No. 4:09-CR-00043-SPF-1 (N.D. Oklahoma)
R. Smith, Assistant Federal Public Defender (Virginia L.
Grady, Federal Public Defender with him on the briefs),
Denver, Colorado, for Appellant.
Jeffrey Brian Bender, Attorney Tax Division (Caroline D.
Ciraolo, Acting Assistant Attorney General; David A. Hubbert,
Acting Assistant Attorney General; S. Robert Lyons, Chief of
Criminal Appeals & Tax Enforcement Policy Section;
Gregory Victor Davis, Attorney Tax Division; Alexander P.
Robbins, Attorney Tax Division; Danny C. Williams, United
States Attorney; and Loretta F. Radford, Acting United States
Attorney, with him on the briefs), Department of Justice,
Washington, D.C., for Appellee.
PHILLIPS, McHUGH, and MORITZ, Circuit Judges.
ORDER DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
McHUGH, Circuit Judge.
Springer, a federal prisoner acting without counsel, brought
this appeal of the district court's denial of his motion
for collateral relief based on an alleged fraud on the
conviction court. The district court resolved the issue on
the merits, ruling that Mr. Springer's fraud-on-the-court
claim is frivolous. Mr. Springer's appeal of that
decision raises questions concerning the intersection of the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's (AEDPA)
rules regarding second or successive collateral attacks on a
conviction or sentence and the inherent, equitable powers of
the courts. Specifically, Mr. Springer contends that claims
of fraud on the court fall outside the jurisdictional
restrictions imposed by AEDPA and are instead governed by the
United States Supreme Court's decision in McQuiggin
v. Perkins, 133 S.Ct. 1924 (2013). And Mr.
Springer argues that the direction from the Supreme Court in
McQuiggin is so clear that this panel can depart
from our contrary precedent in United States v.
Baker, 718 F.3d 1204, 1208 (10th Cir. 2013) (holding
that claims of fraud on the court are barred if raised in a
second or successive motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255
unless the conditions imposed by 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h) are
first conclude that the Supreme Court's decision in
McQuiggin does not supersede our decision in
Baker. Consequently, we hold that we may not
exercise jurisdiction over Mr. Springer's appeal in the
absence of Certificate of Appealability (COA). Next, we
construe Mr. Springer's notice of appeal as a request for
a COA, but deny that request based on a clear procedural bar.
Because we lack subject matter jurisdiction, we dismiss this
April 2010, Lindsey Springer was convicted of conspiracy to
defraud the United States, tax evasion, and willful failure
to file tax returns. This court affirmed his convictions and
sentence on direct appeal. United States v.
Springer, 444 Fed.Appx. 256, 259 (10th Cir. 2011) (per
curiam) (unpublished). Years later, Mr. Springer filed a
motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, raising seventy-six
grounds for collateral relief. The district court dismissed
most of the arguments as procedurally barred, and denied the
remaining claims on the merits. We denied a certificate of
appealability (COA). United States v. Springer, 594
Fed.Appx. 554, 554-55 (10th Cir. 2015) (unpublished).
Springer then filed the "Motion to Enjoin Enforcement of
the Judgment Dated April 28, 2010, Based upon Several Frauds
on the Court [Motion to Enjoin], " that is the subject
of this appeal. In his Motion to Enjoin, Mr. Springer alleged
that government attorneys defrauded the conviction court by
concealing their lack of authorization to prosecute him. The
district court summarily denied the motion, stating:
"Over the years, Mr. Springer has made similar arguments
challenging the authority of prosecutors and the court, all
of which have been rejected. Further discussion of these
frivolous arguments is not necessary. The motion is
DENIED." Mr. Springer filed a timely notice of appeal.
government moved to dismiss the appeal, in part because it
claimed Mr. Springer's Motion to Enjoin was in substance
a second or successive § 2255 motion, and he has neither
obtained authorization from this court to proceed in the
district court, nor obtained a COA to proceed in this
court. Mr. Springer responded that he does not
need authorization for a fraud-on-the-court claim, citing
McQuiggin. We did not rule on the motion to dismiss
and instead issued an order appointing Mr. Springer counsel
to address the specific question of whether
McQuiggin impacts our holding in Baker. We
reserved the question of whether Mr. Springer is entitled to
a COA. The government's motion to dismiss is now granted.
