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SAMAYOA v. WOODFORD

United States District Court, S.D. California


September 13, 2005.

RICHARD GONZALEZ SAMAYOA, Petitioner,
v.
JEAN WOODFORD, Respondent.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS WHELAN, District Judge

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND
On October 16, 2000 Petitioner Richard Gonzalez Samayoa ("Petitioner") timely initiated this federal habeas corpus action seeking relief from the San Diego Superior Court's judgment sentencing him to death. On April 10, 2002 this Court granted Petitioner's stay and abeyance request so he could pursue unexhausted claims in his Petition in state court.

On April 1, 2005, having exhausted his state remedies, Petitioner filed an ex parte request seeking an order (1) lifting the stay and (2) allowing him to amend his Petition. On April 27, 2005 this Court granted Petitioner's request to dissolve the stay but denied his ex parte request to amend his petition insofar as he sought to include claims in addition to his now-exhausted claims, which were previously presented as claims 4, 6, 7 and 8. (Doc. No. 41). Petitioner now moves for leave to amend the Petition to assert nine additional claims. The Court decides the matter on the papers submitted and without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1 (d.1). For the reasons set forth more fully below, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Petitioner's motion for leave to amend.

  I. LEGAL STANDARD

  The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply to federal habeas proceedings filed by state prisoners "to the extent that the civil rules are not inconsistent with any statutory provisions or the habeas rules." Mayle v. Felix, 125 S. Ct. 2562, 2569 (2005) (internal quotations omitted). Thus, habeas petitions "may be amended as provided in the rules of procedure applicable to civil actions." Id. (internal quotations omitted).

  Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), after a responsive pleading has been served or the complaint has already been amended once as a matter of course, a party may only amend with leave of court and leave "shall be freely given when justice so requires." FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a); Kaplan v. Rose, 49 F.3d 1363 (9th Cir. 1994). Granting leave to amend rests in the sound discretion of the district court. International Ass'n. of Machinists & Aerospace Workers v. Republic Airlines, 761 F.2d 1386, 1390 (9th Cir. 1985). In deciding whether to grant leave to amend, courts consider several factors including undue delay, prejudice to the opposing party, futility of the amendment, bad faith, and whether plaintiff has previously amended the complaint. Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe v. U.S., 90 F.3d 351, 355 (9th Cir. 1996); Moore v. Kayport Package Express, 885 F.2d 531, 535 (9th Cir. 1989). If the proposed amendment would be futile, it is within the district court's discretion to deny leave to amend. Saul v. United States, 928 F.2d 829, 843 (9th Cir. 1991); FDIC v. Conner, 20 F.3d 1376, 1385 (5th Cir. 1994) (holding that an amendment would be futile if the statute of limitations on the cause of action had run).

  II. DISCUSSION

  Respondent opposes Petitioner's motion for leave to amend solely on the basis that amendment would be futile. According to Respondent, all nine of Petitioner's new claims are barred by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's ("AEDPA") one-year statute of limitations. Petitioner counters that all of his new claims "relate back" to his original Petition and are therefore timely.

  New claims asserted in an amended pleading relate back to the original pleading so long as they arise "out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth . . . in the original pleading." FED. R. CIV. PROC. 15 (c). Until very recently, the Ninth Circuit defined the relevant transaction or occurrence for relation back purposes as the petitioner's trial and conviction in state court. Felix v. Mayle, 379 F.3d 612, 615 (9th Cir. 2004). Thus, as long as the petitioner's new claims arose from his state court trial and conviction, the Ninth Circuit held that they were timely under the relation back doctrine. Id.

  The Supreme Court disagreed and earlier this year reversed the Ninth Circuit's ruling in Felix. See Felix, 125 S. Ct. at 2575. In doing so, the Supreme Court adopted the standard followed by the majority of the circuits and held that new claims presented in an amended petition relate back to the original petition only if "the original and amended petitions state claims that are tied to a common core of operative facts." Id. at 2574. The Supreme Court went on to hold that the Felix petitioner's new claim, that his Fifth Amendment rights had been violated by the admission of coerced statements, did not relate back to his claim in the original petition that his Sixth Amendment confrontation rights were violated by the presentation of videotaped testimony. Id. at 2563, 2575. The Court noted that the essential predicate for the petitioner's Fifth Amendment claim "was an extrajudicial event, i.e., an out-of-court police interrogation. The dispositive question in an adjudication of that claim would be the character of Felix's conduct, not in court, but at the police interrogation, specifically, did he answer voluntarily or were his statements coerced." Id. at 2573. Thus, the petitioner's Fifth Amendment claim regarding out of court events did not relate back to his Sixth Amendment claim, which involved the trial court's in-court actions. Id. at 2572-73.

