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Coriz v. Rodriguez

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

November 21, 2018

DANIEL E. CORIZ, Petitioner,
VICTOR RODRIGUEZ, ACTING WARDEN Sandoval County Detention Center, Sandoval County New Mexico, ROBERT B. CORIZ, in his official capacity as Tribal Court Judge, and THOMAS MOQUINO, JR., in his official capacity as Governor of the Kewa Pueblo, Respondents.


         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Respondent Coriz's Motion to Dismiss Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 25 U.S.C. § 1303 as Moot and to Vacate Pending Hearing and Discovery Requests as Moot; and Request for Expediated Briefing and Review, filed October 18, 2018 (Doc. 51), Respondent Coriz's Motion to Extend Discovery Deadline and Delay Pending Evidentiary Hearing, filed October 24, 2018 (Doc. 53), and Petitioner's Motion to Supplement the Writ of Habeas Corpus Petition, filed November 5, 2018 (Doc. 63). The Honorable James O. Browning referred this case to me to conduct hearings, if warranted, including evidentiary hearings, and to perform any legal analysis required to recommend to the Court an ultimate disposition of the case. Doc. 16. Having reviewed the submissions of the parties and the relevant law and having conducted oral arguments, the Court recommends granting the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 51), denying the Motion to Supplement (Doc. 63), and dismissing the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 25 U.S.C. § 1303 (Doc. 1) as moot. The Court also grants the Motion to Extend Discovery Deadline (Doc. 53) thereby staying discovery and any evidentiary hearing pending a ruling by the presiding judge on the Motion to Dismiss and disposition as to this Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition (“PF&RD”).

         I. Background

         Daniel Coriz (“Petitioner”) is the former Governor of the Pueblo of Santo Domingo who was charged with 13 counts of larceny, fraud, and conspiracy. Doc. 7-1 at 9-11. On December 6, 2017, the Tribal Court for the Pueblo of Santo Domingo (“Tribal Court”) found Petitioner guilty on 7 of the 13 counts, imposing a fine totaling $10, 430.90 and sentencing him to a jail term of 2520 days. Id. at 1. Petitioner then filed the instant federal Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Under the Indian Civil Rights Act (“ICRA”), 25 U.S.C. § 1303 (“Petition”). Doc 1.

         In a previous decision, Judge Browning held that Section 1302(c) of ICRA applies in this case because the Tribal Court imposed on Petitioner a total sentence of imprisonment of more than one year in one criminal proceeding. Doc. 40 at 12-15. He further held that the Tribal Court failed to meet at least two of the requirements of Section 1302(c) during the criminal proceeding. Id. at 14. Specifically, Section 1302(c)(3)(B) requires that the tribe's presiding judge be “licensed to practice law by any jurisdiction in the United States, ” and Respondent Coriz acknowledged that he was the presiding judge and that he is not an attorney. Doc. 7-2 at 2. Additionally, Section 1302(c)(5) requires the tribal court to “maintain a record of the criminal proceeding, including an audio or other recording of the trial proceeding.” Again, Respondent Coriz acknowledged that “[t]he Tribal Court does not record or make transcripts of its proceedings.” Id. Although Judge Browning found that the criminal proceeding included at least two violations of Section 1302(c), he agreed with me that an evidentiary hearing was necessary on the issues of exhaustion and waiver of rights before the merits of the Petition could be addressed. Doc. 27 at 8; Doc. 40 at 19. The Court therefore set an evidentiary hearing for November 5, 2018. Doc. 48.

         In a new development, however, the Tribal Court issued an October 18, 2018 Amended Order vacating Petitioner's December 6, 2017 convictions and sentence but noting that it would allow retrial of those charges, subject to the prohibition against double jeopardy, if the Tribe's Independent Special Prosecutor chooses to refile any of those charges. Doc. 51-1. Although the Amended Order released Petitioner from custody on the vacated convictions, see id., Petitioner remains in custody pursuant to an October 8, 2018 Order of Tribal Court Judge Tenorio ordering pretrial detention of Petitioner Daniel Coriz on a newly filed charge of embezzlement. Docs. 51-2.

