United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
January 29, 2015
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
J. RANDAL HALL, District Judge.
Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4) whereby he asserts that the judgment against him is "void" because he "was convicted of an unconstitutional law that has been deemed not just unconstitutional but racially discriminatory by Congress." (Doc. 440.) Defendant pled guilty to distribution of five grams or more of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). (Doc. 285.) Defendant was then sentenced to 300 months imprisonment. (Doc. 328.) Defendant did not appeal.
As best the Court can discern, Defendant requests relief under Rule 60(b), a civil rule, in his criminal case. However, "the defendant cannot challenge [criminal judgments] at issue under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure." United States v. Mosavi, 138 F.3d 1365, 1366 (11th Cir. 1998) (emphasis in original); see also United States v. Whisby, 323 F.Appx. 781, 782 (11th Cir. 2009) ("[W]e have held that Rule 60(b) does not provide relief from a judgment in a criminal case."). In fact, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1 clearly states that the rules govern only "civil actions and proceedings." Fed.R.Civ.P. 1. Thus, to the extent Defendant seeks to attack the judgment under Rule 60, such a claim is DENIED.
Even so, "[f]ederal courts are obligated to look beyond the label of a pro se inmate's motion to determine if it is cognizable under a different statutory framework." United States v. Stossel, 348 F.3d 1320, 1322 n.2 (11th Cir. 2003). Here, Defendant attempts to argue that the judgment against him was void. Thus, the only possible relief Defendant could seek would be under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which covers claims of a "right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States." Defendant has not yet filed a § 2255 motion, but his present motion may be recharacterized as such. Under Supreme Court precedent, this type of recharacterization is only permissible if the Court first "informs the litigant of its intent to recharacterize, warns the litigant that the recharacterization will subject subsequent § 2255 motions to the law's "second or successive' restrictions, and provides the litigant with an opportunity to withdraw, or to amend, the filing." See Castro v. United States, 540 U.S. 375, 377 (2003).
In accordance with Castro, Defendant is hereby forewarned that the Court intends to recharacterize his motion as a § 2255 motion. This recharacterization will subject Defendant to the statutory restriction on "second or successive" § 2255 motions. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2255(b) & 2255(h) (prohibiting claims in second or successive § 2255 motions except under certain specified circumstances). Furthermore, the Court DIRECTS Defendant to notify the Court within THIRTY (30) DAYS from the date of this Order whether he contests the recharacterization of his letter, whether he wishes to withdraw the letter, or whether he wishes to amend the letter in order to assert any other § 2255 claims.1 See Castro, 540 U.S. at 382. If Petitioner fails to respond to this Order, his letter will be recharacterized as a § 2255 motion, and the claims set forth therein will be addressed under the standards applicable to § 2255 motions. See id.