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Fields v. Blades

United States District Court, D. Idaho

November 28, 2016

RANDY BLADES, Warden, Respondent.


          B. Lynn Winmill Chief Judge

         Petitioner Zane Jack Fields murdered Mary Catherine Vanderford in 1988 and filed this habeas corpus action in 1995. Petitioner filed his initial Petition in 1997, his First Amended Petition in 2001, and his Second Amended Petition in 2012. (Dkt. 65, 89, 271.)

         Currently pending is Petitioner's Motion to Amend and proposed Third Amended Petition.[1] (Dkt. 327.) Having carefully reviewed the record, including the state court record, the Court concludes that oral argument is unnecessary. D. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 9.2(h)(5). Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order denying Petitioner's Motion to Amend.

         1. Standard of Law

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply to habeas corpus proceedings to the extent that they are not inconsistent with established habeas practice and procedure. See Rule 12 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases. By statute, an application for habeas relief may be amended “as provided in the rules of procedure applicable to civil actions.” 28 U.S.C. § 2242.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 governs the amendment of civil pleadings. Because Petitioner has previously amended his Petition and Respondent has not agreed to further amendment, Petitioner may now amend only with leave of court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “The Court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Id.

         Although public policy favors amendment, a court retains the discretion to deny leave to amend after considering factors such as previous amendment, undue delay, bad faith, prejudice to the opposing party, and futility of amendment. Bonin v. Calderon, 59 F.3d 815, 845 (9th Cir. 1995). These factors need not be given equal weight. Id.

         In a habeas case that has been initiated after the enactment of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), a request for leave to amend must also be construed in light of the provisions and policies of AEDPA, which is designed to promote finality, comity, and federalism. Williams (Michael) v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 420, 436 (2000).

         2. Discussion

         For the following reasons, the Court concludes that the factors identified in Bonin v. Calderon weigh against allowing Petitioner to proceed on yet another amendment.

         First, Petitioner has already amended his petition twice. Therefore, this factor weighs against allowing yet another amendment.

         Second, this case has been rife with undue delay. A large part of this delay has been caused by Petitioner, and the Court has repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of this litigation. The Court recognizes that some of the delay has been caused by the Court's massive caseload, the fact that one judge is responsible for all of this District's capital habeas corpus cases, and the District's lack of a full complement of judges. The Court also recognizes that Idaho's unique procedures in capital cases- intended supposedly to streamline litigation of those cases by consolidating direct appeal and initial post-conviction proceedings and by instituting short filing deadlines-only encourage the filing of multiple state post-conviction proceedings, which inevitably delay federal proceedings. Thus, the number of years this case has been pending and the number of post-conviction petitions filed by Petitioner in state court do not, by themselves, constitute undue delay.

         However, the Court finds that Petitioner has been deliberately choosing to litigate this case more slowly than necessary. For example, the Court finds that most, if not all, of the additional allegations in the proposed amendment could have been discovered, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, prior to the filing of Petitioner's Second Amended Petition in 2012. For example, Petitioner states that, in late 2013, “an off-hand comment in an inmate interview led to a significant break.” (Dkt. 327-2 at 8.) This “break” came in the form of testimony from inmates and correctional officers regarding the layout and structure of the cell blocks in which the inmate witnesses testified that Petitioner confessed to them. However, the layout of the areas in which Petitioner was confined prior to trial is not a “new” fact-it was obviously known by Petitioner long before 2013.

         Third, the bad faith factor-closely related to the undue delay factor in this case- weighs slightly against Petitioner, though this is not the worst case of gamesmanship the Court has ever seen. In arguing that the state would not be prejudiced by further amendment, Petitioner acknowledges that “the factual arguments raised in the proposed amendments” were known, at the very latest, when Petitioner filed his reply brief in support of his motion for an evidentiary hearing on procedural default-on February 6, 2014. (Dkt. 327-2 at 11; see also Dkt. 313.). Therefore, even if the Court were to accept the proposition that Petitioner could not have discovered the additional facts included in the ...

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