United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville
MARTIN E. HUGHES, Plaintiff,
LT. BUTCH GALLION, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RONNIE GREER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a pro se prisoner's civil rights action brought under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 by Martin E. Hughes
(“Plaintiff”) against Lt. Butch Gallion
(“Defendant”), the Jail Administrator at Hawkins
County Jail (“HCJ”). Plaintiff's complaint
alleges that the legal mail policy at the HCJ violated his
First Amendment rights as a pretrial detainee [Doc. 1 at 7;
Doc 10 at 4]. By Memorandum Opinion and Order dated June 1,
2017, the Court found that Defendant is shielded by qualified
immunity from liability for damages and granted summary
judgment in his favor [Docs. 90, 91].
before the Court are Plaintiff's motion to alter or amend
judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e)
based on clear error of law [Doc. 95]; motion for relief from
judgment based on misconduct pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 60(b)(3) [Doc. 96]; and motion to amend the
Rule 60(b) motion to add a ground for relief based on
“newly discovered evidence” pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(2) [Doc. 110].
government has filed a response in opposition to the Rule
59(e) and Rule 60(b)(3) motions [Doc. 98] as well as a
response opposing the motion to amend to add newly discovered
evidence as a ground for relief under Rule 60(b)(2) [Doc.
113]. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motions for
relief pursuant to Rule 59(e) [Doc. 95] and Rule 60(b)(3)
[Doc. 96], and his motion to amend pursuant to Rule 60(b)(2)
[Doc. 110], all will be DENIED.
initially filed a § 1983 complaint against Defendant
Gallion, Attorney Robert Russell Mattocks and Attorney Greg
Eichelman alleging, inter alia, claims for
interference with his legal mail and denial of medical care
while he was detained at the HCJ [Doc. 1]. Upon screening,
the Court entered an order dismissing Mattocks and Eichelman
as defendants and dismissing all of Plaintiff's asserted
claims except for his mail-interference and medical care
claims [Doc. 10]. Although finding that both of those claims,
as pled, were insufficient to state a claim under §
1983, the Court offered Plaintiff an opportunity to amend the
complaint to cure the deficiencies related to those claims
subsequently filed an amended complaint alleging that his
incoming mail from this Court, his attorney and other
purported legal sources was confiscated, photocopied out of
his presence, and misdirected; that the originals were not
contained in his property when he was transferred to another
facility; and that Defendant trained his officers to treat
mail in this fashion [Doc. 12]. He further alleged that his
outgoing legal mail, including a civil rights complaint
against Defendant, also was interfered with, and that this
unlawful method of handling mail was employed pursuant to a
policy established by Defendant [Id.]. The Court
found that Plaintiff's amended complaint set forth
allegations sufficient to state a claim for interference with
legal mail [Doc. 22 at 1-2].
discovery, both parties filed motions for summary judgment
[Docs. 51, 58]. The Court concluded that Plaintiff failed to
carry his burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and denied his motion for summary
judgment [Doc. 90 at 8]. Turning to Defendant's summary
judgment motion, and viewing the facts supported by the
record and evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff,
the Court found that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact regarding Defendant's entitlement to
qualified immunity [Id. at 9]. Specifically, the
Court determined that the facts in the record, viewed in
Plaintiff's favor, are insufficient either: (1) to
establish a constitutional violation arising from the HCJ
mail policy, whether as to interference with legal mail or as
to denial of access to the courts [id. at 13-20]; or
(2) to establish that a reasonable officer would have
believed, in light of clearly established law, that the mail
policy violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights
[Id. at 20-21].
as a matter of law that Defendant is entitled to qualified
immunity, the Court granted Defendant's summary judgment
motion and dismissed Plaintiff's civil rights action
[Doc. 91], opening the floodgates to Plaintiff's torrent
of submissions challenging that judgment.
Rule 59(e) Motion-Clear Error of Law
has filed a motion to alter or amend judgment pursuant to
Rule 59(e) [Doc. 95] and various supplements [Docs. 97, 100,
104, 106] alleging that the Court committed a clear error of
law in granting Defendant's motion for summary
judgment. In support, Plaintiff argues that the
Court erred in not permitting him an opportunity to present
evidence “in open court” on the qualified
immunity issue [Docs. 95, 97]; that the Court
“misled” him into believing he would have the
opportunity to do so [Doc. 101, 102, 105]; that the Court
failed to respond to his “transport request, ”
[Doc. 95, 109]; that he was “hindered” by lack of
counsel and “physical barriers” from presenting
his evidence [Docs. 95, 103]; and that the Court erred in
“not viewing the evidence more favorably” towards
him [Doc. 95].
Standard of Review
Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) allows a party to file a motion
to alter or amend a judgment no later than 28 days after the
judgment is entered. A Rule 59(e) motion should only be
granted if there was (1) a clear error of law; (2) newly
discovered evidence; (3) an intervening change in controlling
law; or (4) a need to prevent manifest injustice.
Michigan Flyer LLC v. Wayne County Airport
Authority, 860 F.3d 425, 431 (6th Cir. 2017).
