United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division
HONORABLE J. RANDAL HALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Petitioner Melvin Willis'
("Willis") Motion to Vacate and Set Aside Void
Judgment Pursuant to Rule 60(b)(4) in this long-closed case.
(Doc. 41.) Respondent filed a Response, and Willis filed a
Reply. (Docs. 42, 44.) For the reasons which follow, the
Court DENIES Willis' Motion.
Court dismissed Willis' 28 U.S.C. § 2254 as time
barred on November 21, 2000. (Doc. 22.) Willis filed a Notice
of Appeal, (doc. 24), and the Eleventh Circuit Court of
Appeals affirmed this Court's ruling "in all
respects[ ]" on October 25, 2001. (Doc. 31, p. 7.) On
September 28, 2014, Willis filed a Motion for
Reconsideration, (doc. 34), and the Court swiftly denied his
Motion on September 30, 2014, after finding no reason to
explain Willis' nearly fourteen-year delay between this
Court's dismissal and the filing of his Motion for
Reconsideration, (doc. 35). Willis appealed this denial. On
March 25, 2015, the Eleventh Circuit denied Willis'
motion for certificate of appealability and denied as moot
his motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
(Doc. 40.) Nearly two years after the Eleventh Circuit issued
its ruling, Willis has filed the instant Motion to Vacate.
asserts that the judgment of this Court dismissing his
Section 2254 Petition is "based on a prior void order,
which caused a substantial defect in the federal courts
process that goes to the integrity, fundamental reliability
and rudimentary fairness of the procedures by which the
habeas application was adjudicated." (Doc. 41, p. 1)
Willis contends the affirmance of the first direct appeal of
his state sentence was null and void, as his armed robbery
conviction could not carry with it a sentence of life
imprisonment without the possibility of parole. (Id.
at pp. 3, 6.) Thus, Willis maintains, this Court's
judgment dismissing his Section 2254 Petition was based on a
void state court judgment. In support of his assertions,
Willis contends the State did not file a notice of its intent
to seek the death penalty and, without a finding of an
aggravated circumstance, his sentence is illegal, contrary to
law, and null and void. (Id. at p. 10.) Willis also
contends Georgia law does not provide fair notice of a
sentencing guideline regarding what constitutes an
aggravating factor, and he should have been given a
twenty-year sentence rather than a sentence of life
imprisonment. (Id. at pp. 11-12.)
motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or its
legal representative from a final judgment, order, or
proceeding [because] ... the judgment is void."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(4). "Generally, a judgment is void
under [Rule] 60(b)(4) if the court that rendered it lacked
jurisdiction of the subject matter, or of the parties, or if
it acted in a manner inconsistent with due process of
law." Harris v. Corr. Com, of Amer., 332
F.App'x 593, 594 (11th Cir. 2009) (alteration in
original) (citation omitted); see also United
Student Aid Funds, Inc. v. Espinosa, 559 U.S. 260,
271 (2010). A movant who raises a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2244(b), i.e., "an asserted federal basis for
relief from a state court's judgment of conviction[,
]" cannot proceed with a Rule 60(b) motion as a way to
avoid the restrictions applicable to second or successive
habeas petitions. Franqui v. Florida. 638 F.3d 1368,
1371 (11th Cir. 2011). "[A] Rule 60(b) motion can be
appropriate where a petitioner does not assert, or reassert,
claims of error in [his] state conviction. For example, a
60(b) motion can properly be used just to assert [ ] that a
previous ruling which precluded a merits determination was in
error, or just to attack some defect in the integrity of the
federal habeas proceedings[.]" Id. (internal
citations omitted) (alterations in original). Moreover,
motions filed pursuant to Rule 60(b)(4) "must be made
within a reasonable time." BUC Int'l Corp. v.
Int'l Yacht Council Ltd.. 517 F.3d 1271, 1275 (11th
Cir. 2008) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(c)(1)); but see Hertz
v. Alama Rent-a-Car. Inc.. 16 F.3d 1126, 1130 (11th Cir.
1994) (implying that virtually any amount of time is a
reasonable time for making a Rule 60(b)(4) claim).
without deciding that Willis' claimed error in this
federal habeas corpus proceeding is cognizable under Rule
60(b), Willis is not entitled to any relief. Willis does not
claim that he was unaware of the Court's determination
that his Section 2254 Petition was untimely. He clearly knew
the Court dismissed his case long ago, as he timely appealed
that Order. However, Willis did not file this Rule 60(b)(4)
Motion until January 3, 2017, which was more than sixteen
(16) years after this Court entered judgment closing this
case. Willis does not cite any new evidence or change of law
in his Motion. Willis' Rule 60(b)(4) Motion was not filed
within a reasonable time of the final judgment he seeks to
attack, pursuant to Rule 60(c)(1). In addition, there is
nothing indicating that this Court lacked jurisdiction over
his Petition or the parties or that this Court acted in
contravention of due process principles. In fact, the
Eleventh Circuit upheld this Court's determination that
Willis' Petition was untimely filed.
extent Willis contends this Court's determination is
flawed because it relies on a "void" State court
judgment, Willis' contention fails. This Court determined
Willis' Section 2254 Petition was time barred because he
filed his Petition nearly six months after the applicable
statute of limitations had expired, and he was not entitled
to equitable tolling. (Doc. 18, pp. 5-6; Doc. 22.) Even if a
State court decision were void, this Court did not rely on
this decision in any way. Rather, this Court's
determination relied solely on the applicable statute of
limitations period. Thus, Willis is not entitled to his
above-state reasons, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs Rule
60(b)(4) Motion. The Court's November 21, 2000, Order
remains the ...