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Buggs v. Elgin

decided: July 25, 1988.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. No. 80 C 533 -- Andrew J. Rodovich, Magistrate.

Wood, Jr. and Flaum, Circuit Judges, and Will, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Flaum

FLAUM, Circuit Judge.

The defendant-appellant, Elgin Joliet & Eastern Railway Co. ("E J & E"), appeals from a Corrected Judgment Order entered in favor of the plaintiff-appellee, Robert L. Buggs. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm and remand for further proceedings.


The facts giving rise to this appeal are undisputed. On September 26, 1980, Buggs filed a complaint against E J & E alleging that he was discharged in July 1977 on account of his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e et seq. A trial was held on February 18 and 19, 1986, and on October 3 the presiding magistrate entered judgment in favor of Buggs.*fn1 The magistrate awarded Buggs the following relief:

Based upon the foregoing Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, the Court now finds that the plaintiff, Robert L. Buggs, is entitled to judgment against the defendant, Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway Company, as a result of his discharge on July 12, 1977. The Court further finds that the plaintiff is entitled to reinstatement, back pay in the amount of $36,000, and attorney fees. The plaintiff is GRANTED 30 days in which to submit an appropriate claim for attorney fees.

(emphasis added).

On November 3, 1986, Buggs filed a Motion to Correct Judgment pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 60(b)(1) and (b)(6). The motion requested that the October 3 judgment be amended to provide additional relief. Specifically, the motion stated:

That Plaintiff is further entitled to reinstatement, backpay and fringe benefits calculated at the rate of Plaintiff's loss from the date of termination up to and including the time of reinstatement which includes $36,000.00 representing amount loss [sic] based upon Plaintiff's earnings at the time of termination and such other increases Plaintiff would have received if he continued employment; Plaintiff also to be awarded all benefits loss [sic] from the time of termination up to and including the date of reinstatement; and attorney fees.

The magistrate heard arguments on January 21, 1987 and concluded that the motion should be denied for three reasons. First, to the extent that the Motion to Correct Judgment was in effect a Rule 59(e) Motion to Alter or Amend a Judgment, the motion was untimely because it was not filed within 10 days of the entry of judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e). Second, if the Motion to Correct Judgment was properly premised upon Rule 60(b), the motion was defective because Buggs neglected to explain why he had not introduced any evidence concerning these additional issues at trial. Third, because Buggs failed to timely appeal the judgment, the magistrate denied his motion on the ground that Rule 60 may not be used as a substitute for appeal. See Andrews v. Heinold Commodities Inc., 771 F.2d 184, 188 (7th Cir. 1985). The magistrate did, however, award Buggs attorneys' fees, even though his fee petition was submitted 66 days after the deadline initially set by the court's order.

Following the withdrawal of his court-appointed counsel, on February 27 Buggs filed pro se a Motion to Reconsider the Motion to Correct Judgment. This motion was denied on February 13. That same day, Buggs filed both a Notice of Appeal from the denial of his motion for reconsideration*fn2 and a new Motion to Clarify Judgment. In his Motion to Clarify, Buggs once again requested an amendment of the magistrate's October 3 judgment to provide him with retroactive seniority and appropriate fringe benefits. E J & E moved to dismiss the Motion to Clarify on the same grounds on which Buggs' initial Motion to Correct had been rejected; E J & E also filed, on February 27, a Notice of Appeal (No. 87-1343) from both the October 3 judgment and the January 21 fee award.*fn3 A status hearing was held on April 13 at which Buggs, apparently once again assisted by counsel, informed the court that his Motion to Clarify was in the nature of a Motion to Enforce Judgment. As a result, the court entered an order requiring Buggs to provide E J & E with a list of alleged violations of the October 3 judgment. It is unclear whether Buggs ever furnished such a list to the defendant.

Finally, without further proceedings and at a time when the parties' own Notices of Appeal had vested appellate jurisdiction in this court, the magistrate on September 30 (almost one year after the date of Buggs' Title VII judgment) entered an advisory order conditionally granting the Motion to Clarify.*fn4 Relying alternatively on Rules 60(a) and 60(b), the magistrate's order stated, inter alia:

After finding that Buggs was discharged because of his race, the October 3rd order specifically held that Buggs was entitled to reinstatement and back pay. The order did not address the issues of fringe benefits and retroactive seniority. Because of this oversight, Buggs alleges that he was ...

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