In Mitchell v. Rees (Mitchell IV), No. 09-5570 (6th Cir. June 30, 2011), a unanimous panel of the Sixth Circuit affirmed the trial court’s decision denying a habeas petitioner’s motion for relief from judgment. Previously, in Mitchell v. Rees (Mitchell I), 114 F.3d 571 (6th Cir. 1997), the Sixth Circuit had disallowed evidence adduced from the district court’s hearing on Mitchell’s claim that the State impermissibly used peremptory challenges on the basis of race.
In rejecting Mitchell’s motion, the Sixth Circuit determined that he could not establish that the Sixth Circuit’s adverse decision subjected him to a “grave miscarriage of justice,” was “manifestly unconscionable,” or that his case was one of “unusual and exceptional circumstances.” While recognizing that “Mitchell was the recipient of an adverse legal decision by this court, a decision that was later determined to be incorrect,” the Sixth Circuit found that Mitchell had numerous avenues by which he could have further challenged or sought remedy for that decision. However, he waited several years before doing so. In addition, while the Sixth Circuit found the “fact that Mitchell suffered an incorrect, adverse legal decision that was not remedied” regrettable, it did not find that the incorrect decision was equivalent to a showing of actual innocence, a required element for an independent action for relief from a habeas judgment. Although the Sixth Circuit’s ruling came in the context of a habeas petition, it shows how high the standard is for relief under Rule 60(d)(1) in civil actions more broadly.