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Lee v. Davis

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

February 26, 2018

BERNARDIST DEVOTE LEE, ID # 808134, Petitioner,
LORIE DAVIS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.



         By Special Order 3-251, this habeas case has been automatically referred for findings, conclusions, and recommendation. Based on the relevant filings and applicable law, this case should be transferred to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals as a successive petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Bernardist Devote Lee (Petitioner) was convicted of murder in November 1997 in Cause No. F97-46252 in the 282nd Judicial District Court of Dallas County, Texas, and sentenced to life imprisonment. (Doc. 3 at 2.) He unsuccessfully challenged that conviction through a federal habeas petition that was dismissed as barred by the statute of limitations on October 18, 2004. See Lee v. Dretke, No. 3:04-CV-745-L (N.D. Tex. Oct. 18, 2004). His federal habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenges that same conviction. (Doc. 3.)


         “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute, which is not to be expanded by judicial decree.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citations omitted). They “must presume that a suit lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction rests on the party seeking the federal forum.” Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001). They have “a continuing obligation to examine the basis for jurisdiction.” See MCG, Inc. v. Great W. Energy Corp., 896 F.2d 170, 173 (5th Cir. 1990).

         A district court cannot exercise jurisdiction over a second or successive § 2254 petition without authorization from the court of appeals. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b); Crone v. Cockrell, 324 F.3d 833, 836 (5th Cir. 2003). A petition is successive if it raises a claim that was or could have been raised in an earlier petition or otherwise constitutes an abuse of the writ. Hardemon v. Quarterman, 516 F.3d 272, 275 (5th Cir. 2008); Crone, 324 F.3d at 836-37. If it essentially represents a second attack on the same conviction raised in the earlier petition, a petition is successive. Hardemon, 516 F.3d at 275-76 (distinguishing Crone because “Crone involved multiple § 2254 petitions attacking a single judgment”).[1] A second petition is not successive if the prior petition was dismissed due to prematurity or for lack of exhaustion, however. See Slack v. McDaniel, 529U.S. 473, 487 (2000) (declining to construe an application as second or successive when it followed a previous dismissal due to a failure to exhaust state remedies); Stewart v. Martinez-Villareal, 523 U.S. 637, 643-46 (1998) (declining to construe an application as second or successive when it followed a previous dismissal due to prematurity, and noting the similarities of such dismissal to one based upon a failure to exhaust state remedies). Otherwise, “dismissal of a first habeas petition for technical procedural reasons would bar the prisoner from ever obtaining federal habeas review.” Stewart, 523 U.S. at 645.

         Here, Petitioner challenges the same conviction that he challenged in a prior federal petition that was denied on its merits. Under Hardemon and Crone, he was required to present all available claims in that petition. A claim is available when it “could have been raised had the petitioner exercised due diligence.” Leonard v. Dretke, No. 3:02-CV-0578-H, 2004 WL 741286, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 5, 2004) (recommendation of Mag. J.), adopted by 2004 WL 884578 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 20, 2004). The crucial question in determining availability is whether Petitioner knew or should have known through the exercise of due diligence the facts necessary to his current claims when he filed his prior federal petition challenging the same conviction.

         Petitioner's federal petition is successive within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b) because it raises claims that were or could have been raised in his initial federal petition. When a petition is second or successive, the petitioner must seek an order from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that authorizes this Court to consider the petition. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3)(A). The Fifth Circuit “may authorize the filing of a second or successive application only if it determines that the application makes a prima facie showing that the application satisfies the requirements of [§ 2244(b)].” Id. § 2244(b)(3)(C). To present a claim in a second or successive application that was not presented in a prior application, the application must show that it is based on: (1) newly discovered evidence that, if proven and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole, would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable factfinder would have found him guilty of the offense; or (2) a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable. Id. § 2244(b)(2).

         Because the Fifth Circuit has not issued an order authorizing the district court to consider this successive petition for habeas relief, this Court lacks jurisdiction over this action.


         The petition for writ of habeas corpus filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 should be TRANSFERRED to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit pursuant to Henderson v. Haro, 282 F.3d 862, 864 (5th Cir. 2002) and In re Epps, 127 F.3d 364, 365 (5th Cir. 1997).


         A copy of these findings conclusions and recommendation shall be served on all parties in the manner provided by law Any party who objects to any part of these findings conclusions and recommendation must file specific written objections within 14 days after being served with a copy See 28 USC ยง 636(b)(1); Fed R Civ P 72 b) In order to be specific an objection must identify the specific finding or recommendation to which objection is made state the basis for the objection and specify the place in the magistrate judge's findings conclusion and recommendation where the disputed determination is found An objection that merely incorporates by reference or refers to the briefing before the magistrate judge is not specific Failure to file specific written objections will bar the aggrieved party from appealing the factual findings ...

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