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Gonzales v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

April 4, 2017

SALVADOR GONZALES BOP Register No. 09892-078, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DAVID L. HORAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Movant Salvador Gonzales, a federal prisoner, proceeding pro se, moves to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See Dkt. No. 2. This action has been referred to the undersigned United States magistrate judge for pretrial management under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and a standing order of reference from Chief Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn.

         The motion, Gonzales's first Section 2255 motion concerning this criminal judgment, appears to be timely under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1) and includes a 36-page brief written in Spanish. See Dkt. No. 2 at 11-46; see also Id. at 47 (“I am proceeding pro-se with the assistance of a bi-lingual fellow inmate. Because I don't speak English, and because the Court assigned an interpreter all along the proceeding, and because I had to sign this Motion under penalty of perjury, and the only language I understand is Spanish, ... my Motion's facts in support of its Grounds for relief is written in Spanish, excuse me for the inconvenience for your Office and the Court.”).

         Upon review of the brief and Gonzales's financial affidavit, filed in response to the Court's March 3, 2017 notice of deficiency and order, see Dkt. Nos. 3 & 4, the Court concludes sua sponte that the interests of justice require the translation of the Spanish-only brief.

         Legal Standards and Analysis

         “No constitutional right to counsel exists in federal postconviction proceedings.” Urias v. Thaler, 455 F. App'x 522, 523 (5th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (citing Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U.S. 551, 555 (1987)); see also United States v. Garcia, 689 F.3d 362, 364-65 (5th Cir. 2012). But, under the Criminal Justice Act (the “CJA”), “a [habeas] petitioner should be appointed counsel when ‘the interests of justice so require.'” Urias, 455 F. App'x at 523 (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(a)(2)(B)).

The exercise of discretion in this area is guided ... by certain basic principles. When applying this standard and exercising its discretion in this field, the court should determine both whether the petition presents significant legal issues, and if the appointment of counsel will benefit the petitioner and the court in addressing this claim.

Jackson v. Coleman, Civil No. 3:11-cv-1837, 2012 WL 4504485, at *4 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 2, 2012) (citing Reese v. Fulcomer, 946 F.2d 247, 263 (3d Cir. 1991)); see Scoggins v. MacEachern, Civ. A. No. 04-10814-PBS, 2010 WL 3169416, at *1 (D. Mass. Aug. 10, 2010) (“In order to obtain appointed counsel, ‘an indigent litigant must demonstrate exceptional circumstances in his or her case to justify the appointment of counsel.' The rare cases warranting appointment of counsel in the interests of justice typically involve nonfrivolous claims with factually and/or legally complex issues and a petitioner who is severely hampered in his ability to investigate the facts.” (quoting Cookish v. Cunningham, 787 F.2d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 1986); other citations omitted)); see also Lyle v. United States, Civ. A. No. JFM-09-727 & Crim. No. JFM-02-395, 2009 WL 901523, at *1 (D. Md. Mar. 31, 2009) (the decision to appoint counsel under “§ 3006A(a)(2)(B) ... is similar to the standard applied in deciding whether to appoint counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1), wherein the determination to appoint counsel hinges on the characteristics of the claim and the litigant” (citing Whisenant v. Yuam, 739 F.2d 160, 163 (4th Cir. 1984))).

         Relatedly, “under the CJA[, a party, ] may move for the translation of documents if they are necessary for adequate representation.” United States v. Wattanasiri, 141 F.3d 1152 (table), 1998 WL 105769, at *2 (2d Cir. Mar. 9, 1998) (per curiam) (first discussing 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(e)(1); then citing United States v. Mosquera, 816 F.Supp. 168, 174 (E.D.N.Y. 1993)). Indeed, Section 3006A(e)(1), which provides that counsel for a person “who is financially unable to obtain investigative, expert, or other services necessary for adequate representation may request them in an ex parte application, ” id., may be the only statutory means to authorize funds for the translation of documents in this case, see, e.g., United States v. Flores, No. 1:10CR332-2, 2012 WL 1463602, at *8-*9 (M.D. N.C. Apr. 27, 2012) (concluding that, even if the Court Interpreters Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1827, was otherwise applicable to the judicial proceedings, a court should be “‘reluctant to interpret “interpreters” loosely to include translators of written documents'” (quoting Extra Equipamentos E Exportacao Ltda. v. Case Corp., 541 F.3d 719, 727 (7th Cir. 2008))); see also Gibson v. Jackson, 578 F.2d 1045, 1052 (5th Cir. 1978) (Rubin, J., addendum to opinion) (suggesting that, “if the need for expert witnesses is shown, federal funds for their services” may be authorized under Section 3006A(e)(1) in a habeas action under 28 U.S.C. § 2254); Dixon v. Admin. Appeal Dep't Office of Info. & Privacy, No. 06 Civ. 6069(LAK), 2008 WL 216304, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 22, 2008) (“A person whose criminal conviction has been finalized might still be eligible for the services authorized under [Section 3006A(e)(1)], provided that they are in aid of a pending habeas petition under sections 2241 or 2255.” (citing 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(a)(2))).

         Confronted with Gonzales's 36-page brief in Spanish, the Court begins by noting that

[n]either statutes nor administrative rules provide guidance on whether pleadings must be written in English. While no statute explicitly permits the filing of pleadings written in languages besides English, there also is no federal statute requiring pleadings to be written in English. And the [Northern] District of Texas has not adopted a local rule requiring pleadings to be in English or accompanied by an English translation. When an issue is not covered by a rule, the district courts are to regulate their practice in any manner not inconsistent with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or local rules. Fed.R.Civ.P. 83.

Gomez v. Myers, 627 F.Supp. 183, 184 (E.D. Tex. 1985).

         Neither the undersigned nor a member of his staff is fluent in Spanish. And the Court is not prepared to serve Gonzales's motion on the United States expecting that the government will pay to translate the brief. Cf. Wattanasiri, 1998 WL 105769, at *2 (“The [United States] Supreme Court has stated that the expenditure of public funds is proper only when authorized by Congress. There is no specific statute that allows a district court to order the ...


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