Thomas v. M. L. Copeland, et al (INMATE 2)

Filing 240

ORDER denying 236 MOTION for relief from judgment or order; denying 237 MOTION for Rule 60(b); It is further Ordered that 238 Affidavit for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs is denied as moot. Signed by Hon. Chief Judge Mark E. Fuller on 6/5/09. (vma, )

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA N O R T H E R N DIVISION R O B E R T EARL THOMAS, # 157347, P L A IN T IF F , v. M .L . COPELAND, et al., D EFEN D A N TS. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) C A S E NO. 2:02-CV-659-MEF (WO) ORDER T h is case is before the Court on a Motion for Relief from Judgment or Order (Doc. # 236) (the "first motion"), filed on April 7, 2009,1 a second Motion that the Court has c o n s tru e d as a Motion for Relief from Judgment or Order (Doc. # 237) (the "second m o tio n " ), filed on April 26, 2009, and an Application to Proceed in District Court Without P re p a yin g Fees or Costs (Doc. # 238).2 The Court has carefully considered the issues raised b y the Motions and the applicable law. For the reasons set forth below, both Motions are due Although the first motion was date-stamped "received" in this Court on April 9, 2009, and postmarked on April 8, 2009, it was signed by Plaintiff on April 7, 2009. Under the "mailbox rule," a pro se inmate's motion is deemed filed the date it is delivered to prison officials for mailing, here, no earlier than April 7, 2009, the date Plaintiff signed it. See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266 (1988); Adams v. United States, 173 F.3d 1339, 1340-41 (11th Cir.1999); Garvey v. Vaughn, 993 F.2d 776, 780 (11th Cir.1993). The filing date of the second motion is also governed by the mailbox rule. See Houston, 487 U.S. 266; Adams, 173 F.3d at 1340-41; Garvey, 993 F.2d at 780. It appears that it was executed and mailed on April 26, 2009, and received by the Clerk on April 28, 2009. Therefore, under the mailbox rule, the second motion was filed on April 26, 2009. 1 2 1 to be DENIED and the Application to Proceed Without Prepaying Fees or Costs is due to be D E N IE D as moot. Plaintiff initiated this case on June 6, 2002, and after a long and circuitous litigation, th is Court entered a Final Judgment on April 4, 2008. The instant motions seek relief from th a t Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(1)-(6) and (c). The first m o tio n states eight grounds for relief:3 (1 ) Plaintiff inadvertently and because of excusable neglect failed to prosecute this c a s e because he was homeless, indigent, destitute, and without a reliable home a d d re ss. (2 ) Plaintiff did not receive certain certified mail from Defendant until some time a f te r it was signed for by Plaintiff's sister, who kept the mail in her possession. (3 ) Plaintiff "was misrepresented by counsel for Defendants . . . who portrayed P la in tif f 's effort to engage in settlement and mediation discussions as ordered by the C o u rt, as a fraudulent excuse to file for dismissal of Plaintiff's claims." (4 ) Plaintiff was not physically, mentally, or emotionally capable of prosecuting this action while the case was pending. (5 ) Plaintiff strongly feels that the Court should take into account the extent of his in ju rie s , which resulted in seventeen stitches. (6) Plaintiff strongly feels that the Court should determine the amount of damages s u f f e re d by him. (7 ) Plaintiff strongly feels that he is entitled as a matter of law to relief from the J u d g m e n t because Defendants have not been punished or a remedy imposed to deter T h e second motion is a form complaint that seeks relief from a judgment or order o f this court pursuant to Rule 60(b). The arguments in the second motion are the same a rg u m e n ts made in the first motion, so the Court will address them together, in the c o n te x t of the first motion. 2 3 them from similar conduct in the future. (8 ) Plaintiff strongly feels "as a matter of rights" he is entitled to relief and damages o n the merits of the evidence. Rule 60(b) provides: O n motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or its legal re p re s e n ta tiv e from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following re a so n s: (1 ) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2 ) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could n o t have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 5 9 (b); (3 ) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), m is re p re s e n ta tio n , or misconduct by an opposing party; (4 ) the judgment is void; (5 ) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based o n an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or (6 ) any other reason that justifies relief. Rule 60(c)(1) sets strict time limitations for motions under Rule 60(b): "A motion under Rule 6 0 (b ) must be made within a reasonable time--and for reasons (1), (2), and (3) no more than a year after the entry of the judgment or order or the date of the proceeding." A court's d is c re tio n in granting relief under clauses (1), (2), and (3) is therefore tightly circumscribed. Clause (6), on the other hand, "is a grand reservoir of equitable power to do justice in a particular case" Nisson v. Lundy, 975 F.2d 802, 806 (11th Cir. 1992). The "grand re s e rv o ir" is, however, subject to the proposition that the finality of judgments is a sound p rin c ip le that should not be lightly cast aside. Seven Elves, Inc. v. Eskenazi, 635 F.2d 396, 3 401 (5th Cir. Jan. 26, 1981)4 ("By its very nature, [Rule 60(b)(6)] seeks to strike a delicate b a la n c e between two countervailing impulses: the desire to preserve the finality of judgments a n d the `incessant command of the court's conscience that justice be done in light of all the f a c ts .'" ). The United States Supreme Court has held that "a party may not avail himself of th e broad `any other reason' clause of 60(b) if his motion is based on grounds specified in [ c la u se s (1) through (5)]." Liljeberg v. Health Serv. Acquisition Corp., 486 U.S. 847, 836 n .1 1 (1988). Rather, "extraordinary circumstances" are required to bring a motion within th e "other reason" language and to prevent clause (6) from being used to circumvent the o n e -ye a r limitations period that applies to clauses (1) through (5). Id. Finally, Rule 60(b) should not be used to challenge matters that could have been ra ise d on direct appeal. Am. Bankers Ins. Co. of Fla. v. Nw. Nat'l Ins. Co., 198 F.3d 1332, 1 3 3 8 (11th Cir.1999); see also Rice v. Ford Motor Co., 88 F.3d 914, 919-20 (11th Cir.1996) (a f f irm in g denial of Rule 60(b)(6) motion where movant sought relief on the basis of a p u rp o rte d mistake of law that could have been raised on direct appeal); Cavaliere v. Allstate In s . Co., 996 F.2d 1111, 1115 (11th Cir.1993) ("the well-recognized rule . . . precludes the u s e of a Rule 60(b) motion as a substitute for a proper and timely appeal"). Plaintiff's eight grounds for relief from the Judgment can be divided into two c a te g o rie s . First, in grounds (5) through (8) Plaintiff points out his strong feelings about the In Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1207 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc), the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals adopted as precedent decisions of the former Fifth Circuit rendered prior to October 1, 1981. 4 4 extent of his injuries, the amount of damages he suffered, the need for a remedy and d e te rre n c e of future malfeasance, and his entitlement to some compensation based on the e v id e n c e . Plaintiff's strong feelings about the case concern the merits of his claim, and q u e s tio n s regarding the merits of the underlying suit are properly dealt with on direct appeal a n d not through a Rule 60 motion. See American Bankers, 198 F.3d at 1338; Rice, 88 F.3d a t 919-20; Cavaliere, 996 F.2d at 1115. These grounds are not the "extraordinary c irc u m s ta n c e s " envisioned by Rule 60(b)(6). See Liljeberg, 486 U.S. at 836 n.11. Therefore, g ro u n d s (5) though (8) cannot suffice to support Plaintiff's Motion for Relief from the J u d g m e n t. Second, grounds (1) through (4) are Plaintiff's arguments pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1)( 3 ) . Grounds (1), (2), and (4) argue that the Judgment was the result of various forms of e x c u s a b le neglect and inadvertence under Rule 60(b)(1). Ground (3) seems to impugn the c o n d u c t of opposing counsel, which might be grounds for relief from a judgment under Rule 6 0 (b )(3 ). However, as detailed above, Rule 60(c) requires challenges under clauses (1), (2), a n d (3) to be brought "no more than one year after the entry of the judgment." Here, this C o u rt entered its Final Judgment on April 4, 2008, but Plaintiff did not file the Rule 60 m o tio n until April 7, 2009, more than one year after the entry of the judgment. Hence, P la in tif f 's arguments that he is entitled to relief from the Judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1)(3 ) are time barred and the Court cannot grant relief on those bases. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 5 60(c).5 F o r these reasons, it is hereby O R D E R E D that the Motions (Doc. ## 236, 237) are DENIED. It is further ORDERED that the Application to Proceed in District Court Without P re p a yin g Fees or Costs (Doc. # 238) is DENIED as moot. Done this the 5th day of June, 2009. /s/ Mark E. Fuller CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE To the extent Plaintiff seeks to argue that these circumstances present "extraordinary circumstances" that entitle him to relief from the Judgment beyond the one-year time limitation, the Court finds that they do not present the sort of "extraordinary circumstances" that justify undermining the finality of judgments. See Liljeberg, 486 U.S. at 836 n.11; Seven Elves, 635 F.2d at 401. "[A] party may not avail himself of the broad `any other reason' clause of 6 0 (b ) if his motion is based on grounds specified in [clauses (1) through (5)]." Liljeberg, 4 8 6 U.S. at 836 n.11. 6 5 7

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