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United States v. Butler

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 10, 2018




         On October 1, 2018, Raymond Butler, a federal prisoner, filed a motion under F.R. Civ. P. 59(e) (ECF 276), asking this Court to reconsider its ruling of August 14, 2018 (ECF 274), which addressed Butler's prior motion under F.R. Civ. P. 60(b) (ECF 253). The Rule 60(b) motion pertained to the rulings by Judge J. Frederick Motz in March of 2014 (ECF 232; ECF 273; ECF 274), denying Butler's post-conviction petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF 226; ECF 229).[1]

         No hearing is necessary. I am satisfied that there is no basis for relief, either under Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b).

         I. Background

         As mentioned, in March 2014, Judge Motz denied Butler's post-conviction petition. ECF 232; ECF 273; ECF 274. Thereafter, Butler appealed Judge Motz's ruling to the Fourth Circuit. ECF 244. Subsequently, the Fourth Circuit remanded for the limited purpose of permitting the District Court to address the matter of a certificate of appealability (“COA”). ECF 238. Judge Motz thereafter denied a COA (ECF 240), and he also denied Butler's earlier motion to alter or amend judgment. ECF 239; ECF 241.

         Again, Butler appealed. ECF 244. The Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal and denied a COA on September 22, 2014. ECF 247. The mandate issued on December 24, 2014. ECF 250.

         On February 10, 2016, Butler filed a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). ECF 253. In sum, he complained about Judge Motz's ruling with regard to his § 2255 petition. Id. The case was reassigned to me in early 2018, and I denied that motion on August 14, 2018. ECF 274.

         On October 1, 2018, Butler filed another motion to reconsider, this time under Rule 59(e). That motion is pending.[2]

         II. Discussion

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not contain an express provision for a “motion for reconsideration” of a final judgment. Katyle v. Penn Nat'l Gaming, Inc., 637 F.3d 462, 470 n.4 (4th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 115 (2011). But, to avoid elevating form over substance, a motion to reconsider may be construed as a motion to alter or amend judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), or a motion for relief from judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). MLC Auto., LLC v. Town of S. Pines, 532 F.3d 269, 278-80 (4th Cir. 2008).

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) is captioned “Motion to Alter or Amend a Judgment.” It states: “A motion to alter or amend a judgment must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment.” A district court may amend a judgment under Rule 59(e), inter alia, to “prevent manifest injustice.” Hutchinson v. Stanton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1081 (4th Cir. 2002).

         A motion filed outside the 28-day window set forth in Rule 59(e) is considered under Rule 60, captioned “Relief from a Judgment or Order.” See In re Burnley, 988 F.2d 1, 2-4 (4th Cir. 1992) (construing untimely Rule 59(e) motion as a Rule 60(b) motion). Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) sets forth a variety of grounds for relief from a final judgment or order. It permits a party to file a motion to “relieve [the] party . . . from a final judgment” for “any . . . reason that justifies relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6), as well as other enumerated reasons. See Liljeberg v. Heath Serv. Acquisition Corp., 486 U.S. 847, 863 (1988) (noting that 28 U.S.C. § 455 “does not, on its own, authorize the reopening of closed litigation” but Rule 60(b) “provides a procedure whereby, in appropriate cases, a party may be relieved of a final judgment.”).

         The timing of the filing of the motion is the key factor in ascertaining which rule applies. The Fourth Circuit has said that “a motion filed under both Rule 59(e) and Rule 60(b) should be analyzed only under Rule 59(e) if it was filed no later than [28] days after entry of the adverse judgment and seeks to correct that judgment.” Robinson v. Wix Filtration Corp. LLC, 599 F.3d 403, 412 (4th Cir. 2010) (citing Small v. Hunt, 98 F.3d 789, 797 (4th Cir. 1996)); see In re Burnley, 988 F.2d at 2-3; Lewis v. McCabe, Weisberg & Conway, LLC, No. DKC 13-1561, 2015 WL 1522840, at *1 (D. Md. Apr. 1, 2015).

         Although the plain language of Rule 59(e) does not provide a particular standard by which a district court should evaluate a motion to alter or amend judgment, the Fourth Circuit has clarified: “Our case law makes clear [ ] that Rule 59(e) motions can be successful in only three situations: (1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.” Zinkand v. Brown, 478 F.3d 634, 637 (4th Cir. 2007) (internal quotations omitted); see Ingle ex rel. Estate of Ingle v. Yelton, 439 F.3d 191, 197 (4th Cir. 2006); U.S. ex rel. Becker v. Westinghouse ...

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