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Recusal question occupies 7th Circuit in District Court’s dismissal of habeas petition

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Although a prisoner filed his habeas petition late, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the District Court should not have dismissed it on procedural grounds.

The 7th Circuit vacated the dismissal of Anthony Weddington’s petition and remanded to the court for further proceedings in Anthony Weddington v. Dushan Zatecky, Superintendent, 11-3303.

The court spends considerable time in its opinion mulling over whether or not Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, should have recused herself from the hearing on Weddington’s petition.

Weddington was charged in 2002 with four counts of rape, four counts of criminal deviate conduct, and two counts of criminal confinement. The charges were severed into two separate trials.

Pratt, then a Marion Superior Court Judge, presided over the first trial in September 2003. Weddington was convicted and Pratt sentenced him to 73 years.

The second trial in 2005 also resulted in a conviction. Six years later, Weddington filed a pro se habeas petition under 28 U.S. Code 2254, challenging his 2005 conviction. He claims the trial court erred in denying a motion to suppress all evidence from a January 2002 traffic stop.

Weddington argued that the one-year limit on filing should not apply to his petition or bar it because, while he was in prison, his legal paper work, law books and legal mail were all confiscated and withheld from him.

When Weddington’s petition arrived in federal court, Pratt was sitting on the bench. She denied his petition, finding Weddington was barred by the statute of limitations.  

In examining Pratt’s participation, the 7th Circuit notes although Weddington was challenging the 2005 conviction, the criminal charges were closely related to the 2003 case.

“Review of the habeas petition on the merits may require Judge Pratt to review the 2005 proceedings with respect to a suppression motion aimed at the same stop and search as the one involved in the suppression motion on which she ruled in the 2003 case,” the court wrote. “In our view, this could seriously affect the fairness and public reputation of the judicial proceedings and create an appearance of impropriety.”

However, the court remanded the case for different reasons. Specifically, it ruled the District Court erred in failing to consider whether the limitation period was equitably tolled by the state’s alleged confiscation of Weddington’s legal papers.

The 7th Circuit noted the appearance of bias can be remedied by assignment of a different District judge on remand.



 
 

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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