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United States v. Nahle

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 30, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
WALDO NAHLE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER QUASHING ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE [1]

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court with regard to Defendant's response to the Court's Order to Show Cause (Docs. 82 & 85) why sanctions should not be imposed for filing a motion to transfer or consolidate this criminal assault case with another case charging Defendant with narcotics-related offenses for purposes of sentencing and which is assigned to another district judge.

         BACKGROUND

         The relevant facts are set out in detail in the Order to Show Cause, but the Court reiterates the salient facts here. Defendant Nahle (“Nahle”) is one of three defendants in a case charging him with violations related to conspiracy, narcotics trafficking and felon in possession charges (No. 16-cr-3304-MV, hereinafter, “Narcotics Case”). That case was assigned to United States District Judge Martha Vazquez, who has already sentenced two of the three defendants in that case but has not yet sentenced Nahle.

         While Nahle was being held in custody pending trial in the first case, he was subsequently charged with assault against a correctional officer (“Assault Case”). Nahle was not charged with codefendant Nathan Jensen (“Jensen”) in the original Indictment, but he was added four months later in a Superseding Indictment. At the time the Indictment was filed against Jensen for the Assault Case, Jensen already had a pending case in this Court for felon in possession charges. Because the pending felon in possession charge was already assigned to this Court, his Assault Case was assigned to the undersigned in accordance with this District's policy for disseminating cases to judges. Thus, when Nahle was added as a defendant to the Assault Case by a Superseding Indictment, the Assault Case remained assigned to the undersigned because Jensen's assault charge was already in front of this Court.

         Nahle pleaded guilty in the Assault Case on August 23, 2018 and appeared before this Court for sentencing on February 27, 2019. See 17cr2566 WJ, Docs. 61 & 81(Clerk's Minutes). At that time, the Court asked the parties about their positions on whether Nahle should proceed first to sentencing for charges in the Narcotics Case before U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez before being sentenced in this Court in the Assault Case. The Court noted that Judge Vazquez had not yet ruled on Nahle's objections to the Presentence Report in the Narcotics Case and had ordered a psychological examination which was not yet completed. The Court suggested that the resolution of those issues and the sentence imposed in that case would have some bearing on Nahle's criminal history and characteristics analysis before this Court pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §3553(a). See Doc. 85 at 4. Both parties represented that they were prepared to proceed to sentencing, but defense counsel stated that if the Court intended to continue sentencing, he might have additional matters to take up. The Court entered an Order the following day continuing Nahle's sentencing in the Assault Case until he is sentenced in the Narcotics Case. Doc. 80.

         On April 17, 2019, Defense filed a Motion to Transfer and/or Consolidate for Purposes of Sentencing on April 17, 2019 (Doc. 82). On May 29, 2019, the Court denied the motion (Doc. 85), stating that it had already explained to defense counsel at the February 27, 2019 hearing that it would “make sense” that the undersigned would preside over the Assault Case, Doc. 85 at 3, and found that the effect of consolidating both cases for sentencing was “the opposite of judicial efficiency, ” Id. at 7. The Court also ordered defense counsel to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed for filing the motion and “ignoring the Court's prior ruling on this matter” that was made at the February 27, 2019 hearing. Doc. 85 at 8.

         DISCUSSION

         In its Order to Show Cause, this Court's concern was that defense counsel's motion was an attempt to circumvent its previous ruling on the matter of whether Nahle's two criminal cases should be transferred or consolidated under Judge Vazquez as the presiding judge in the earlier filed case.[2] Defendant's response to the Order to Show Cause was filed on June 12, 2019 (Doc. 86). In that response, Defendant maintains that sanctions should not be imposed on defense counsel based on his filing of a motion seeking transfer and consolidation of Nahle's two pending cases for sentencing, for several reasons:

(1) Defendant filed the motion to transfer or consolidate with an understanding that whether or not matters should be combined for judicial economy is a separate inquiry from the order of proceeding on those same matters if they are not combined.
(2) Defense counsel claims that he did not ignore any previous ruling of the Court regarding transfer or consolidation because he believed, based on the Court's comments at the February 27, 2019 hearing, that the Court would be open to considering a motion concerning consolidation.
(3) Defendant counsel brought the motion seeking transfer or consolidation in good faith in an effort to simplify the process for all involved, including the parties and the Court and to avoid duplication. He points out that he believed in good faith that consolidation could also further the goal of preserving judicial CJA resources under the unique circumstances of this case, Doc. 86 at 22, particularly since he is appointed CJA counsel for Nahle in both cases, Id. at 7.

         In considering the merits of Defendant's response, the Court reviewed the transcript of the February 27, 2019 hearing. (Doc. 84).

         I. Separateness of Matters

          Defendant first claims that the motion to transfer or consolidate was filed with the understanding that whether or not matters should be combined for judicial economy is a separate inquiry from the order of proceeding on those same matters if they are not combined. Here, counsel argues that the Court's ruling about the order of sentencing in Nahle's two criminal cases is separate and distinct from a ruling as to whether or not the two cases should remain disconnected and unconsolidated. The Court finds that the distinction is correct and that defense counsel ...


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