United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
Ralph J. Sullivan, Plaintiff: Michael D. Cutler, Northampton,
Edward Ficco, Thomas F. Reilly, Defendants: Argiro K.
Shapiro, Office of the Attorney General (MA), Worcester, MA.
M. Gorton, United States District Judge.
case involves a habeas corpus petition filed under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 that has been pending before this Court for over
a decade while petitioner has attempted to exhaust all
remedies available to him in state court.
that respondent has answered the petition, which has been
amended with leave of court, and the issues have been
extensively briefed, petitioner's counsel seeks 1) to
withdraw his appearance, 2) to have the Court appoint
replacement counsel and 3) to extend the time for filing a
reply memorandum. For the reasons that follow, the motion
will be allowed only to the extent that an extension of time
will be afforded to petitioner's existing counsel to file
a reply brief. The motion will, however, be denied with
respect to petitioner's request to appoint replacement
January 25, 1997 petitioner Ralph Sullivan ("
Sullivan" or " petitioner" ) was convicted in
Middlesex Superior Court of one count of murder in the first
degree, one count of unlawful possession of a firearm, three
counts of armed robbery and one count of breaking and
entering in the nighttime. He was sentenced to life in prison
without parole, to be followed by 35-40 years, aggregated. On
August 12, 2003, Sullivan filed a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus in this Court, alleging as grounds for relief
improper evidentiary rulings, ineffective assistance of
counsel and improper closing argument by the prosecution. The
petition was stayed by this Court from June 21, 2004 through
May 20, 2014 in order to permit petitioner time to exhaust
his available remedies in state court.
from the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services
(" CPCS" ), the state public defender service, was
appointed to represent petitioner in connection with his
state proceedings. In addition to representing Sullivan in
the direct appeal of his conviction in state court and in his
state habeas petition, Sullivan's original appointed
counsel, Wendy Sibbison, filed this federal habeas petition.
One year after the petition was filed, Sullivan's current
counsel, Michael Cutler, replaced Sibbison as CPCS-appointed
counsel in the state habeas proceedings. When those
proceedings were terminated, Cutler began representing
Sullivan in this case.
Motion for an Extension of Time and to Appoint New
United States Supreme Court has held that the Sixth Amendment
right to counsel does not extend to habeas petitions in
either capital or non-capital cases. Pennsylvania v.
Finley, 481 U.S. 551, 107 S.Ct. 1990, 95 L.Ed.2d 539
(1987); Murray v. Giarratano, 492 U.S. 1, 109 S.Ct.
2765, 106 L.Ed.2d 1 (1989). Petitioners in capital habeas
cases possess a statutory right to counsel through the
provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 3599. This right does not,
however, extend to habeas petitions filed by inmates who were
charged with capital offenses but were sentenced to a
non-capital punishment. See 18 U.S.C. § 3599(a)(1).
petitioner was sentenced to a non-capital punishment, he has
neither a constitutional nor a statutory right to counsel to
represent him in his federal habeas petition. Petitioner has
been fortunate to receive appointed counsel, supported by
state funds, up to this point in the proceedings. As counsel