Rule 59(e) permits a court to alter or amend a judgment, it
“'may not be used to relitigate old matters, or to
raise arguments or present evidence that could have been
raised prior to the entry of judgment.'” Exxon
Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471, 485 n 5 (2008)
(citation omitted). Where a movant merely “views the
law in a light contrary to that of this Court, ” his
“proper recourse” is not by way of a motion for
reconsideration “but appeal to the Sixth
Circuit.” McConocha v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield
Mut. of Ohio, 930 F.Supp. 1182, 1184 (N.D. Ohio 1996)
(quoting Dana Corp. v. United States, 764 F.Supp.
482, 489 (N.D. Ohio 1991)).
grant or denial of a Rule 59(e) motion is within the informed
discretion of the district court, reversible only for
abuse.” Betts v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 558
F.3d 461, 467 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). In
exercising this discretion, the Court must balance the need
for finality with the need to render just decisions. Day
v. Krystal Co., 241 F.R.D. 474, 476 (E.D. Tenn. 2007);
see also GenCorp, Inc. v. American Intern.
Underwriters, 178 F.3d 804, 834 (6th Cir. 1999).
primary contention throughout his multiple filings is that
the Court committed a clear error of law in not permitting
him to present evidence in open court on the qualified
immunity issue. He argues that this evidence, consisting of
“eyewitnesses” and other documents [Doc. 95],
would have proven that Defendant used the mail policy to
interfere with Plaintiff's ongoing criminal cases [Doc.
109] and to “cover-up” evidence helpful to his
defense in his criminal case, which hindered the
attorney-client relationship and caused him legal harm [Docs.
103, 106]. He also alleges that he has evidence to show that
legal mail was not delivered and to establish alternative
ways to handle the mail that would not have violated his
constitutional rights [Doc. 121]. Plaintiff is not entitled
to relief under Rule 59(e) on this ground.
initial matter, the Sixth Circuit has held that
“'Rule 56 does not require an oral hearing on a
motion for summary judgment.'” Himes v. United
States, 645 F.3d 771, 784 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting
Banfield v. Turner, 66 F.3d 325, 1995 WL 544085, at
*4 (6th Cir.1995). “[T]he plain language of Rule 56
‘does not specifically require or even expressly
authorize receipt of oral evidence and other types of
evidence in a hearing setting.'” March v.
Levine, 249 F.3d 462, 473 (6th Cir. 2001) (“oral
testimony is not favored in summary judgment proceedings due
to the well- founded reluctance to turn a summary judgment
hearing into a trial”) (citations omitted).
Instead, Rule 56 “simply requires an adequate chance to
present evidence and arguments, and respond to those of
one's opponent.” Himes, 645 F.3d at 784.
Plaintiff had the opportunity to present any and all relevant
arguments and submit any and all relevant evidence, and to
respond to Defendant's arguments and evidence, in his
written response to Defendant's motion for summary
judgment. And he in fact did file an 8-page single-spaced
handwritten response to Defendant's summary judgment
motion along with 17 attachments consisting of 163 additional
pages of evidence [Doc. 80]; a 6-page single-spaced
handwritten reply brief with another exhibit attached [Doc.
84]; and a 5-page single-spaced handwritten supplemental
response along with another exhibit [Doc. 85].
should have submitted all evidence that he had on the
qualified immunity issue with his response in opposition to
summary judgment, his reply or his supplemental response. If
he had “eyewitnesses, ” he should have included
affidavits setting forth whatever facts those eyewitnesses
could provide in accordance with Rule 56(b)(4). Instead,
Plaintiff decided to save his evidence for presentation at a
hearing that never was scheduled. Plaintiff's purported
reasons for doing so are unavailing.
Plaintiff's allegation that the Court
“misled” him into believing there would be a
hearing is wholly without merit. The Court entered a
scheduling order early in the case setting a non-jury trial
date of May 16, 2017, along with deadlines for discovery and
motions for summary judgment [Doc. 33]. With regard to
summary judgment, the order set a deadline of March 21, 2017,
for such motions and indicated responses were to be filed in
accordance with Local Rule 7.1 [Id. at ¶ 2].
The order does not set a date for a hearing
on summary judgment motions and Plaintiff's
misinterpretation of the date set for a non-jury trial as the
date for a summary judgment hearing is not the fault of the
assertion that his ability to submit his evidence on the
qualified immunity issue was hindered by a “gang
riot/hostage situation” in his prison [Docs. 96, 103,
104] is undercut by the fact that he was able to submit
voluminous amounts of other evidence during the same time
period. Moreover, his contention that, had the Court
responded to his “transport request” and informed
him there would be no hearing on the summary judgment motion,
he would have submitted the evidence with his response [Doc.
is an acknowledgement that the evidence in fact was available
for submission at the time the response was filed.
also alleges that the Court committed legal error by failing
to consider the evidence presented in a light most favorable
to him as the opposing party, then goes on to reargue the
positions he advanced in his responses in opposition to
Defendant's motion for summary judgment and to explain
why he disagrees with this Court's analysis. However, as
already noted, a Rule 59(e) motion is not properly used as a
vehicle to re-hash old arguments or to advance positions that
could have been argued earlier. Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of
Chippewa Indians v. Engler, 146 F.3d 367, 374 (6th Cir.
Court adheres to its previous ruling granting summary
judgment in favor of Defendant and finds no basis to alter or
amend its judgment under Rule 59(e). Plaintiff's proper
recourse for his disagreement with that ruling is to file a
notice of appeal. McConocha, 930 F.Supp. at 1184.
Accordingly, Plaintiff's Rule 59(e) motion [Doc. 95] will