Springer's appeal challenges the district court's
order that denied his Motion to Enjoin on the ground that his
fraud-on-the-court claim is frivolous. But before we may
address the merits of his appeal, we must determine whether
Mr. Springer's claims-although not characterized as
such-seek collateral relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. That
is because AEDPA imposes two jurisdictional barriers to our
if AEDPA governs Mr. Springer's claim, we must decide
whether a certificate of appealability (COA) should issue.
Where required, a COA is a prerequisite to this court's
exercise of jurisdiction, and 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)(B)
plainly requires petitioners to obtain a COA to appeal any
"final order in a proceeding under section 2255."
The COA stage "is not coextensive with a merits
analysis." Buck v. Davis, 137 S.Ct. 759, 773
(2017). Instead, we are limited to determining whether Mr.
Springer "has shown that 'jurists of reason could
disagree with the district court's resolution of his
constitutional claims or that jurists could conclude the
issues presented are adequate to deserve encouragement to
proceed further.'" Id. (quoting
Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 327 (2003)). In
Buck, the Supreme Court warned the lower courts that
"[t]his threshold question should be decided without
full consideration of the factual or legal bases adduced in
support of the claims, " because "[w]hen a court of
appeals sidesteps the COA process by first deciding the
merits of an appeal, and then justifying its denial of a COA
based on its adjudication of the actual merits, it is in
essence deciding an appeal without jurisdiction."
Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).
we begin our analysis here by determining whether the
district court's order denying Mr. Springer's Motion
to Enjoin was issued in a "proceeding under section
2255." If we answer that question in the affirmative, we
are limited to granting or denying a COA before we can
proceed further. 28 U.S.C. § 2253; see also
Buck, 137 S.Ct. at 773 (A "prisoner whose petition
for a writ of habeas corpus is denied by a federal district
court does not enjoy an absolute right to appeal. Federal law
requires that he first obtain a COA from a circuit justice or
judge."). We may only grant a COA if Mr. Springer
"has made a substantial showing of the denial of a
constitutional right." 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). And
because the district court denied the motion on the merits,
we would ordinarily answer that question by determining
whether Mr. Springer has "demonstrate[d] that reasonable
jurists would find the district court's assessment of the
constitutional claims debatable or wrong." Slack v.
McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000).
here, we face a second jurisdictional hurdle: whether the
district court had subject matter jurisdiction to decide the
Motion to Enjoin on the merits. Because Mr. Springer has
already submitted an initial petition under § 2255, his
motion to the district court, if within the scope of AEDPA,
is a second or successive motion falling under §
2255(h). As such, this court must grant
authorization before the district court may exercise
jurisdiction over that second or successive motion. When a
district court is confronted with an unauthorized motion, it
"does not even have jurisdiction to deny the relief
sought in the pleading." United States v.
Nelson, 465 F.3d 1145, 1148 (10th Cir. 2006). Instead,
the court has only two options: it must either dismiss the
motion or, if it is in the interests of justice, transfer the
motion to the circuit court for authorization. In re
Cline, 531 F.3d 1249, 1252 (10th Cir. 2008) (describing
factors the district court must consider in determining
whether to transfer for authorization); see also 28
U.S.C. § 1631.
contrast, if Mr. Springer is correct that his Motion to
Enjoin based on a claim of fraud on the court is excused from
compliance with AEDPA, the district court properly exercised
subject matter jurisdiction over the matter and properly
reached the merits. Under those circumstances, this court has
jurisdiction to review the district court's decision on
the merits. Accordingly, we must decide whether AEDPA is
applicable before we can assess our own jurisdiction over
resolve that question in favor of the government, holding
that McQuiggin does not clearly undermine
our decision in Baker. As a result, this panel may
not entertain this appeal in the absence of a COA. And
because Mr. Springer has not made "a substantial showing
of the denial of a constitutional right, " 28 U.S.C.
