this case), thus making this Court's holding to the contrary at best premature and at worst advisory, the Court will reconsider its prior holding to the extent that the Court will defer a decision on whether Montgomery created a new claim that requires exhaustion in state court until the Court reaches the merits of this case.[4] This decision is without prejudice to either party advocating that Montgomery created a new claim during the Court's merits decision in this case. Specifically, Respondents may make their alternative argument as summarized herein (or any other argument). Similarly, if an examination of option 1 or 3 (or some fourth yet unidentified option) would cause Petitioner to be denied relief, Petitioner is free, in the merits phase, to argue that Montgomery created a new claim he should be permitted to exhaust under the state law of Valencia.

         Next the Court turns to Petitioner's motion for reconsideration regarding whether he in fact exhausted a Montgomery claim. (Doc. 58).[5] The Court previously held that Petitioner did not exhaust a Montgomery claim. (Doc. 52 at 2-3). The Court has reviewed Petitioner's basis for seeking reconsideration, but does not find reconsideration to be warranted.[6] Accordingly, the motion will be denied.

         Finally, the Court will deny Petitioner's request to take an interlocutory appeal. (Doc. 49). Primarily, the Court will deny the request because the Court is reconsidering the issue Petitioner seeks to appeal. Alternatively, the Court does not find an interlocutory appeal to be warranted in this case.

         Based on the foregoing, The Court reconsiders its prior orders to the extent that the Court does not find Montgomery to be a separate claim that requires exhaustion at this time reserving that decision to this Court's ultimate merits resolution of this case. Both parties are free to argue options 1 through 3 (or any other theories) on the merits of this case. Reconsideration is denied in all other respects. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that the motions for reconsideration (Docs. 48 and 58), are granted in part as specified above and denied in all other respects.

         IT IS FURTHER ORDEDERED that the motion for interlocutory appeal and motion to stay (Doc. 49) is denied.

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED this case is re-referred to Magistrate Judge Bridget S. Bade pursuant to Rules 72.1 and 72.2 of the Local Rules of Civil Procedure for further proceedings and ...


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