Abebe v. Moring et al
ORDER denying 30 Motion for Reconsideration. Signed by Honorable Margaret B Seymour on 5/29/2013.(mcot, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Unula Boo Shawn Abebe, #285447,
Assistant Solicitor Moring; Unknown
Assistant Solicitor; and Spartanburg
County Sheriff’s Department,
C/A No. 5:12-187-MBS
ORDER AND OPINION
On January 19, 2012, Unula Boo Shawn Abebe (“Plaintiff”), a state prisoner, filed a pro se
action against the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Department (“SCSD”) and two Assistant Solicitors
(the “Solicitors”) (collectively “Defendants”). ECF No. 1. Plaintiff asserts a violation of the Equal
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as claims for
selective enforcement, selective prosecution, and malicious prosecution under state tort law. Id.
United States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West reviewed Plaintiff’s complaint pursuant to the
provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A, and the Prison Litigation Reform Act, and recommended
summary dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint. ECF No. 17. On April 6, 2012, Plaintiff filed a motion
to amend his complaint and, on April 9, 2012, objections to the Report and Recommendation. ECF
Nos. 19 & 21. On November 26, 2012, the court entered an order (the “November order”) denying
Plaintiff’s motion to amend and dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint. ECF No. 26.
The within matter is before the court on Plaintiff’s motion pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the
FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE , which motion was filed on December 10, 2012. ECF No.
30.1 Plaintiff has also filed a document titled “Judicial Notice,” ECF No. 31, which appears to
contain additional arguments in support of his Rule 59(e) motion. The court will consider those
arguments in reviewing Plaintiff’s motion.
I. STATEMENT OF THE CASE
A detailed recitation of this matter’s relevant factual and procedural background can be found
in the November order. ECF No. 26. This case involves Plaintiff’s claim that, on May 9, 2009, he
was assaulted by Caucasian correctional officers at the Spartanburg County Detention Center
(“SCDC”), and that, due to his African-American race, the Solicitors charged him, rather than the
officers, with assault and battery. Further, Plaintiff alleges that, at an unspecified point in time, the
Solicitors chose not prosecute a Caucasian inmate who assaulted an officer at SCDC. Plaintiff
asserts that Defendants’ conduct violated his rights under the Equal Protection Clause.
In dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint, the court held that the Solicitors were entitled to absolute
immunity, as a prosecutor’s decision whether to indict a defendant is the “quintessential
prosecutorial function.” ECF No. 26 at 5 (citing Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409 (1976)). Further,
the court held that SCSD is immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment, because in South
Carolina, a sheriff’s department is an agency of the state. Id. (citing Cromer v. Brown, 88 F.3d 1315,
In Plaintiff’s December 10, 2012 motion, he asserts that he has filed a “motion for relief
under Rule 60(b) S.C. R. Civ. P.” ECF No. 30. Construing Plaintiff’s pro se motion
liberally, the court presumes Plaintiff intended to invoke the FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL
PROCEDURE , and not South Carolina’s. In addition, because Plaintiff’s arguments focus on
legal issues addressed in the November order, and do not address any of the specific grounds
set forth in Rule 60(b) of the FED . R. CIV . P., the court construes Plaintiff’s filing as a motion
to alter or amend the judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the FED . R. CIV . P. See CNF
Constructors, Inc. v. Donohoe Const. Co., 57 F.3d 395, 401 (4th Cir. 1995) (“Where a
motion is for reconsideration of legal issues already addressed in an earlier ruling, the motion
is not authorized by Rule 60(b).”).
1332 (4th Cir. 1996); Gulledge v. Smart, 691 F. Supp. 947, 954–55 (D.S.C. 1988), aff’d, 878 F.2d
379 (4th Cir. 1989); Carroll v. Greenville Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, 871 F. Supp. 844, 846 (D.S.C. 1994)
(finding a suit against the sheriff's office to be a suit against the state); Millmine v. Cnty. of
Lexington, No. 182875, 2011 WL 182875 at *5 (D.S.C. Jan. 20, 2011) (“In South Carolina, a
sheriff's department is an agency of the state, not a department under the control of the county.”)).
In addition, the court denied Plaintiff’s motion to amend pursuant to Rule 15(a) of the FED .
R. CIV . P., finding that his proposed amended complaint did not cure any of the defects the court had
found in the original complaint.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
FED . R. CIV . P. 59(e) provides a mechanism for an aggrieved party to petition the court to
alter or amend a judgment under certain limited circumstances. “In general, reconsideration of a
judgment after its entry is an extraordinary remedy which should be used sparingly.” Pac. Ins. Co.
v. Am. Nat'l Fire Ins., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998). Motions for reconsideration are
inappropriate merely to introduce new legal theories or new evidence that could have been adduced
during the pendency of the prior motion. Keene Corp. v. Inter’l Fid. Ins. Co., 561 F. Supp. 656
(N.D. Ill.), aff'd, 736 F.2d 388 (7th Cir. 1982). Also, “[b]ecause of the interests in finality and
conservation of judicial resources, Rule 59(e) motions are not at the disposal of an unsuccessful party
to rehash the same arguments and facts previously presented.” Keyes v. Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp.,
766 F. Supp. 277, 280 (E.D. Pa. 1991) (internal citation and quotations omitted). The Fourth Circuit
recognizes only three limited grounds for a district court's grant of a motion under Rule 59(e): (1)
to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not
available earlier; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice. Hutchinson v.
Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1081 (4th Cir. 1993). The Fourth Circuit has emphasized that counsel’s mere
disagreement with the court's ruling does not warrant a Rule 59(e) motion. Id. at 1082 (citing Atkins
v. Marathon LeTourneau Co., 130 F.R.D. 625, 626 (S.D. Miss. 1990)).
The court discerns two arguments in Plaintiff’s motion.2 First, Plaintiff contends that the
Solicitors are not entitled to absolute immunity because the decisions to indict him, rather than the
Caucasian correctional officers who allegedly assaulted him or the Caucasian inmate who allegedly
assaulted a correctional officer, was not prosecutorial but, instead, administrative. In this regard,
Plaintiff contends that the court should not have relied on Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430
(1976), because it is no longer good law. Plaintiff cites no authority, nor does the court find any that
suggests Imbler is no longer controlling. To the contrary, the Supreme Court continues to cite Imbler
with approval for the proposition that a prosecutor’s decision to initiate a criminal proceeding is
protected by absolute immunity. See, e.g., Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335 (2009); Kalina
v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118, 123 (1997); Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 269 (1993); Burns v.
Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 587 (1991). The court finds no clear error in its analysis or change in
controlling case law that warrants reconsideration of this part of the November order.
Second, Plaintiff contends that SCSD is not entitled to sovereign immunity because it is not
an arm of the state. Plaintiff cites no authority relevant to the question of whether a sheriff’s
department in South Carolina is an arm of the state. After reviewing the relevant authorities cited
in the November order, the court discerns no clear error in its analysis.
Plaintiff also appears to take issue with the court’s decision to deny his motion for leave
to amend his complaint, but his reasoning is unclear. Having reviewed that portion of the
November order, the court finds no reason to reconsider its decision.
For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff’s motion to alter or amend the judgment, ECF
No. 30, is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ Margaret B. Seymour
Margaret B. Seymour
Senior United States District Judge
Columbia, South Carolina
May 29, 2013
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