Williams v. Reynolds, C/A No. 2:16-cv-2835-CMC

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtCAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE Senior United States District Judge
Docket NumberC/A No. 2:16-cv-2835-CMC
PartiesDarrell Williams, Petitioner, v. Cecilia Reynolds, Warden, Respondent.
Decision Date20 March 2018

Darrell Williams, Petitioner,
v.
Cecilia Reynolds, Warden, Respondent.

C/A No. 2:16-cv-2835-CMC

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA CHARLESTON DIVISION

March 20, 2018


OPINION and ORDER

This matter is before the court on Petitioner Darrell Williams' Motion to Amend Judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e). ECF No. 63. The challenged judgment, entered November 14, 2017, adopted the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge and granted summary judgment to Respondent. ECF No. 60 (Order), 61 (Judgment). Petitioner has also filed a motion for extension of time to file an appeal. ECF No. 64. Respondent filed responses in opposition to both. ECF Nos. 65, 66. Petitioner filed a reply.1 ECF No. 68.

I. Timeliness

A threshold issue present in this case is one of timeliness. Under Rule 59(e), a party moving to alter or amend the judgment must file the motion within 28 days of the entry of judgment. In this case, the judgment was entered November 14, 2017 (see ECF No. 61), but

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Petitioner's motion was not received by this court until February 8, 20182. Although Petitioner's Rule 59(e) motion does not address this timeliness issue, his motion to extend time to appeal notes his motion to alter/amend was mistakenly (but timely) sent to the Charleston County Probate Court instead of the Federal District Court. See ECF No. 64. An exhibit attached to the motion for extension shows Petitioner mailed a document to "United States District Court Charleston Division, 84 Broad Street , Charleston, S.C., 29401" on November 22, 2017. ECF No. 64-1. This piece of mail was returned to him from the Probate Court, which does sit at 84 Broad Street in Charleston, on January 24, 2018. Id. He then mailed his motions to this court on February 6, 2018. ECF No. 64-2.

Regardless of the reason for the late filing, the district court does not have the power to enlarge the time period for filing a Rule 59(e) motion. Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b)(2) ("A court must not extend the time to act under Rules 50(b) and (d), 52(b), 59(b), (d), and (e), 60(b)."); Panhorst v. United States, 241 F.3d 367, 370 (4th Cir. 2001). Therefore, the court is unable to accept Petitioner's filing as a timely Rule 59(e) motion. However, because Petitioner filed his motion within a year of the entry of the summary judgment order, this court will construe Petitioner's motion as one for reconsideration under Rule 60(b). See United States v. Winestock, 340 F.3d 200, 203 (4th Cir. 2003) (treating motion to reconsider filed after the deadline for Rule 59(e) motions as a Rule 60(b) motion); Moody v. Maynard, 105 F. App'x 458, 462 (4th Cir. 2004) (unpublished) (treating untimely Rule 59(e) motion as "more properly viewed as one for relief

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from a judgment under Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which may be filed within a year from the entry of the order sought to be appealed.").

II. Merits of Petitioner's Motion (ECF No. 63)

Petitioner's motion argues two main points: (1) the court erred in ruling the state trial court appropriately followed Old Chief v. United States, 519 U.S. 172 (1997) because "the state submitted indictments which set out facts of prior convictions," and (2) ground four is not procedurally defaulted because "Petitioner has challenged his sentence at hearing." ECF No. 63. Respondent argues Petitioner's motion is untimely3, and fails on the merits as Petitioner only advances two arguments already made in his objections, and mere disagreement with the ruling is not grounds for a Rule 59(e) motion. ECF No. 65.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) allows for relief from a final judgment for certain reasons: mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; newly discovered evidence; fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party; void judgment; a judgment based on an earlier judgment reversed or vacated, or one no longer equitable; or "any other reason that justifies relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(1)-(6). "A motion under Rule 60(b) must be timely brought, and the movant assumes the burden of showing a meritorious defense against the claim on which judgment was entered as a threshold condition to any relief whatsoever under the Rule." McLawhorn v. John W. Daniel & Co., 924 F.2d 535, 538 (4th Cir. 1991) (internal citation omitted). "The remedy provided by the Rule [60(b)], however, is extraordinary and is

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only to be invoked upon a showing of exceptional circumstances." Compton v. Alton S.S. Co., 608 F.2d 96, 102 (4th Cir. 1979).

Petitioner argues Old Chief was not properly applied because the indictments...

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