United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DENYING RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO ALTER OR
AMEND JUDGMENT RE: DKT. NO. 51
GONZALEZ ROGERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
October 3, 2017, this Court held a hearing on Jorge
Ayala's petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
(Dkt. No. 43.) During the hearing the Court indicated that it
was inclined to grant Ayala's petition. (Dkt. No. 51-1,
Transcript of Proceedings held on October 3, 2017, at
12:21-15:1.) The Court then solicited the parties'
positions on whether the appropriate remedy was a new trial
or an evidentiary hearing. (Id.) Counsel for
petitioner indicated that a new trial was the appropriate
remedy in light of the fact that nearly twelve years had
passed since the jury rendered its verdict. (Id. at
12:24-14:6.) Counsel for respondent initially attempted to
reargue the underling petition, but eventually conceded that
she was “not sure that just a hearing is going to be
sufficient” because of the “12 years gone
by.” (Id. at 14:16-15:1.) In an unauthorized
letter brief dated October 10, 2017, respondent's counsel
apparently reversed course and argued that Ninth Circuit
precedent required this Court to remand for an evidentiary
hearing. (Dkt. No. 46.) This Court granted the petition in an
order dated October 11, 2017. (Dkt. No. 47.) The Court
remanded for a new trial based on “the amount of time
which has passed, and the parties' agreement that an
evidentiary hearing would be pointless.” (Id.
before the Court is respondent's motion to alter or amend
judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 59(e). (Dkt. No. 51,
“Motion”.) Having carefully considered the
record, the papers submitted on this motion, and for the
reasons set forth below, the Court Denies
motion for reconsideration under Rule 59(e) ‘should not
be granted, absent highly unusual circumstances, unless the
district court is presented with newly discovered evidence,
committed clear error, or if there is an intervening change
in the controlling law.'” McDowell v.
Calderon, 197 F.3d 1253, 1255 (9th Cir. 1999) (per
curium) (quoting 389 Orange St. Partners v.
Arnold, 179 F.3d 656, 665 (9th Cir. 1999)). The Ninth
Circuit has stated that “reconsideration of a judgment
after its entry is an extraordinary remedy which should be
used sparingly. Id. at 1255 n.1.
argues that this Court should alter the judgment entered in
this case “to correct a manifest error of law and fact
upon which its judgment is based.” (Motion at 2.)
Respondent does not argue that newly discovered evidence
exists or that there has been an intervening change in the
law. See McDowell v. Calderon, 197 F.3d at 1255. The
Court addresses respondent's alleged errors of law and of
Error of Law
to respondent the “Court did not acknowledge or discuss
the parties' post-argument briefing on the remedy
issue” in its order granting Ayala's petition.
(Motion at 3.) As an initial mater, the Court notes that it
did not authorize the parties to submit post-hearing briefs.
Second, respondent ignores the fact that the order
specifically cites to Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S.
162 (1975), which was central to petitioner's
post-hearing brief. In Drope, the Supreme Court
determined that remanding for a new trial was the appropriate
remedy because “petitioner's due process rights
would [not] be adequately protected by remanding the
case” for a competency hearing six years after the jury
returned a guilty verdict. Id. at 167. There, the
Court's decision was largely based on its recognition of
the “inherent difficulties of such a nunc pro
tunc determination under the most favorable
circumstances.” Id. (citing Pate v.
Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 386-387 (1966); Dusky v.
United States, 362 U.S. 402, 403 (1960)). The same is
true here. Respondent concedes that nearly twelve years have
passed since the jury rendered its verdict, which is twice
the length of time which had passed between the jury's
verdict in Drope and the Supreme Court's order
remanding for a new trial. Accordingly, Ayala's
“due process rights would [not] be adequately protected
by remanding the case” for an evidentiary hearing
nearly twelve years after the jury returned its verdict.
Id. at 167.
counters that the “Supreme Court has made clear that
when the federal habeas court determines that the state trial
court erred by failing to conduct an evidentiary hearing on
juror misconduct, the remedy is to conduct an evidentiary
hearing.” (Dkt. No. 51 at 3.) Plaintiff does not
persuade. First, none of the Supreme Court cases on which
respondent relies involved as great a passage of time between
verdict and remand as occurred here. See Smith v.
Phillips, 455 U.S. 209, 215 (1983) (six years),
Rushen v. Spain, 464 U.S. 114, 119 (1983) (eight
years); Remmer v. United States, 347 U.S. 227, 230
(1954) (six years); McDonough Power Equip. v.
Greenwood, 464 U.S. 548, 556 (1984) (four years).
Second, none of these cases stand for the proposition that
remanding for an evidentiary hearing is always the
further argues that remanding for an evidentiary hearing is
required in light of Godoy v. Spearman, 861 F.3d 956
(9th Cir. 2017). There, the Ninth Circuit remanded for an
evidentiary hearing eleven years after plaintiff's
conviction. Id. The Court noted that “[u]nder
the circumstances of this case, given the time that has
elapsed, it may be difficult for the state to meet its heavy
burden on remand, but we nevertheless afford it the
opportunity to do so.” Id. at 969-70. However,
nowhere in Godoy did the Ninth Circuit hold that
remanding for an evidentiary hearing is always the
appropriate remedy. In fact, the Godoy Court's
holding with regard to remedy was specifically limited to
“the circumstances of [that] case” where a single
juror had been communicating with a “Judge up
north” potentially about procedural matters, not where,
as here, multiple jurors had expressed safety concerns.
Id. at 958. The extent and effect of the
communication were to be determined on remand. The mere fact
that some courts have ordered evidentiary hearings based on
specific fact patterns does not indicate that this is the
only remedy available, nor has respondent cited authority
which suggests such a rigid rule.
the Court finds that respondent fails to show that this Court
“committed clear [legal] error” to warrant the
“extraordinary remedy” of granting its Rule 59(e)
motion. McDowell, 197 F.3d at 1255, n.1.
Error of Fact
additionally argues that its motion should be granted to
correct an error of fact, namely that the parties agreed that
an evidentiary hearing would be pointless. Respondent does
not persuade, as the Court's decision to remand for a new
trial was also based on the “length of time which [had]
passed” since the jury rendered its verdict. (Dkt. No.
47 at 20.) Accordingly, respondent fails to show that
this Court “committed clear [factual] error” to
warrant the ...