  Here, Petitioner argues that two of his new claims, IX and X, share a common core of operative facts with claims he raised in his original Petition. Petitioner also argues that because claims XI, XIV, XV and XVI are purely legal claims that challenge the Constitutionality of the death penalty, the common core of operative facts doctrine does not apply and he should be allowed to amend under the general, liberal pleading amendment rules. Next, Petitioner contends that claims XII and XIII are also purely legal claims and that he should be allowed to assert them now because both "rest primarily upon the application of the United States Supreme Court case of Ring v. Arizona . . . to the California death penalty statutes," a case which was not decided until after Petitioner filed his original Petition. (Pet.'s Reply at 10). Finally, Petitioner concedes that leave to amend to add claim XVII should not be granted because "it does not rest on a single set of operative facts with any of the claims filed in the original Petition." Id. The Court will address each claim in turn.

  A. CLAIMS IX AND X SHARE A COMMON CORE OF OPERATIVE FACTS WITH THE ORIGINAL PETITION

  Petitioner argues that both claim IX and X arise from the same operative facts as those asserted in his original petition. According to Petitioner, claim IX relates back to claim VI because both deal with incriminating statements Petitioner made to a police agent, Dr. Griswold. Petitioner also asserts that claim X relates back to claim I in that both deal with Petitioner's mental abilities and are based in large part on the same doctors' declarations. The Court agrees.*fn1 Petitioner's amended claim IX asserts that the incriminating statements Petitioner made to Dr. Griswold were psychologically coerced in violation of Petitioner's Fifth Amendment rights. Petitioner contends that the police coerced him into making these statements by promising him he would receive psychological help when in reality the police were really just trying to obtain incriminating statements from him. (Proposed Amended Petition at 5-6). Similarly, in claim VI in the original Petition, Petitioner essentially argued that his confession to Dr. Griswold was the fruit of the authorities' failure to timely bring him before a magistrate judge, which he claims was a violation of his Fourth Amendment right against illegal seizure. (Petition at ¶¶ 297-98). The same core of operative facts — circumstances surrounding the incriminating statements Petitioner made to Dr. Griswold — is present in both claims. Thus, claim IX relates back to the original petition under Felix.

  Likewise, claim X shares a common set of facts with claim I in the original Petition. In claim X Petitioner contends that his confinement and sentence are unlawful because he was incompetent to stand trial. This claim is based upon the declarations of two doctors, declarations that were attached to the original Petition as exhibits. See (Petition, Ex. C-1, C-2). Claim I in the original Petition relied on the same doctors' declarations to argue that Petitioner's horrible childhood abuse, coupled with other psychological factors, rendered him incapable of rational thought processes. (Petition at ¶¶ 133-145). Again, Claim X arises from the same core of operative facts as claim I and therefore relates back to the original Petition.

  Accordingly, the Court finds that claims IX and X arise from the same common core of operative facts as claims VI and I in the original Petition. Since these claims relate back to the original Petition, they are timely under AEDPA and amendment would not be futile. Respondent has not identified any prejudice she would suffer if Petitioner were allowed to amend nor any bad faith on Petitioner's part in seeking to amend. Petitioner has not unduly delayed in filing his motion, he has amended only once before and Respondent has yet to file a responsive pleading. Therefore, Petitioner's motion for leave to amend is GRANTED insofar as it relates to claims IX and X.

  B. CLAIMS XI, XIV, XV AND XVI DO NOT RELATE BACK TO THE ORIGINAL PETITION

  Petitioner contends that because claims XI, XIV, XV and XVI are purely legal claims challenging the constitutionality of California's death penalty, the common core of operative facts doctrine does not apply to them. Instead, Petitioner argues that these claims should be subject to the traditional, liberal Rule 15 analysis. (Pet.'s Reply at 9). Since Petitioner's failure to include these claims in the original Petition was "an oversight by counsel," Petitioner asserts that he should be allowed to amend. Id.

  Petitioner's arguments miss the point. As discussed above, the only basis on which Respondent has opposed Petitioner's motion for leave to amend is that the amendment would be futile due to AEDPA's one-year limitations period. Thus, the key issue is whether these new claims relate back to Petitioner's original Petition. If they do not, they are time-barred and subject to immediate dismissal rendering leave to amend futile. Despite Petitioner's assertions to the contrary, the Supreme Court's statements in Felix regarding the "common core of operative facts" doctrine are both relevant to that inquiry and binding on this Court.

  Although the Court in Felix specifically discussed claims involving an application of law to facts, nowhere does the Felix Court exempt from its holding purely legal claims. Indeed, the Felix Court's logic inescapably suggests that a purely legal claim cannot relate back to a petitioner's original petition absent something more than the fact that it arose from the same trial, conviction and sentence. "Congress enacted AEDPA to advance the finality of criminal convictions . . . [i]f claims asserted after the one-year period could be revived simply because they relate to the same trial, conviction or sentence as a timely filed claim, AEDPA's limitation period would have slim significance." Felix, 125 S. Ct. at 2573-74.

