Steven Bixby v. Bryan Stirling, No. 22-4 (4th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
After the district court denied Petitioner’s initial 28 U.S.C. Section 2254 petition, he obtained new counsel and filed a motion to reopen that judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). He argued that exceptional circumstances warranted this relief because his original Section 2254 counsel had, in effect, abandoned him by submitting a Section 2254 petition that omitted several potentially meritorious issues and inadequately presented the issues that had been raised. He asked the court to reopen the judgment and allow him to file additional briefings and new claims. The district court concluded that Petitioner’s motion was not a true Rule 60(b) motion. Rather, Petitioner was attempting to use Rule 60(b) to circumvent the statutory limits placed on second or successive Section 2254 petitions. Recognizing that it would lack jurisdiction to consider a second Section 2254 petition, the district court denied Petitioner’s motion without considering its merits. Petitioner appealed.
The Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court’s conclusion that it lacked jurisdiction to consider Petitioner’s Rule 60(b) motion because he effectively sought to file a second or successive Section 2254 petition, something that a district court cannot authorize. The court also wrote that because it also concludes that the district court should have dismissed Petitioner’s motion rather than deny it, it vacated the district court’s order and remanded with instructions to dismiss.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on January 5, 2024.