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Garcia v. MacDonald

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 15, 2017

ELI E. GARCIA, Plaintiff,
v.
JIM MACDONALD, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED ANSWER

          William H. Orrick United States District Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         On March 1, 2017, I granted petitioner's request for an evidentiary hearing to investigate his habeas claim of juror bias. (Dkt. No. 25). Following that order, respondent moved for leave to file an amended answer to the order to show cause, seeking to add a new argument that petitioner's juror bias claim is procedurally defaulted based on a Supreme Court case published after his initial answer was filed. See Mot. for Leave (Dkt. No. 30). Respondent further moved for reconsideration of the Order granting an evidentiary hearing because (1) I failed to properly apply AEDPA; and (2) the juror bias claim is procedurally defaulted. Reconsideration Mot. at 1-2 (Dkt. No. 31). The motion for leave to file an amended answer is GRANTED because it is not the product of undue delay, will not cause undue prejudice, and is not futile. Respondent's proposed Amended Answer and Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support, filed at Dockets 30-1 and 30-2 will be deemed filed as of today. Petitioner will have 30 days from the date of this Order to file an Amended Traverse. I will defer ruling on respondent's motion for reconsideration until after petitioner has had a chance to file his Amended Traverse.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Petitioner is a California state prisoner serving a sentence of 17 years. A jury found him guilty of 15 counts of lewd acts upon a child under the age of 14, under Cal. Penal Code § 288(a) and six counts of contacting or communicating with a minor with the intent to commit a sex offense under Cal. Penal Code § 288.3(a). On direct appeal to the California Court of Appeal, petitioner raised seven claims as grounds for relief but did not raise his juror bias claim. The California Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction, People v. Garcia, No. H039212, 2014 WL 3752799 (Cal.App. July 31, 2014) (Pet. Ex. 1), (Dkt. No. 1-1), and on October 15, 2014 the California Supreme Court denied review. People v. Garcia, No. S221105 (Cal. Oct. 15, 2014) (en banc) (Pet. Ex. 4), (Dkt. No. 1-1).

         While his direct appeal was pending, petitioner filed for habeas relief in the California Court of Appeal, raising his juror bias claim for the first time along with three other claims that he had raised on direct appeal. The petition was denied without comment on July 31, 2014. In re Garcia, No. H040599 (Cal.App. July 31, 2014) (Pet. Ex. 2), (Dkt. No. 1-1).

         Petitioner filed a petition for habeas corpus with the California Supreme Court on September 29, 2014, raising only his juror bias claim and his related ineffective assistance of counsel claim as grounds for relief. The California Supreme Court denied the petition on December 17, 2014, stating only “The petition for writ of habeas corpus is denied” and citing People v. Duvall (1995) 9 Cal.4th 464, 474; and In re Dixon (1953) 41 Cal.2d 756, 759. See In re Garcia, No. S221537 (Cal. Dec. 17, 2014) (en banc) (Pet. Ex. 5), (Dkt. No. 1-1).

         Petitioner filed his petition for habeas corpus in federal court on September 29, 2015, raising all eight claims for relief that he had raised on direct appeal and in his state habeas petitions, including his juror bias claim. See Pet. (Dkt. No. 1). Respondent filed his answer on April 1, 2016. See Answer (Dkt. No. 14).

         On May 31, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Johnson v. Lee, 136 S.Ct. 1802 (2016), in which it reversed a prior Ninth Circuit decision and held that California's Dixon bar is a well-established and regularly followed state procedural bar that is adequate to bar federal habeas review. Lee, 136 S.Ct. at 1805.

         Petitioner filed his traverse on June 30, 2016. Traverse (Dkt. No. 22). I granted petitioner's request for an evidentiary hearing on his juror bias claim on March 1, 2017 and denied his remaining claims for habeas relief. See Dkt. No. 25. On March 14, 2017 I held a status conference with the parties to discuss the scheduling and briefing related to the evidentiary hearing. See Dkt. No. 28. At that hearing, counsel for respondent indicated her intent to file a motion for leave to file an Amended Answer to assert the affirmative defense that petitioner's juror bias claim is procedurally barred under Dixon. She further requested leave to file a motion for reconsideration on the basis of the new Dixon claim and on the basis that I had not applied the proper AEDPA standard. I granted respondent leave to file a motion for reconsideration and respondent subsequently filed the pending motions.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), a party may amend its pleading to add an affirmative defense with leave of court. “The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). In assessing whether leave is appropriate, courts generally consider five factors: (1) bad faith; (2) undue delay; (3) prejudice to the opposing party; (4) futility of amendment; and (5) whether the moving party has previously amended its pleadings. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). “It is common practice to allow [parties] to amend their pleadings to accommodate changes in the law.” Doe I v. Nestle USA, Inc., 766 F.3d 1013, 1028 (9th Cir. 2014).

         DISCUSSION

         Respondent asserts that leave to amend is appropriate because he could not assert his Dixon bar defense at the time he filed his original answer. Mot. for Leave at 3. He explains that under the prevailing Ninth Circuit precedent at the time, Dixon was not an adequate procedural bar. He argues that the Supreme Court's decision in Lee, which reversed the Ninth Circuit's ruling and established that Dixon is an adequate procedural bar, is a material change in the controlling law and justifies granting him leave to amend. Petitioner responds that (1) ...


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