Shuler et al v. Garrison et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 155 MOTION to Amend/Correct, DENYING 156 MOTION to Alter Judgment as set out herein. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 2/27/2017. (JLC)
2017 Feb-27 AM 11:37
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
ROGER SHULER, and CAROL
LUTHER STRANGE, et al.,
) Case No.: 2:16-CV-0695-VEH
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
An order dismissing this case with prejudice (Doc. 154) and an accompanying
memorandum opinion (Doc. 153) were entered on January 13, 2017. (Doc. 28). Postjudgment, Plaintiffs filed a Request for Leave of Court To Amend Complaint, Per
FRCP 15 (Doc. 155) (the “Amend Motion”), a Motion To Alter or Amend Judgment
Under FRCP 59 (Doc. 156) (the “Rule 59(e) Motion”),1 and a Motion To Recuse
(Doc. 157) (the “Recusal Motion”), all on the same date of February 9, 2017.
On February 23, 2017, another judge of this court denied Plaintiffs’ Recusal
Motion, but, nevertheless, “for reasons wholly unrelated” to the contents of the
See FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e) (“A motion to alter or amend a judgment must be filed no later
than 28 days after the entry of the judgment.”).
Recusal Motion, recused himself from further participation in the case. (Doc. 165 at
1). As a result of this recusal order, the action was reassigned to the undersigned by
the Clerk’s Office. See CM/ECF margin entry dated Feb. 23, 2017 (“This case is
reassigned to Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins.”). Therefore, the undersigned is now
responsible for deciding Plaintiffs’ Amend and Rule 59(e) Motions. The court begins
with Plaintiffs’ Rule 59(e) Motion.
Plaintiffs’ Rule 59(e) Motion
Rule 59(e) Standard
“The decision to alter or amend judgment is committed to the sound discretion
of the district judge and will not be overturned on appeal absent an abuse of
discretion.” Am. Home Assur. Co. v. Glenn Estess & Assocs., Inc., 763 F.2d 1237,
1238-39 (11th Cir. 1985) (citing Futures Trading Comm’n v. Am. Commodities
Group, 753 F.2d 862, 866 (11th Cir. 1984)). “While, as a rule, parties are not entitled
to ‘two bites at the apple’, there are occasions in which reconsideration should be
entertained.” Lussier v. Dugger, 904 F.2d 661, 667 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing Am.
Home, 763 F.2d at 1239).
As the Eleventh Circuit has summarized the limited scope of relief that is
available to a litigant under Rule 59(e):
“The only grounds for granting [a Rule 59] motion are newly-discovered
evidence or manifest errors of law or fact.” In re Kellogg, 197 F.3d
1116, 1119 (11th Cir. 1999). “[A] Rule 59(e) motion [cannot be used]
to relitigate old matters, raise argument or present evidence that could
have been raised prior to the entry of judgment.” Michael Linet, Inc. v.
Village of Wellington, Fla., 408 F.3d 757, 763 (11th Cir. 2005).
Arthur v. King, 500 F.3d 1335, 1343 (11th Cir. 2007); see also Jacobs v.
Tempur-Pedic Int’l, Inc., 626 F.3d 1327, 1344 (11th Cir. 2010) (“Reconsidering the
merits of a judgment, absent a manifest error of law or fact, is not the purpose of Rule
59.”); Stone v. Wall, 135 F.3d 1438, 1442 (11th Cir. 1998) (“The purpose of a Rule
59(e) motion is not to raise an argument that was previously available, but not
Nowhere within Plaintiffs’ Rule 59(e) Motion do they state the applicable
standard. Moreover, Plaintiffs’ points contained in their Rule 59(e) Motion fall short
of reaching Rule 59(e)’s limited scope for obtaining post-judgment relief. As
correctly observed in the opposition (Doc. 164) filed by Defendants Preston Crider
and Angela Gulledge Crider (collectively, the “Crider Defendants”), Plaintiffs’ postjudgment motion “is nothing more than an attempt to reargue the Plaintiffs’
previously dismissed claims.” (Doc. 164 at 1 ¶ 1). Importantly, Plaintiffs’
disagreement with the court’s reasons for dismissing their case does not, in any
manner, demonstrate that the 45-page memorandum opinion thoroughly supporting
the with-prejudice dismissal contained manifest errors of law or fact.
Plaintiffs also do not suggest that some newly discovered evidence requires
that the dismissal of their case be reconsidered. Therefore, no basis for awarding
Plaintiffs any Rule 59(e) relief exists under binding Eleventh Circuit precedent and
their Rule 59(e) Motion is DENIED.
