Rainwater Law Group

Effective Criminal Defense

Brooks v. Yates, No. 12-17607 [March 28, 2016]

Brooks v. Yates

Brooks appeals from the denial of his motion for relief from
judgment under FRCP 60(b) following the district court’s dismissal of his
habeas petition as untimely. Brooks first raised a theory of relief under Rule
60(b) on the grounds of “actual innocence.” The Court finds a lack of support for
the contention that actual innocence constitutes an “extraordinary circumstance”
for Rule 60(b)(6) and even assuming that is true his claim fails as 1) “Brooks
has fallen well short of raising ‘sufficient doubt about [his] guilt to
undermine the confidence in the result of the trial’” and 2) the evidence he
relies on was available when he filed his initial habeas petition, thus is not ‘new’
for purposes of Rule 60(b). Secondly, Brooks alleged that his counsel gross negligence
amounted to virtual abandonment which is an “extraordinary circumstance.” The
Court found an abuse of discretion in the district courts in finding that
Brooks’ counsel did not abandon him. Here, the DJ improperly focused its
inquiry on counsel performance leading up to the filing of the habeas petition’s
late filing and determining that because counsel’s miscalculation was simple
negligence Brooks was not entitled to equitable tolling; it should have,
focused on “whether ‘extraordinary circumstances prevented [Brooks] from taking
timely action to prevent or correct an erroneous” dismissal of the petition.
The Court found that the record demonstrated that Brooks’ counsel was grossly
negligent in his representation of Brooks at the time the district court
ordered Brooks to show cause why his petition should not be dismissed as
untimely.” The court remanded to the DJ to make findings regarding whether Brooks
was reasonably diligent in pursuing his rights. Judge Kozinski rights
separately to describe counsel as “a hazard to clients, a menace to the
profession and to the courts, suggesting that the Calif. State Bar look into
the matter.

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