§ 2253(c)(2), we deny COA and dismiss the appeal with
instructions to the district court to vacate its decision.
The Motion to Enforce is a Second or Successive § 2255
Petition Governed by AEDPA.
Our Appellate Jurisdiction
we may examine the district court's jurisdiction, we must
first define the limits of our appellate jurisdiction.
See Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't ,
523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998) (holding that on every appeal,
"the first and fundamental question is that of
jurisdiction, first, of this court, and
then of the court from which the record comes")
(emphasis added) (internal quotation marks omitted); In
re Lang, 414 F.3d 1191, 1195 (10th Cir. 2005)
("[T]he question of this Court's jurisdiction (i.e.,
our appellate jurisdiction) is antecedent to all
other questions, including the question of the subject matter
of the District Court.") (internal quotation marks
omitted). "Jurisdiction is a threshold question that a
federal court must address before reaching the merits, even
if the merits question is more easily resolved and the party
prevailing on the merits would be the same as the party that
would prevail if jurisdiction were denied." Payton
v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 337 F.3d 1163, 1167 (10th
Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted). "The
requirement that jurisdiction be established as a threshold
matter springs from the nature and limits of the judicial
power of the United States and is inflexible and without
exception." Steel Co., 523 U.S. at 94-95
(alteration and internal quotation marks omitted). And
irrespective of what we determine concerning our jurisdiction
over this appeal, we do have the power to decide the
threshold issue of whether such jurisdiction exists. See
United States v. Ruiz, 536 U.S. 622, 628 (2002)
("[I]t is familiar law that a federal court always has
jurisdiction to determine its own jurisdiction.").
discussed, Congress has limited our jurisdiction to review a
"final order in a proceeding under section 2255, "
such that the petitioner must first obtain a COA before we
have the power to act on the appeal. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 2253. Cf. United States v. Harper, 545 F.3d
1230, 1232 (10th Cir. 2008) ("Before we may address the
merits of [the defendant's] filing, we are necessarily
confronted with the question whether a district court's
dismissal order for lack of jurisdiction in these
circumstances qualifies as a 'final order' under 28
U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1) & (B), such that Mr. Harper must
obtain a COA in order to appeal."). There is no dispute
that the district court order here is final. See
Harper, 545 F.3d at 1233 (holding an order is
"final" when "the district court's
decision effectively terminated the petitioner's ability
to proceed before that court"); In re Universal
Serv. Fund Tel. Billing Practice Litig. v. Sprint
Commc'ns Co., 428 F.3d 940, 942 (10th Cir. 2005)
(holding that a decision is "final" when it
"ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing
for the court to do but execute the judgment") (internal
quotation marks omitted). So, we now consider whether Mr.
Springer seeks relief pursuant to § 2255, and whether
the district court was therefore proceeding "under"
Mr. Springer's Argument
Mr. Springer does not characterize his motion as one seeking
habeas relief, it "is the relief sought, not his
pleading's title, that determines whether the pleading is
a § 2255 motion." Nelson, 465 F.3d at
1149; see also Baker, 718 F.3d at 1208 ("Call
it a motion for a new trial, arrest of judgment, mandamus,
prohibition, coram nobis, coram vobis, audita querela,
certiorari, capias, habeas corpus, ejectment, quare impedit,
bill of review, writ of error, or an application for a
Get-Out-of-Jail card; the name makes no difference. It is
substance that controls." (internal quotation marks
omitted)); United States v. Torres,282 F.3d 1241,
1242 (10th Cir. 2002) (construing a "petition for writ
of error coram nobis and/or petition for writ of audita
querela" as a second or successive § 2255 motion).
Mr. Springer's characterization of his claim is not
dispositive because, "to allow a petitioner to avoid the
bar against ...