District Court Cannot Grant Untimely Motion under Rule 59 — Circuit Split As to Whether Court May Consider an Amendment to a Timely Filed Motion After the Period Set Forth in Rule 59 — 59(e), 52(b) Factors — 59 vs. 60 Depends on Timing

Segundo v. Stephens, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 163432 (N.D. Tex. Dec. 7, 2015):

On July 13, 2015, petitioner Juan Ramon Meza Segundo filed his "Motion under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(a) to Amend and Correct Memorandum Opinion and Order Denying Relief." (Mot. to Amend, doc. 55.) The certificate of conference indicates that it is opposed. Subsequently, Respondent filed his response in which he opposed the motion in part. (Resp. to Mot. Am., doc. 59.)

On July 19, Segundo filed his post-judgment motion for leave to consider newly discovered evidence under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59 and 60(b)(1). (New Evid. Mot., doc. 56.) No certificate of conference was included in that motion, but Respondent filed his response in opposition. (New Evid. Resp., doc. 60.)

On August 7, Segundo filed his supplemental [*2]  post-judgment motion for leave to consider newly discovered evidence under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59 and 60(b)(1). (Supp. Mot., doc. 62.) Again, no certificate of conference was appended to that motion, but Respondent filed his response in opposition. (Resp. to Supp. Mot., doc. 65.)

I. AMENDING FINDINGS

In his motion to amend, Segundo argues that a factual statement in the Memorandum Opinion and Order Denying Relief (doc. 48, also "Memorandum Opinion") was incorrect (Mot. to Amend, doc. 55, at 3-4) and that additional findings should be made. (Mot. to Amend at 3-5.) Respondent concedes that a factual statement was incorrect and should be corrected (Resp. to Mot. Am., doc. 59 at 3-4), but opposes the request for additional findings. (Resp. to Mot. Am. at 4-5.)

A. STANDARD

Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a court "to rectify its own mistakes in the period immediately following entry of judgment." White v. New Hampshire Dept. of Employment Sec., 455 U.S. 445, 450 (1982). It allows reconsideration of a final judgment where a party shows a need to (1) correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice, (2) present newly discovered evidence, or (3) reflect an intervening change in controlling law. See Schiller v. Physicians Res. Group, Inc., 342 F.3d 563, 567 (5th Cir. 2003); In re Benjamin Moore & Co., 318 F.3d 626, 629 (5th Cir. 2002). Although district courts have discretion as to whether to reopen a case under Rule 59(e), that discretion is not unlimited. [*3]  The Fifth Circuit has "identified two important judicial imperatives relating to such a motion: 1) the need to bring litigation to an end; and 2) the need to render just decisions on the basis of all the facts. The task for the district court is to strike the proper balance between these competing interests." Templet v. HydroChem Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 479 (5th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted).

Similarly, Rule 52(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court "may amend its findings--or make additional findings--and may amend the judgment accordingly." Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(b). The purpose of a Rule 52(b) motion "is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or, in some limited situations, to present newly discovered evidence." Fontenot v. Mesa Petroleum Co., 791 F.2d 1207, 1219 (5th Cir.1986); Austin v. Stephens, No. 4:04-CV-2387, 2013 WL 3456986, at *1 (S.D. Tex. July 8, 2013).

   This is not to say, however, that a motion to amend should be employed to introduce evidence that was available at trial but was not proffered, to relitigate old issues, to advance new theories, or to secure a rehearing on the merits. Except for motions to amend based on newly discovered evidence, the trial court is only required to amend its findings of fact based on evidence contained in the record. To do otherwise would defeat the compelling interest in the finality of litigation.

Fontenot, 791 F.2d at 1219-20 (citations omitted).

For motions filed outside of the time allowed for a Rule 59 or [*4]  Rule 52 motion, Rule 60(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court "may correct a clerical mistake or a mistake arising from oversight or omission whenever one is found in a judgment, order, or other part of the record."

