Pizzuto v. Ramirez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 04-22-2015
  • Case #: 13-35443
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Judges Fisher, and Rawlinson
  • Full Text Opinion

Motions fall within the permissible scope of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) if they claim that the federal habeas corpus court improperly held procedurally defaulted claims, and that the state’s attorney perpetrated fraud on the federal district court.

In 1986, Gerald Ross Pizzuto, Jr. was convicted of first-degree murder, felony murder, and several other charges. Pizzuto filed a state petition for post-conviction relief, which was denied. Next, Pizzuto proceeded to file a federal habeas corpus petition, which was also denied. After the United States Supreme Court ruled on Martinez v. Ryan, which established the type of extraordinary circumstances needed to justify reopening a judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6), Pizzuto petitioned again under a Rule 60 motion, seeking relief from the initial denial. The district court denied the petition after finding that some of Pizzuto’s claims were outside the scope of Martinez, or otherwise failed. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that motions that claim the federal habeas corpus court improperly held procedurally defaulted claims, and that the state’s attorney perpetrated fraud on the federal district court fall within the permissible scope of Rule 60(b) motions. However, the panel determined that claims of ineffective assistance of trial or appellate counsel to excuse procedural default are not within the scope of Martinez, and thus were properly denied by the district court. Furthermore, the panel found that Pizzuto’s claim that the trial and appellate attorney had a conflict of interest based on the attorney’s relations with the state judge was within the scope of Martinez. However, the panel concluded that Pizzuto’s claim was unfounded and of little basis since he did not establish through clear and convincing evidence that fraud was committed on the district court. Thus the panel affirmed the district court’s denial of Pizzuto’s motion and relief. AFFIRMED.

Advanced Search