Mitchell v. United States, No. 18-17031 (9th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) motion for relief from the district court's denial of his 2009 motion for authorization to interview jurors at his 2003 criminal trial in order to investigate potential juror misconduct. Petitioner argued that the Supreme Court's intervening decision in Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado, 137 S. Ct. 855 (2017), changed the law governing requests to interview jurors for evidence of racial bias, and that this change constituted an extraordinary circumstance justifying relief under Rule 60(b)(6).
The panel first held that petitioner's motion is not a disguised second or successive section 2255 habeas motion, and the district court had jurisdiction to decide his Rule 60(b)(6) motion. The panel held that a mere development in jurisprudence, as opposed to an unexpected change, does not constitute an extraordinary circumstance for purposes of Rule 60(b)(6). In this case, the panel wrote that, although Peña-Rodriguez established a new exception to Rule 60(b), this change in law left untouched the law governing investigating and interviewing jurors. Furthermore, because Peña-Rodriguez does not override local court rules or compel access to jurors, it is not "clearly irreconcilable" with precedent, Miller v. Gammie, 335 F.3d 889, 893 (2003) (en banc), and therefore did not make any change in the law regarding lawyer access to jurors, let alone one so significant that it would constitute "extraordinary circumstances" for purposes of Rule 60(b).