United States District Court, E.D. California
DEATH PENALTY CASE ORDER.
Jerry Grant Frye, a state prisoner under sentence of death,
seeks habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He
challenges the assigned magistrate judge’s authority to
sua sponte issue amended findings and
recommendations (F&Rs). In a previous order, the court
found the magistrate judge has that authority. Petitioner now
seeks reconsideration of that order.
summarized in this court’s previous order, in 1988, a
jury found petitioner guilty of two counts of first degree
murder, among other charges. Order Dec. 1, 2006, at 2-9, ECF
No. 214, recons. denied, ECF No. 227. He was
sentenced to death. Id. at 10. The California
Supreme Court affirmed his conviction in 1998, People v.
Frye, 18 Cal.4th 894 (1998), the U.S. Supreme Court
denied his petition for a writ of certiorari, 526 U.S. 1023
(1999), and his two state habeas petitions were denied in
1998 and 2001, Order Dec. 1, 2006, at 10. This action began
court granted petitioner’s motion for an evidentiary
hearing in 2004. ECF Nos. 214, 227. For about seven years the
parties conducted discovery and the court held evidentiary
hearings and received briefing. On April 4, 2011, the United
States Supreme Court issued its decision in Cullen v.
Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170 (2011), holding that
“[i]f a claim has been adjudicated on the merits by a
state court, a federal habeas petitioner must overcome the
limitation of § 2254(d)(1) on the record that was before
that state court.” Id. at 185. In light of
this holding, the court vacated evidentiary hearings
previously set to begin in May of 2011 and ordered the
parties to submit briefs on the impact of Pinholster
on this case. ECF Nos. 579, 584. In 2011 and early 2012, the
court received the parties’ briefs. ECF Nos. 580, 581,
612, 616, 629.
assigned magistrate judge issued F&Rs in December 2013,
recommending dismissal of some claims on the state-court
record, dismissal of other claims on the federal-court
record, and continued development of other claims in federal
court. ECF No. 632. In 2014, petitioner and respondent each
filed objections and responses, ECF Nos. 640, 649, 652, 657,
and on January 22, 2015, following a practice not without
precedent in this district, the magistrate judge filed
amended F&Rs, ECF No. 658. In issuing the amendment, the
magistrate judge took “careful consideration of the
parties’ briefs, the state court record, both
parties’ objections to the [original, unamended
F&Rs], and the parties’ responses to the
objections, ” but reached the same conclusion on each
of the petitioner’s claims. See Id. at 2. The
amended F&Rs specified that the parties’ objections
to the original, unamended F&Rs would remain in force and
would be considered objections to the amended F&Rs. The
magistrate judge also allowed “supplemental objections
to the portions of these amended findings and recommendations
that differ from the [original, unamended F&Rs], ”
without specifying all of the differences between the two
sets of F&Rs. Id. at 122. Otherwise no
objections were permitted. Id.
moved for reconsideration of the amended F&Rs, requesting
the magistrate judge withdraw them or, alternatively, clarify
the amendments and allow him an additional thirty days to
file objections. ECF No. 661. The magistrate judge denied the
motion except to allow a thirty-day extension of time for
objections. ECF No. 662. Petitioner then requested
reconsideration from this court. ECF No. 663. Respondent
opposed neither motion and filed a response to the amended
F&Rs, clarifying that it relies on its previously
submitted objections. ECF No. 664.
court denied the motion to reconsider the magistrate
judge’s decision not to withdraw the amended F&Rs.
ECF No. 669. The court relied on the Supreme Court’s
decision in United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667
(1980), as a “guidepost for the interpretation of
F&Rs.” Id. at 6-7. In Raddatz,
the Supreme Court found that Congress had not
unconstitutionally allocated authority to magistrate judges
under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) because “Congress
made clear . . . that the magistrate [judge] acts subsidiary
to and only in aid of the district court.” 447 U.S. at
681. Drawing on this reasoning, this court concluded that
“[t]he magistrate judge’s withdrawal of or, as
here, amendment to previously issued F&Rs neither
diminishes the district judge’s ‘total control
and jurisdiction’ nor robs the district judge of
authority ‘to make an informed, final
determination.’” Id. at 7 (quoting
Raddatz, 447 U.S. at 681). The court also noted that
amendments to F&Rs can avoid confusion and delay.
Id. The court found, however, that the magistrate
judge could not restrict the parties’ objections.
Id. at 7-8. The motion thus was granted in part and
denied in part to that extent.
then asked this court to reconsider. ECF No. 673. He argued
that this court’s interpretation of Raddatz
conflicts with the Ninth Circuit’s decision in NLRB
v. A-Plus Roofing, Inc., 39 F.3d 1410 (9th Cir. 1994).
The court directed respondent to provide a statement of its
position, if any it had, on this point. ECF No. 674.
Respondent disagreed with petitioner’s reading of
Raddatz and A-Plus Roofing and emphasized
that “it is not uncommon for magistrate judges in this
district and elsewhere to issue amended
F&Rs.” Resp. at 4, ECF No. 676.
replied, reiterated his reliance on A-Plus Roofing,
and distinguished this case from the examples of amended
F&Rs respondent cited. ECF No. 677.
district court has inherent authority to reconsider its own
non-final orders. See, e.g., United States v.
Martin, 226 F.3d 1042, 1049 (9th Cir. 2000). In
addition, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) authorizes
this court to revise “any order or other decision . . .
that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and
liabilities of fewer than all the parties . . . at any time
before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims
and all the parties’ rights and liabilities.”
“A district court may reconsider and reverse a previous
interlocutory decision for any reason it deems sufficient,
even in the absence of new evidence or an intervening change
in or clarification of controlling law.” Abada v.
Charles Schwab & Co., 127 F.Supp.2d 1101, 1102 (S.D.
Cal. 2000). But as a general rule, previous orders should
stand in the absence of “extraordinary circumstances[,
] such as where the initial decision was clearly erroneous
and would work a manifest injustice.” Christianson
v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 486 U.S. 800, 817 (1988)
(citation and quotation marks omitted).
Applicability of United States v. Raddatz
reconsideration, the court concludes its previous application
of United States v. Raddatz was incorrect. In
Raddatz, the Supreme Court considered whether 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) was constitutional. 447 U.S. at
669. That is, the Court considered whether Congress had
unconstitutionally delegated authority to a judge who was not
appointed under Article III. See Id. at 681. The
Supreme Court concluded Congress had not made an
unconstitutional delegation of final authority at all.
See Id. The Raddatz Court’s decision
was straightforward ...