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United States v. Stile

United States District Court, D. Maine

February 26, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JAMES STILE

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR A WRIT OF AUDITA QUERELA PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1651 TO VACATE AND CORRECT RESTITUTION PORTION OF THIS COURT'S JUDGMENT

          JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The Court denies a defendant's motion for writ of audita querela because the defendant failed to appeal the order about which he is now complaining and a motion for writ of audita querela, if the writ is available, is not a substitute for direct appeal.

         I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

         On February 8, 2019 and on December 6, 2018, the Court issued orders detailing the facts underlying Mr. Stile's claims about the restitution order and the Court refers to those orders for a complete description of the events leading to Mr. Stile's current motion. Order on Def.'s Mot. for Ct. to Order Gov't/Probation Office to Dispense with Sworn Aff. Submitted by Hanover Ins. that was to be Made in Accordance with Title 18 U.S.C. § 3664(d) at 1-9 (ECF No. 720) (Aff. Order); Order on Def.'s Mot. for the Production of Victim Affs. at 1-5 (ECF No. 706) (Production Order).

         II. THE WRIT OF AUDITA QUERELA

         “The writ of audita querela, introduced during the reign of Edward III, is sometimes available to reopen a judgment when an important matter concerning a defendant's case has arisen since the entry of judgment.” Trenkler v. United States, 536 F.3d 85, 90 n.2 (1st Cir. 2008). In 1991, the First Circuit described a writ of audita querela, part of the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651, as “‘a common law writ constituting the initial process in an action brought by a judgment defendant to obtain relief against the consequences of the judgment on account of some matter of defense or discharge arising since its rendition and which could not be taken advantage of otherwise.'”[1] United States v. Holder, 936 F.2d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 1991) (quoting Black's Law Dictionary 120 (5th ed. 1979)). In Holder, the First Circuit explained:

[I]f available at all [in criminal proceedings], the writ of audita querela can only be available where there is a legal objection to a conviction, which has arisen subsequent to that conviction, and which is not redressable pursuant to another post-conviction remedy.

Id. at 5 (emphasis in original).[2] Put differently, to obtain relief under audita querela, a defendant must point to something “occurring since his conviction that would render his conviction illegal.” Id.

         In Bartelho v. United States, No. 15-1988, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 23945, 2016 WL 9584199 (1st Cir. Dec. 8, 2016), the First Circuit acknowledged that 28 U.S.C. § 2255 could not be used to obtain relief from a restitution order in a criminal judgment because a defendant “is not claiming the right to be released from custody as required by § 2255.” Id. at *1 (citing Smullen v. United States, 94 F.3d 20, 25-26 (1st Cir. 1996)). The First Circuit assumed without deciding that the defendant in Bartelho “could seek relief from the original restitution order under the writ of audita querela or some other common law writ.” 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 23945, at *2, 2016 WL 9584199, at *1. Following the First Circuit's lead, the Court assumes that the writ of audita querela may be available to Mr. Stile to challenge the restitution order, if he meets the requirements of the writ.

         To assume that the writ could be available in some cases, however, does not mean that it is available in Mr. Stile's case. It is not. Although the First Circuit has stated that the writ of audita querela may be available to “reopen a judgment when an important matter concerning a defendant's case has arisen since entry of the judgment, ” Trenkler, 536 F.3d at 90 n.2, the Holder Court noted that the writ of audita querela “does not and cannot, under any stretch of imagination, provide a purely equitable basis for relief independent of any legal defect in the underlying judgment.” Holder, 936 F.3d at 3 (citation omitted).

         III. THE PARTIES' POSITIONS

         A. James Stile's Motion

         In his motion, Mr. Stile “concedes that the Judgment entered by the district court on May 29, 2015 was correct based on the information presented to all parties including the Court.” Def.'s Mot. for a Writ of Audita Querela Pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 1651 to Vacate and Correct Restitution Portion of this Ct.'s J. at 2 (ECF No. 713). Mr. Stile says that the “initial judgment allowed for the [pharmacist] to realize a ‘windfall' which is not the legislative intent of § 3664 or § 3663 of the restitution statutes.” Id. at 3. Mr. Stile acknowledges that the amended judgment dated November 28, 2017 “corrected the ‘windfall' matter as concerns [the pharmacist], but brought forward the facts that the Defendant was denied due process creating an injustice to the Defendant.” Id. Mr. Stile claims that there is a “very good possibility that there was a ‘windfall' to Hanover Insurance Company by virtue of the fact that insurance companies routinely purchase ‘re-insurance' policies and subrogate their losses, here, the district court entered the judgment without any proof of loss from Hanover Insurance Company.” Id. Finally, Mr. Stile returns to his claim that Federal Rule 32 and 18 U.S.C. § 3663 were violated before and during his sentencing hearing. Id. at 4. He asks that the Court vacate the restitution order as it relates to Hanover Insurance Company. Id.

         B. The ...


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