B. ANALYSIS

Segundo cites Rules 59(e) and 60(a) in support of his motion to amend this Court's findings and include new findings, but Rule 52(b) would also address amending findings. In his motion to amend, Segundo identifies one mistake that would appear to warrant an amended finding: that Dr. Hopewell "administered" certain intelligence tests that he merely "reviewed". (Mot. Amend at 3-4.) The remainder of his motion merely seeks more favorable findings and does not warrant relief.

Segundo's Motion to Amend (doc. 55) is GRANTED IN PART. The language in the first sentence of the second paragraph on page 8 of the Memorandum Opinion that states, "Dr. Hopewell administered the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Version III ("WAIS III"), and the "RBANS" test ...," is MODIFIED to state, "Dr. Hopewell reviewed the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Version III ("WAIS III"), and the "RBANS" test ...." All other relief requested in Segundo's Motion to Amend (doc. 55) is DENIED.

II. NEWLY DISCOVERED EVIDENCE

After the time set out in Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure had [*5]  expired, Segundo filed a motion under Rules 59 and 60(b)(1) for consideration of "newly discovered evidence" that had long been in the attorney's file but was allegedly overlooked. (New. Evid. Mot., doc. 56.) Respondent asserts that the portion of Segundo's motion regarding his intellectual-disability ("ID") claim constitutes a second or successive petition and the portion of Segundo's motion regarding his ineffective-assistance-of-counsel ("IAC") claim is untimely and does not warrant relief. (Resp. to New Evid., doc. 60.)

Subsequently, Segundo filed a supplemental motion for consideration of newly discovered evidence under Rules 59 and 60(b)(1). (Supp. Mot., doc. 62.) In opposition, Respondent again asserts that the allegations regarding the ID claim would constitute a successive petition and the allegations regarding the IAC claim remain procedurally barred. (Resp. to Supp. Mot., doc. 65.) He also asserts that, despite Segundo's arguments, his three postjudgment motions are separate and distinct and should not be treated as amendments or supplements to his motion filed within the time set out in Rule 59.

A. STANDARD

Whether Rule 59 or 60 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs a postjudgment motion depends on the time that the motion is filed. If filed within [*6]  the time set out in Rule 59(b) or (e), it is controlled by Rule 59. If filed after that time, it is controlled by Rule 60. See Texas A&M Research Found. v. Magna Transp., Inc., 338 F.3d 394, 400 (5th Cir. 2003); Demahy v. Schwarz Pharma, Inc., 702 F.3d 177, 182 (5th Cir. 2012) ("Because it was filed within the relevant time period, we consider Demahy's Rule 60(b)(5) motion as a motion to amend the judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e).").

Further, the district court has no discretion to grant an untimely motion under Rule 59. "The time requirement of Rule 59(b) is jurisdictional; for the court lacks authority to rule upon a motion filed beyond the statutory period." Martin v. Wainwright, 469 F.2d 1072, 1073 (5th Cir. 1972 (citing Albers v. Gant, 435 F.2d 146 (5th Cir. 1970)).

In this Circuit, however, a district court has the discretion to consider an amendment to a timely filed motion for new trial that comes after the period set forth in Rule 59. After noting the split among the circuits on this issue, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit observed:

   This Circuit has adopted a more liberal rule. Here a trial court may in the exercise of its sound discretion allow a tardy amendment stating an additional ground for a new trial. Pruett v. Marshall, 283 F.2d 436, 440 (5th Cir.1960). The trial court is not, however, required to do so. Factors relevant to the court's decision include the length of the delay and the reasons given. Id.

Dotson v. Clark Equip. Co., 805 F.2d 1225, 1228 (5th Cir. 1986). Another factor in exercising such discretion appears to be whether the allegations presented in the proposed [*7]  amendment would warrant a new trial. Pruett, 283 F.2d at 440; Pate v. Seaboard R.R., 819 F.2d 1074, 1086 (11th Cir. 1987) (holding that "the court was within its discretion in determining that the question raised in the amendment was very serious and not duplicitous of the original motion for a new trial.").

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