By Diana Castro

Today, in United States v. Raymond Garfield Butler, the Fourth Circuit denied Butler’s motion for a certificate of appealability and dismissed the appeal from the District Court for the District of Maryland.  The court held that Butler had not made the requisite showing for a certificate of appealability.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2), a court will not issue a certificate of appealability without “a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.”  When a district court denies relief on the merits, a prisoner must show that reasonable jurists would find that the district court’s assessment of the constitutional claims is debatable or wrong in order to satisfy the 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2) standard.  Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000); Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 336-38 (2003).

In addition to showing that the motion states a debatable claim for the denial of a constitutional right, when the district court denies relief on procedural grounds, the prisoner must show that the dispositive procedural ruling is also debatable.

Butler’s appeal followed the District Court’s denial of his motion attacking sentence and his motion to alter or amend judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e).  After independently reviewing the record, the Fourth Circuit concluded that Butler had not made the requisite showing, and, thus, dismissed the appeal accordingly.