  Petitioner fails to explain why allowing unfettered relation back of purely legal claims is any less problematic than allowing such relation back for claims applying law to facts. Both types of claims have the potential to undermine the finality of criminal convictions and allowing unconstrained relation back of purely legal claims threatens to swallow AEDPA's limitation period just as much as relation back of mixed claims does. Id. at 2574 (holding that the Ninth Circuit's broad relation back rule would allow "the relation back doctrine to swallow AEDPA's statute of limitation"). In addition, the circuit court cases cited by the Supreme Court in Felix make clear that relation back is appropriate to correct, clarify or amplify a legal theory based on the facts in the original petition but not to add wholly new legal claims. See U.S. v. Espinoza-Saez, 235 F.3d 501, 505 (10th Cir. 2000) (proposed amendment relates back under Rule 15(c) only if the original petition was timely filed and the amendment does not seek to insert new legal theories into the case); U.S. v. Hicks, 283 F.3d 380, 388-89 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (proposed amendment relates back if it seeks to clarify or amplify facts but not if it seeks "to introduce a new legal theory based on facts different from those underlying the timely claims").

  Accordingly, the Court concludes that the Felix standard applies to motions seeking leave to amend to add new claims that are "purely" legal in nature. For such claims to relate back, a petitioner must demonstrate more of a tie between them and his original Petition than the mere fact they arose from the same trial, conviction and sentence. Petitioner has utterly failed to do so here and his claims therefore do not relate back to the original Petition under Felix.

  Moreover, Petitioner's assertion that Respondent had notice of his Constitutional challenges and that he should therefore be allowed to amend is unavailing. Petitioner has identified nothing in his original Petition that would have put Respondent on notice that he intended to challenge the Constitutionality of California's death penalty scheme. See U.S. v. Craycraft, 167 F.3d 451, 457 (8th Cir. 1999).*fn2 Petitioner may be correct that a statute's Constitutionality is always an issue because the legitimacy of the entire action is based on the statue's Constitutionality. However, Petitioner has not explained how his original Petition provided such notice in this case. Indeed, if Petitioner is correct regarding the run-of-the-mill nature of the Constitutional challenges he advances here, his failure to include any reference to them in his original Petition would surely lead Respondent to believe that he did not intend to pursue them here.

  Accordingly, the Court concludes that Petitioner has not demonstrated that his claims relate back to the original Petition under Felix. The Court therefore finds that leave to amend to add claims XI, XIV,*fn3 XV and XVI would be futile as they do not relate back to the original Petition and would be subject to immediate dismissal for violation of AEDPA's limitations period. The Court DENIES Petitioner's motion for leave to amend insofar as it seeks to add these claims.

  C. LEAVE TO AMEND TO ADD CLAIMS XII AND XIII WOULD BE FUTILE AS RING V. ARIZONA DOES NOT APPLY RETROACTIVELY TO CASES FINAL ON DIRECT REVIEW BEFORE IT WAS DECIDED.

  Finally, Petitioner contends that he should be granted leave to amend to add claims XII and XIII because they are 1) purely legal claims not subject to the Felix Court's ruling and 2) based on Constitutional law not in existence when Petitioner filed the original Petition. For the reasons discussed above, the Court disagrees with Petitioner's first contention. Therefore, leave to amend would be futile as Petitioner has not demonstrated that these purely legal claims relate back to the original Petition under Felix and they are otherwise time-barred.

  Nor does the fact that these claims are based on a Supreme Court case decided after Petitioner filed the original Petition warrant granting leave to amend or allow Petitioner to escape AEDPA's limitations period. According to Petitioner, both claims are based on the Supreme Court's 2002 decision in Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002). See (Pet.'s Mot. for Leave to Amend at 10) ("Both of these claims rest primarily upon the application of . . . Ring v. Arizona . . . to the California death penalty statutes."). Although Petitioner is obviously correct that the Supreme Court did not decide Ring until after he filed his original Petition, that fact is irrelevant since Ring does not apply to this action. Ring does not apply to cases that had become final on direct review before it was decided. See Schriro v. Summerlin, 124 S. Ct. 2519, 2556 (2004) ("Ring announced a new procedural rule that does not apply retroactively to cases already final on direct review. The contrary judgment of the Ninth Circuit is reversed[.]"). As Petitioner's case had become final on direct review long before the Supreme Court decided Ring, it does not apply to this Petition. Nor does basing his claims on Ring allow Petitioner to avoid AEDPA's one-year limitations period. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(C). Granting Petitioner leave to amend to add claims that would be summarily dismissed would plainly be futile. Saul, 928 F.2d at 843 (district court did not err in denying leave to amend where the amended complaint would be subject to dismissal). Accordingly, the Court DENIES Petitioner's motion for leave to amend to add claims XII and XIII.

  III. CONCLUSION AND ORDER

  In light of the foregoing, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Petitioner's motion for leave to amend. (Doc. No. 43-1). Leave to amend is GRANTED so that Petitioner may add claims IX and X as set forth in his Proposed Amended Petition. Leave to amend to add the remainder of the claims contained in the Proposed Amended Petition is DENIED. Petitioner shall have 30 days from the date of this order to file an Amended Petition containing the claims in his original Petition as well as claims IX and X in the Proposed Amended Petition. The Amended Petition shall also include all exhibits upon which Petitioner intends to rely.

  IT IS SO ORDERED.

20050913

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