French v. United States, 22505.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Citation416 F.2d 1149
Docket NumberNo. 22505.,22505.
PartiesRobert Allen FRENCH, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
Decision Date15 October 1969

416 F.2d 1149 (1969)

Robert Allen FRENCH, Appellant,
UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.

No. 22505.

United States Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit.

October 11, 1968.

As Amended on Denial of Rehearing October 15, 1969.

416 F.2d 1150

Robert Allen French, in pro. per.

Wm. Matthew Byrne, Jr., U. S. Atty., Robert L. Brosio, Asst. U. S. Atty., Crim. Div., George G. Rayborn, Asst. U. S. Atty., Los Angeles, Cal., for appellee.

Before BARNES and CARTER, Circuit Judges, and SWEIGERT,* District Judge.

JAMES M. CARTER, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from denial by the district court after an evidentiary hearing, of relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

The appeal presents:

(1) Evidentiary questions and

(2) The question whether failure to answer requests for admissions automatically constitutes an admission which is thereafter completely binding on the defaulting party, or whether the district court may in its discretion, allow additional time to answer the requests for admissions.


The appellant on July 27, 1964, entered pleas of guilty to three counts of a nine count indictment, charging appellant with nine separate bank robberies in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). Following plea, appellant was sentenced to imprisonment for 17 years and 300 days on each of the three counts, to run concurrently.

Appellant moved to vacate his sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Following the procedure suggested in "Pre-Trial Suggestions for 2255 Cases, etc.," 32 Fed. Rules Dec., 393-408, counsel was appointed for appellant in the district court, pretrial conferences held and a stipulation and order filed listing the issues to be tried, which were as follows:

(1) Were the pleas of guilty of petitioner in the criminal proceeding voluntarily made and free from coercion and/or wrongful inducement?

a. Was petitioner's right to counsel violated by the interrogation conducted in the Police Administration Building on either July 1 or July 3, 1964, said date being in dispute, and were his pleas of guilty influenced or induced thereby?

b. Were any promises made to petitioner by Special Agent Robert H. Morneau, Jr., which influenced or induced petitioner to plead guilty?

c. Was there a threat made to petitioner at the time of his pleas of guilty by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Balaban, such as to have coerced petitioner to enter pleas of guilty?

d. Was petitioner's right to remain silent violated during interrogation by law enforcement officers while petitioner was in custody? If petitioner's right to remain silent was violated during such interrogation, were the pleas of guilty induced or influenced thereby?

(2) Is the sentence based upon a presentence report which is so erroneous as to render the sentence invalid as being a lack of due process of law?

(3) Was petitioner mentally competent, i. e., able to understand the nature of the proceedings against him and to cooperate with counsel in his defense at all stages of the criminal proceeding?

(4) Was petitioner adequately represented by counsel at all stages of the criminal proceeding?

(5) Were petitioner's pleas of guilty induced by a combination of inducements, or of inducements and coercion, or of inducements, coercion and inability to understand the proceedings against him and to cooperate and assist his counsel,

416 F.2d 1151
or of all of these and the inadequacy of counsel

The pretrial stipulation and order further provided that the court would rule on all issues that might affect the validity of the criminal judgment and sentence; that petitioner would have the burden of proof on all of said issues; that in the absence of proof on a particular issue, the district court would find that petitioner had not sustained his burden of proof, and find against the petitioner on the merits of such issue; and that as to issues on which proof was offered, the court would decide them on the merits. The pretrial order further recited, "The purpose of this order is to prevent piece-meal and repetitious petitions for relief, to hear and consider all matters that might affect the validity of the criminal judgment and sentence, and to as far as possible, determine all such issues in one hearing."

Following a hearing, the court made written findings and an order denying the petitioner relief, with a provision that the order should serve as findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Rule 52, F.R.Civ.P.


The petition for relief under section 2255, 28 U.S.C. was filed on April 1, 1966. The appellant was removed from the place of his incarceration to the Central District of California at Los Angeles; the district court judge appointed counsel to represent him and held a number of pretrial conferences with the appellant and his counsel present. These conferences were held in an attempt to classify and list all the possible grounds which might serve as a basis for relief so that they might all be heard and determined in the same action. These pretrial conferences were held on April 20 and August 16, 1966, and January 11 and February 2, 1967.

On March 28, 1967, appellant, acting pro per and without his counsel's name appearing on the document, served fifty-five requests for admissions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36. The United States failed to answer within the time specified by the appellant in his request.1

On May 17, 1967, appellant filed in pro per a motion for summary judgment, which included notice to the United States as to the date the matter would be heard by the district court. The motion urged that since the United States had failed to respond to the request for admissions within the time specified in the request, that all the matters contained therein were deemed automatically admitted by operation of Rule 36, F.R.C.P., and that on the basis of these admitted facts summary judgment should be granted for the appellant.

The court denied the appellant's motion with the entry of a minute order in the record dated May 18, 1967. Appellant's attorney was present. The court went over the requests for admissions, relieved the government of its default, granted it additional time to answer and sustained objections to various of the requests. The court's rulings were included in the pretrial stipulation and order.2

416 F.2d 1152

The reporter's transcript shows that appellant's counsel on May 23, 1967, when the pretrial order and stipulation was settled, signed and filed, conceded that the court had made such rulings. Although the rulings were set forth in the pretrial order and stipulation and "stipulated to and approved" by the signature of both appellant and his attorney, the appellant continuously preserved his objection to the court's rulings.

It was not error for the trial court to relieve the United States of its default in failing to answer the request for admissions. A trial judge has discretion to permit a late response to a request for admissions made pursuant to Rule 36 F.R.Civ.P., and thus relieve a party of apparent default. Moosman v. Joseph P. Blitz, Inc., 358 F.2d 686 (2 Cir. 1966), is direct authority for the proposition.

"Under compelling circumstances the District Court may allow untimely replies to avoid the admission. * * * Since the purpose of Rule 36 is to expedite trial by removing uncontested issues and no delay was caused here, there is no sufficient reason to force the District Court to grant summary judgment here where no prejudice is shown." (Id. at 688).

Accord: Sher v. DeHaven, 91 U.S.App. D.C. 257, 199 F.2d 777, 36 A.L.R.2d 937 (1952), cert. denied 345 U.S. 936, 73 S. Ct. 797, 97 L.Ed. 1363 (1953); Bowers v. E. J. Rose Mfg. Co., 149...

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    • August 27, 1973 be shown that the illegally obtained evidence induced the plea of guilty in order to render it involuntary. (French v. United States, 416 F.2d 1149, 1153, (9 Cir.) People v. Gannaro, Order of Proof Defendant also asserts that prejudicial error was committed when the trial court permitted......
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