         Respondent Coriz then moved to dismiss the Petition as moot, to vacate or delay the pending evidentiary hearing, and to vacate or stay the deadline for responding to discovery. Petitioner Coriz opposes all these requests and moves to supplement his Petition. The Court chose to vacate the evidentiary portion of the November 5, 2018 hearing and instead hear oral arguments on the Motion to Dismiss. The Court also stayed discovery pending its ruling on the Motion to Extend Discovery deadlines.

         II. Analysis

         Petitioner Coriz first argues that the Amended Order is deficient because former Governor Robert B. Coriz issued it. Petitioner explains that, based on his knowledge and experience, “a former Governor does not have the power to act outside his appointment or administrative duties.” Doc. 61-2, ¶ 7. However, this Court recently found that while Respondent Coriz is no longer Governor, he has been appointed to serve as the Tribal Court Judge in any further proceedings against Petitioner. See Doc. 65. As such, he acted in his official capacity as Tribal Court Judge when he issued the Amended Order.

         With the Tribal Court‘s Amended Order Vacating Convictions and Sentence in place, Respondent Coriz requests that the Court dismiss the underlying Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus because Petitioner “has been granted all the relief available to him under [ICRA], and the Petition is, therefore, moot.” Doc. 51, ¶ 2. Indeed, for this Court to have jurisdiction over this matter, it must be a live case or controversy, as described in Article III of the U.S. Constitution. See United States v. Sanchez-Gomez, 138 S.Ct. 1532, 1537 (2018). For a case or controversy to exist “a plaintiff must show a ‘personal stake' in the outcome of the action, ” thereby limiting federal review to cases with “actual and concrete disputes, the resolution of which have direct consequences on the parties involved.” Id. (citing Genesis HealthCare Corp. v. Symczyk, 569 U.S. 66, 71 (2013)). Once a case or controversy no longer exists, the matter becomes moot and the federal court must dismiss the action for want of jurisdiction. See Jordan v. Sosa, 654 F.3d 1012, 1023 (10th Cir. 2011). “[T]he constitutional mootness doctrine focuses upon whether a definite controversy exists through the litigation and whether conclusive relief may still be conferred by the court despite the lapse of time and any change of circumstances that may have occurred since the commencement of the action.” Id. at 1024.

         Here, the underlying Petition challenges the validity of Petitioner's 2017 convictions. The Tribal Court has now vacated those convictions. Accordingly, “events outside the litigation make relief impossible” because Petitioner had already been granted his requested relief. Id. Similarly, in Cumbo v. Eyman, 409 F.2d 400, 400 (9th Cir. 1969), the Ninth Circuit found a habeas petition moot when the trial court vacated the petitioner's conviction. Likewise, the Tenth Circuit upheld a district court's denial of habeas relief when “the conditions giving rise to [the petitioner's] habeas petition no longer existed.” Fuller v. Green, 112 Fed.Appx. 724, 725 (10th Cir. 2004).

         Petitioner Coriz nevertheless disputes that his Petition is moot because, first, he may be retried for the 2017 charges, and second, because he is currently being held in pretrial detention on a new 2018 charge. As discussed below, the undersigned disagrees and recommends that Judge Browning find that Petitioner is not entitled to any further relief under his current Petition, and that his Petition is therefore moot.

         a. The 2017 charges

         Petitioner argues that his current Petition is not moot because the Amended Order left open the possibility that the Tribe's Independent Special Prosecutor may retry him for the 2017 charges. The undersigned disagrees.

         A “writ of habeas corpus does not generally bar a retrial of the petitioner on the charges underlying his defective conviction.” Capps v. Sullivan, 13 F.3d 350, 352 (10th Cir. 1993). Rather, “[t]he effect of the writ is to vacate the conviction and release the petitioner from custody.” Id. Discussing a petition for habeas corpus under Section 2254, the Sixth Circuit explained that habeas power to release a petitioner “is not a power to release him forever from the underlying charge. It is the power, instead, only to release him from custody pursuant to the unconstitutional judgment.” Eddleman v. McKee, 586 F.3d 409, 413 (6th Cir. 2009). Here, the Tribal Court vacated Petitioner's 2017 convictions and sentence, thereby releasing him from the unconstitutional judgment. And while the Tribal Court may have vacated the convictions “to avoid a reversal of the underlying convictions by this Court[, ]” (Doc. 54 at 12), the outcome is the same as if the Court had granted the ...

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