United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER ON MOTIONS FOR EXTENSION OF TIME AND A MORE
Alice Theiler, United States Magistrate Judge
a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas action. Currently before the
Court is respondent's motions for a 60-day extension of
time to file an answer (Dkt. 117) and for a more definite
statement of the grounds for relief (Dkt. 118). Petitioner
opposes the motions and asks the Court to sanction respondent
for failing to file a timely answer. (Dkts. 120, 121.) Having
considered the parties' submissions, the balance of the
record, and the governing law, the Court GRANTS
respondent's motion for a more definite statement, DENIES
as moot respondent's motion for extension of time, and
DENIES petitioner's motion for sanctions.
who was proceeding pro se at the time, initiated
this action in August 2014. (Dkt. 1.) His habeas petition
raised 26 grounds for relief. (Dkt. 13.) After delay caused
by both parties, respondent filed an answer in March 2015,
arguing that petitioner failed to exhaust all of his habeas
claims. (Dkt. 24.) Petitioner filed his response in May 2015.
(Dkt. 34.) In June 2015, the Court requested additional
state-court records from respondent and re-noted the answer.
(Dkt. 36.) After it became clear that petitioner had multiple
pending state-court actions relevant to the conviction he was
challenging in federal court, the Court stayed this action.
2017, the Court temporarily lifted the stay and appointed the
Office of the Federal Public Defender to represent
petitioner. (Dkt. 92.) In July 2017, the Court ordered
petitioner to file an amended habeas petition, which would
operate as a complete substitute for the original petition.
(Dkt. 99.) The amended habeas petition provided a detailed
discussion of three of petitioner's original claims and
then simply listed the remaining 23 claims that he brought in
his original habeas petition without restating the facts
supporting each ground for relief or addressing whether he
exhausted those claims in state court. (Dkt. 100.) The Court
subsequently stayed the action again so that petitioner could
file another personal restraint petition in the state courts.
January 9, 2019, the Court granted the parties' motion to
lift the stay. (Dkt. 111.) On January 24, 2019, the Court
granted petitioner's motion for leave to file a
supplemental brief regarding his newly exhausted First
Amendment claim, and on January 29, 2019, petitioner filed
his brief. (Dkts. 113, 114.)
January 29, 2019, the parties filed a joint status report and
proposed briefing schedule. (Dkt. 115.) Petitioner asked the
Court to bifurcate briefing, address his First Amendment
claim first-which he strongly believes entitles him to
immediate habeas relief-and only if the claim was unavailing,
obtain briefing and rule on his remaining claims.
(Id.) Respondent opposed this option. (Id.)
The parties also proposed that regardless of whether the
Court bifurcated briefing, that respondent file his answer by
March 15, 2019, and petitioner file his reply by March 29,
2019. (Id.) On February 6, 2019, the Court issued an
order adopting the parties' proposed briefing schedule
and declining to bifurcate the briefing. (Dkt. 116.)
March 15, 2019, the day respondent's answer was due,
respondent filed a motion asking for a 60-day extension of
time, which was noted for March 29, 2019. (Dkt. 117.)
Respondent argued that despite his best efforts, he had not
yet obtained at least five files from relevant state-court
proceedings. (Id.) Respondent also argued that for
23 of the 26 claims, petitioner failed to provide factual
support, exhaustion analysis, or indication of which records
in his petition support those claims. (Id.)
Respondent noted that petitioner has expressed an interest in
having his claims adjudicated in federal court as quickly as
possible, and therefore suggested that he voluntarily dismiss
all but the three claims his counsel discussed in depth in
his amended habeas petition. (Id.)
opposes the motion and asks for sanctions for
respondent's failure to file a timely response. (Dkt.
120.) Petitioner contends that counsel for respondent waited
until “the last possible minute” to request
records and therefore manufactured the situation that is the
cause for the delay. (Id.) Petitioner was able to
obtain the missing records on March 18, 2019, and
subsequently provided them to counsel for respondent.
(Id.) Petitioner argues that respondent previously
filed an answer to his original petition and therefore the
supplemental answer could largely reproduce the original
answer, therefore reducing the amount of time needed for
drafting. (Id.) Petitioner rejects respondent's
suggestion that he waive 23 of his grounds for relief.
(Id.) Petitioner asks the Court to sanction
respondent by deeming any procedural defenses waived, if
respondent fails to respond to his First Amendment claim
within 30 days of the March 15, 2019 deadline. (Id.)
Respondent did not file a reply.
March 25, 2019, respondent filed a motion for a more definite
statement, which was noted for April 12, 2019. (Dkt. 118.)
Respondent asks the Court to require petitioner to allege
facts in support of Grounds 1-2, 4-15, and
17-25, explain when and how he presented these
claims to the state courts, and provide the non-state-court
records that support his claims (for example, emails).
(Id.) Petitioner opposes the motion and contends
that it is a “veiled attempt to delay adjudication of
[his] meritorious First Amendment claims . . . .” (Dkt.
121 at 1.) According to petitioner, a more definite statement
is not necessary because the amended petition retains the
exact numbering of grounds from his original petition, and
respondent already filed an answer to that petition.
(Id. at 2.) To the extent the Court deems a more
definite statement necessary, petitioner asks to incorporate
by reference portions of his original habeas petition.
(Id.) Respondent did not file a reply.
Court begins by addressing respondent's motion for a more
definite statement. If a pleading is so vague or ambiguous
that a respondent “cannot reasonably be required to
frame a responsive pleading, the party may move for a more
definite statement.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e); Gregory
Vill. Partners, L.P. v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 805
F.Supp.2d 888, 896 (N.D. Cal. 2011) (Rule 12(e) motion is
proper only where party's pleading is so indefinite that
other party cannot determine claim being asserted); Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases in U.S. District Court
(“Habeas Rules”), Advisory Committee Notes, 1976
Adoption, R. 4, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254 (“[T]he
judge may want to consider a motion from respondent to make
the petition more certain.”).
Rule 2 requires, among other things, that a petition
“state the fact supporting each ground.” Habeas
Rules, R. 2(c)(2). The rule also provides that the
“petition must substantially follow either the form
appended to these rules or a form prescribed by a local
district-court rule.” Habeas Rules, R. 2(d). The form
petition used in the Western District of Washington requires
habeas petitioners to list, for each ground for relief: the
supporting facts; if the petitioner did not exhaust his state
remedies, an explanation of why; ...