United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
MILTON N. WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, Respondent.
Roderick C. Young, United States Magistrate Judge
N. Williams, a Virginia state prisoner proceeding pro
se, brings this petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254 ("§ 2254 Petition, " ECF No. 9)
challenging his convictions in the Circuit Court of the City
of Hampton, Virginia ("Circuit Court"). By
Memorandum Order entered on March 16, 2017, the Court granted
Respondent's Motion to Dismiss, denied Williams's
§ 2254 Petition, and dismissed the action. (ECF Nos.
22-23.) On April 17, 2017, the Court received Williams's
"RESPONSE AND OBJECTION TO THE U.S. MAGISTRATE
JUDGE'S MEMORANDUM OPINION, " which the Court
construes as a motion filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 59(e) ("Rule 59(e) Motion, " ECF No. 24).
See MLC Auto., LLC v. Town of S. Pines, 532 F.3d
269, 277-78 (4th Cir. 2008) (filings made within twenty-eight
days after the entry of judgment construed as Rule 59(e)
motions (citing Dove v. CODESCO, 569 F.2d 807, 809
(4th Cir. 1978))).
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has
recognized three grounds for relief under Rule 59(e):
"(1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling
law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial;
or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest
injustice." Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d
1076, 1081 (4th Cir. 1993) (citing Weyerhaeuser Corp. v.
Koppers Co., 771 F.Supp. 1406, 1419 (D. Md. 1991);
Atkins v. Marathon LeTourneau Co., 130
F.R.D. 625, 626 (S.D.Miss. 1990)). The Court construes
Williams's submission as a request for relief under Rule
59(e) to correct a clear error of law.
first argues that the Court erred when it found that Claim
One (b) was "not cognizable in federal habeas corpus . .
. [because] Williams asserted his Sixth Amendment right to
effective assistance of counsel was violated and he
reasserted this fact in (Claim One (b)) for this Court to
decide." (Rule 59(e) Mot. 1-2 (capitalization
corrected).) Williams argues that "he explained how he
attempted to have this matter addressed by the STATE
authoritys [sic] has been construed as an attack upon state
law, is misplaced." (Id. at 2.) Williams
believes that "[b]efore the Court found Williams['s]
Claim One (b)" not cognizable under federal habeas
corpus, "the Court should have asked Williams to
clearify [sic], prior to finding his claim not
cognizable." (Id.) In his § 2254 Petition,
under Ground One, Williams labeled his claim as
"Involuntary Plea of Guilty." (§ 2254 Pet. 5
(as paginated by CM/ECF).) Williams alleged the following in
support of his claim:
Petitioner never wanted to plead guilty. Petitioner told
court official (probation officer) and the psychologist that
his lawyer told him if he the Petitioner didn't plead
guilty more charges would be added to Petitioner's case..
.. Also Petitioner notified the Circuit Court that he wanted
to file a complaint on Feb 23, 2012 against his lawyer. The
Petitioner had not been sentenced when he was trying to make
the Circuit Court aware of the coercion and intimidating
behavior against him. The Circuit Court didn't act or
inquire about his complaint. The Circuit Court has record of
the letter sent to the Court asking for help... . These acts
by counsel is a violation of the Petitioner's
(§ 2254 Pet. 5-6 (as paginated by CM/ECF) (spelling,
punctuation, and capitalization corrected).) From these terse
allegations, the Court construed Williams to raise two
claims: that his plea was involuntary (Claim One (a)) and
that the Circuit Court erred by "ignoring his request to
file a complaint, presumably with the state bar, against his
counsel." (ECF No. 22, at 6-7.) Nowhere in his statement
of Ground One does Williams mention that he raises a claim
that counsel rendered ineffective assistance in violation of
the Sixth Amendment. Nevertheless, the Court addressed
Williams's contention that counsel pressured him to plead
guilty in its lengthy discussion of Claim One (a). (See
Id. at 7-10.) The Court found that this claim lacked
merit and that the "record establishes that Williams
knowingly and voluntarily entered his guilty plea."
(Id. at 10.) To the extent that Williams believes
that the Court should have framed Claim One to also set forth
a separate claim of ineffective assistance of counsel with
regard to his guilty plea, Williams fails to identify any
clear error of law in the Court's categorization of his
also fails to identify any clear error of law when the Court
dismissed this claim without offering Williams a chance to
further expound upon it prior to the dismissal. Williams
points to no authority that requires the Court to seek
clarification of a habeas petitioner's claim beyond what
the petitioner has submitted in support of the claim.
Moreover, the Court rejected Williams's argument that
counsel pressured him into pleading guilty. Williams fails to
offer any persuasive argument that would have altered the
Court's conclusion. Williams is not entitled to Rule
59(e) relief based on this argument.
also argues that "he was denied his right to appeal his
claims, and ineffective assistance of counsel with regard to
his appeal" because his "attorney not only failed
to [file an appeal, but] he abandoned Williams without even
letting him know he could appeal." (Rule 59(e) Mot.
2-3.) The Court construes Williams to argue that the
Court's conclusion that Claim Five lacked merit is a
clear error. Williams offers no persuasive argument about why
the Court's thorough discussion of and rejection of this
claim was in error. Again, Williams is not entitled to Rule
59(e) relief based on this argument.
for these reasons, Williams's Rule 59(e) Motion (ECF No.
24) will be DENIED.
appeal may not be taken from the final order in a § 2254
proceeding unless a judge issues a certificate of
appealability ("COA"). 28 U.S.C. §
2253(c)(1)(A). A COA will not issue unless a prisoner makes
"a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional
right." 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). A petitioner
satisfies this requirement only when "reasonable jurists
could debate whether (or, for that matter, agree that) the
petition should have been resolved in a different manner or
that the issues presented were 'adequate to deserve
encouragement to proceed further."' Slack v.
McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000) (quoting Barefoot
v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880, 893 n.4 (1983)). Williams
fails to meet this standard. A certificate of appealability
will be DENIED.
appropriate Final Order will accompany this Memorandum
 Williams indicated that he mailed his
Rule 59(e) Motion on April 13, 2017, within twenty-eight days
after entry of the March 16, 2017 Memorandum Opinion and
Order, and the Court deems the motion filed on this date.