United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER (RESOLVES DOCS. 47,
50, AND 56)
R. ADAMS, JUDGE.
instant matter is before the Court upon Petitioner Renee
Brooks' Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Doc. 47. Petitioner later
filed a Brief in Support of her Motion to Vacate where she
sets forth certain case citations she believes relevant to
her motion. Doc. 51. Respondent United States of America
filed a motion to dismiss Petitioner's motion to vacate
her sentence. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES
Respondent's motion to dismiss and also DENIES
Petitioner's motion to vacate on the merits.
Factual and procedural background
17, 2014, Petitioner, who was represented by counsel, pled
guilty to theft of government property exceeding $1, 000,
which belonged to the Social Security Administration by
fraudulently claiming Social Security benefits. She was
sentenced to 37 months' imprisonment on September 24,
2014. Petitioner filed an appeal of her sentence alleging
substantive unreasonableness of her sentence. On April 7,
2015, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed
18, 2016, Petitioner filed a § 2255 motion to vacate her
sentence because she claims she was denied due process and
other constitutional rights throughout her case before this
Court. She raises 28 grounds for relief, some of which are
duplicative or overlapping. Respondent filed a motion to
dismiss Petitioner's motion for being untimely. The
Petitioner responded. Both motions are now ripe for decision.
Standard of Review
28 U.S.C. § 2255, a federal inmate is provided with a
means of collaterally attacking her conviction or sentence.
In re Gregory, 181 F.3d 713, 714 (6th Cir. 1999).
Motions brought under § 2255 are the sole means by which
a federal prisoner can collaterally attack a conviction or
sentence that she alleges to be in violation of federal law.
See Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333 (1974);
Cohen v. United States, 593 F.2d 766, 770 (6th Cir.
petitioner seeking to vacate, set aside or correct a sentence
under § 2255 “has the burden of sustaining his
contentions by a preponderance of the evidence.”
Wright v. United States, 624 F.2d 557, 558 (5th Cir.
1980). In order to prevail on a § 2255 motion alleging
constitutional error, the petitioner must establish that an
error of constitutional magnitude occurred that had a
substantial and injurious effect or influence on the
proceedings. McNeil v. United States, 72 F.Supp.2d
801, 803 (N.D. Ohio 1999) (citing Watson v. United
States, 165 F.3d 486, 488 (6th Cir. 1999)). In order to
prevail on a § 2255 motion alleging non-constitutional
error, the petitioner must establish a
“‘fundamental defect which inherently results in
a complete miscarriage of justice, ' or, an error so
egregious that it amounts to a violation of due
process.” United States v. Ferguson, 918 F.2d
627, 630 (6th Cir. 1990) (quoting Hill v. United
States, 368 U.S. 424, 428 (1962)). Non-constitutional
errors are generally not cognizable on collateral review.
McNeil, 72 F.Supp.2d at 805 (citing Grant v.
United States, 72 F.3d 503, 506 (6th Cir. 1996)).
Accordingly, courts rarely grant relief with respect to
non-constitutional errors. Grant, 72 F.3d at 506.
guilty plea by a petitioner “‘forecloses his
ability to raise any constitutional claims arising prior to
its entry.'” McNeil, 72 F.Supp.2d at 808
(quoting Lane v. United States, 65 F.Supp.2d 587,
589 (E.D. Mich. 1999)). When a petitioner seeks to challenge
his sentence, the inquiry focuses on whether the petitioner
made a voluntary and informed plea, not on whether a
constitutional infirmity existed prior to the plea.
Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258, 266 (1973). A
guilty plea by the petitioner acts as a break in the chain of
events in criminal proceedings. Id. at 267.
Once a criminal defendant admits in open court that he is
guilty of the charged offenses, the only avenue available for
him to attack his guilty plea is to prove the ineffective
assistance of his counsel. Id.
motion was filed on July 18, 2016. Respondent argues that
Petitioner's motion should be dismissed, because it
needed to be filed prior to July 6, 2016. Under the mailbox
rule, a petition is deemed filed when the prisoner gives the
petition to prison officials for filing in the federal
courts. Cook v. Stegall, 295 F.3d 517, 521 (6th Cir.
2002). Petitioner states that her motion was placed in the
prison mailbox on July 1, 2016 and therefore timely. Doc. 56.
The Court will accept Petitioner's statement as true and
review the motion on its merits. Respondent's motion to
dismiss is DENIED.
Grounds 1-7, 9, 11-15, 18-22, and 24-28: Ineffective
Assistance of Counsel
grounds one through seven, nine, 11-15, 18-22, and 24-28 all
generally state claims for ineffective assistance of counsel,
and most reference her claim to have a mental disability. In
Strickland v. Washington, the Supreme Court
established the requirements for an ineffective assistance of
counsel claim: i.e. Petitioner must demonstrate both (1)
deficient performance by counsel and (2) prejudice resulting
from the inadequate performance. Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). To establish
deficient performance by counsel, Petitioner must show her
“counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not
functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the
defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Id. In
attempting to establish her attorney's deficient
performance, Petitioner “must show that counsel's
representation fell below an objective standard of
reasonableness.” Id. at 688-687. A reviewing
court must ensure “every effort is made to eliminate
the distorting effects of hindsight, to reconstruct the
circumstances of counsel's challenged conduct, and to
evaluate the conduct from counsel's perspective at the
time.” Id. at 689. The reviewing court must
also “indulge a strong presumption that counsel's
conduct falls within a wide range of reasonable professional
error by counsel, even if professionally unreasonable, does
not warrant setting aside judgment in a criminal proceeding
if the error had no effect on the judgment.
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 691. Petitioner must also
satisfy the second prong by proving the deficient performance
prejudiced the defense. This requires showing counsel's
errors were so serious as to deprive Petitioner of a fair
trial with a reliable result. Id. at 687. When a
defendant challenges his sentence on the grounds of
ineffective assistance of counsel, a court asks whether there
is a reasonable probability, absent the errors, that the
court would have sentenced Petitioner differently. See
Griffin v. United States, 330 F.3d 733, 736 (6th Cir.
2003). “A reasonable probability is a probability
sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.”
Id. (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694).
evaluating whether the errors of counsel violated the
petitioner's Sixth Amendment right, the Court should
focus on whether the adversarial process broke down,
affecting the fundamental fairness of the trial and the
reliability of the result. Strickland, 466 U.S. at
696. Bare allegations of ineffectiveness are insufficient.
Before a hearing can be held, “the petition must be
accompanied by a detailed and specific affidavit which shows
the petitioner has actual proof of the allegations
going beyond mere unsupported assertions.” Barry v.
United States, 528 F.2d 1094, 1101 (7th Cir. 1976)
Petitioner generally alleges that her attorney prejudiced the
court against her and failed to meaningfully represent her
throughout the judicial process. Her claims include failing
to investigate her case, failing to advance mental competency
defenses, and making false ...