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Nguyen v. Uttecht

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

March 30, 2017

HUNG VAN NGUYEN, Petitioner,
v.
JEFFREY UTTECHT, Respondent.

          ORDER

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner Hung Van Nguyen's objections (Dkt. No. 43) to the order by the Honorable James P. Donohue, United States Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 38) denying Nguyen's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 25). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby OVERRULES the objections (Dkt. No. 43) for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner Hung Van Nguyen filed his pro se habeas petition on November 8, 2016. (Dkt. No. 12.) That day, Judge Donohue directed e-service of the petition on Respondent Jeffrey Uttecht. (Dkt. No. 11 at 1.) Uttecht failed to timely respond. (Dkt. No. 38 at 1-2.) On January 6, Judge Donohue issued an order directing Uttecht to show cause why Nguyen's petition should not be granted. (Dkt. No. 23 at 1-2.)

         On January 9, Nguyen moved for judgment on the pleadings based on Uttecht's failure to timely respond. (Dkt. No. 25 at 1.) Nguyen argued that, per Rule 5 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in United States District Courts, Uttecht was required to respond within 45 days after service. (Id.) Nguyen also challenged the order to show cause. (Dkt. No. 27.) He complained that Judge Donohue “show[ed] favoritism to Respondent by allowing Respondent to file an ‘untimely' Answer under the guise of a Show Cause Order.” (Id. at 2.)

         On January 25, Uttecht responded to the order to show cause, explaining that he did not receive service of the petition until that month. (Dkt. No. 28 at 1.) According to Uttecht, although the Court ordered service on November 8, 2016, the initial attempt at e-service failed because the document was too large. (Id. at 2.) The Clerk then made a second attempt to serve the petition, this time through 14 separate e-mails. (Id.) The e-mails did not “bounce back, ” so it appeared that service had been completed. (Id.) However, the Attorney General's office had no record of ever having received the files; Uttecht hypothesized that the e-mails might have been tagged as spam. (Id.) Ultimately, service was not actually completed until January 2017, when the Court ordered service by certified mail pursuant to the order to show cause. (Id.; see also Dkt. No. 23 at 2.) Accompanying Uttecht's response was a sworn declaration from his attorney declaring the relevant facts under penalty of perjury. (Dkt. No. 29 at 1-2.)

         Uttecht also filed his answer and accompanying documents on January 25. (Dkt. No. 30.)

         On February 7, Nguyen moved for an order to show cause asking Uttecht to submit proof to corroborate his claim that the Attorney General's office was unaware of the petition until January. (Dkt. No. 37 at 1.)

         On February 9, Judge Donohue denied Nguyen's motion for judgment on the pleadings and motion for order to show cause. (Dkt. No. 38.) Judge Donohue explained that Uttecht submitted proof of his claims when his attorney “represented, under penalty of perjury, that the [Attorney General's] office did not receive service of the petition until January 2017.” (Id. at 2.) Judge Donohue further acknowledged that prisoner e-filing is relatively new and the process is still being refined. (Id.) The Court thus accepted Uttecht's response to the petition as timely filed and denied Nguyen's motions. (Id. at 3.)

         Nguyen objects to the order, arguing that Judge Donohue showed favoritism to Uttecht; that Uttecht should be held to the service requirements; and that Uttecht should be ordered to present evidence to support his claims. (Dkt. No. 43 at 1, 2, 4.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         A district court judge may designate a magistrate judge to hear and determine a non-dispositive pretrial matter. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). The district court may reconsider a magistrate judge's decision on a pretrial matter where it has been shown that the decision is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law. Id.

         B. ...


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