Plaintiffs’ Amend Motion
Principles Governing Rule 15(a)
“Leave to amend a complaint shall be freely given when justice so requires.”
Abramson v. Gonzalez, 949 F.2d 1567, 1581 (11th Cir. 1992). The Eleventh Circuit
“reviews the denial of a motion to amend a complaint for abuse of discretion.” Steger
v. General Electric Company, 318 F.3d 1066, 1080 (11th Cir. 2003); see also Henson
v. Columbus Bank and Trust Co., 770 F.2d 1566, 1574 (11th Cir. 1985) (“A district
court has great discretion when determining whether an amendment to the complaint
should be allowed once responsive pleadings have been filed.”).
At the same time, the Eleventh Circuit has explained that granting leave to
amend under Rule 15(a) is not appropriate post-judgment unless a party has obtained
relief from that judgment under Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b).
The problem with Jacobs’s arguments is that Rule 15(a), by its
plain language, governs amendment of pleadings before judgment is
entered; it has no application after judgment is entered. In United States
ex rel. Atkins v. McInteer, we made this clear.
[Rule] 15(a) has no application once the district court has
dismissed the complaint and entered final judgment for the
defendant. Czeremcha v. Int’l Ass’n of Machinists and
Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO, 724 F.2d 1552, 1556 (11th
Cir. 1984). Wright, Miller & Kane, Federal Practice and
Procedure, § 1489. Post-judgment, the plaintiff may seek
leave to amend if he is granted relief under Rule 59(e) or
Rule 60(b)(6). Id.; Czeremcha, 724 F.2d at 1556; Ahmed v.
Dragovich, 297 F.3d 201, 207-09 (3d Cir. 2002); Lindauer
v. Rogers, 91 F.3d 1355, 1356 (9th Cir. 1996); Dussouy v.
Gulf Coast Inv. Corp., 660 F.2d 594, 597 n.1 (5th Cir.
470 F.3d 1350, 1361 n.22 (11th Cir.2006). Given this precedent, we
could hardly hold that the district court abused its discretion in denying
Jacobs leave to amend his complaint post-judgment.
Jacobs v. Tempur-Pedic Int’l, Inc., 626 F.3d 1327, 1344-45 (11th Cir. 2010)
(emphasis by underlining added).
When an opposing party challenges a proposed amendment under Rule 15(a)
as futile, the district court must decide whether “the complaint, as amended, would
necessarily fail.” St. Charles Foods, Inc. v. America’s Favorite Chicken Co., 198 F.3d
815, 822-23 (11th Cir. 1999). The futility standard is comparable to that applicable
to a motion to dismiss. See B.D. Stephenson Trucking, L.L.C. v. Riverbrooke Capital,
No. 5:06-CV-0343-WS, 2006 WL 2772673, at *6 (S.D. Ala. 2006) (“[T]hus, if the
amended complaint could not survive Rule 12(b)(6) scrutiny, then the amendment is
futile and leave to amend is properly denied.” (citing Burger King Corp. v. Weaver,
169 F.3d 1310, 1320 (11th Cir. 1999) (“denial of leave to amend justified by futility
when ‘complaint as amended is still subject to dismissal’”))); Florida Power & Light
Co. v. Allis Chalmers Corp., 85 F.3d 1514, 1520 (11th Cir. 1996) (affirming district
court’s denial of motion for leave to amend as futile because amended claim “would
not withstand a motion to dismiss”).
Plaintiffs’ Amend Motion is procedurally barred by Eleventh Circuit precedent
which precludes them from seeking leave to amend under Rule 15(a) unless they have
secured post-judgment relief under Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b). See Jacobs, 626 F.3d
at 1344-45 (discussing limitations of Rule 15(a) when movant seeks to amend postjudgment). Here, Plaintiffs have not unlocked the door for seeking Rule 15(a) postjudgment relief through either the Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b) key.
Alternatively, the court has considered the proposed amended complaint (Doc.
155-1) that is attached to Plaintiffs’ Amend Motion and agrees with the Crider
Defendants that “Plaintiffs do not set forth any additional factual allegations that
would in any way change the legal analysis that [the previously assigned judge] has
already undertaken.” (Doc. 164 at 2 ¶ 4). Consequently, Plaintiffs’ proposed amended
pleading would not survive a motion to dismiss and to grant Plaintiffs’ Amend
Motion would be futile. Accordingly, for both of these independent reasons,
Plaintiffs’ Amend Motion is DENIED.
Thus, Plaintiffs’ Rule 59(e) and Amend Motions are both DENIED.
DONE and ORDERED this 27th day of February, 2017.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
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