UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
decided: April 10, 1989.
LEO MULERO, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
EUGENE LEFEVRE, ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES
Appeal from a judgment dismissing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus entered in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Mark A. Constantino, Judge. Vacated and remanded.
Before: LUMBARD, MINER, Circuit Judges, and SPRIZZO, District Judge.*fn*
SPRIZZO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE:
Petitioner/appellant Leo Mulero appeals from a judgment of the Honorable Mark A. Constantino, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York, dismissing his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
The petition, originally filed pro se and assigned to Judge Bramwell, alleged a variety of defects in Mulero's criminal trial.*fn1 Petitioner was convicted of two counts of first degree sale of a controlled substance, cocaine, on January 14, 1981; and was sentenced to two concurrent indeterminate terms of twenty years to life. This conviction was unanimously affirmed by the Appellate Division on July 16, 1984. See People v. Mulero, 103 A.D.2d 1047, 479 N.Y.S.2d 392 (2d Dept. 1984). Leave to appeal was denied by the New York Court of Appeals. See People v. Mulero, 63 N.Y.2d 948, 473 N.E.2d 112, 483 N.Y.S.2d 1032 (1984). On March 17, 1986 respondents/appellees filed a memorandum of law moving to dismiss the petition for failure to exhaust state remedies and requesting the right to respond on the merits if the motion was denied. Before any action was taken on respondents' motion, counsel was appointed to represent petitioner on may 21, 1986.
The record does not indicate that counsel made any effort to address the merits of the petition. Nor does the record disclose how the petition came to be before Judge Constantino. However, on April 21, 1988, Judge Constantino, by Memorandum of Decision and Order, dismissed the petition on the merits and held that petitioner had exhausted his state court remedies.
Petitioner now challenges that decision on the ground, inter alia, that the district judge did not afford petitioner's counsel the opportunity to brief the merits of the petition before dismissing it on the merits. Petitioner argues that by relying solely on the allegations of his pro se petition the district judge improperly denied him the effective assistance of appointed counsel.
Petitioner's contention that the district court deprived him of the opportunity to address the merits of the petition is not supported by the record. It is true that petitioner's counsel chose not to address the merits because he apparently assumed that the district court would affirmatively indicate to the parties whether or not it was willing to adopt respondent's suggestion that the matter be resolved on bifurcated basis. However, given the broad discretion conferred on the district court with respect to the manner in which a petition may be resolved, that assumption may not have been reasonable.*fn2
Moreover, even after the district court's decision on the merits, counsel never sought to address the merits in a timely motion for reargument.*fn3 Nor has counsel offered a colorable explanation for his failure to do so. In view of all these circumstances, the court is not persuaded by counsel's argument that his client was somehow prejudiced or denied due process by the district court's action.
However, since petitioner was acting pro se at the time he filed his petition, and since we are convinced that the district court would be benefitted by the participation of counsel with respect to the merits of the petition for habeas corpus, we believe that, in the interests of justice, the matter should be remanded to the district court for that purpose. See 28 U.S.C. § 2106 (1982).
The judgment of the district court is vacated and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.