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Claxton H. Williams, Jr., #N62439 v. Kevin Murray

October 31, 2011

CLAXTON H. WILLIAMS, JR., #N62439, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KEVIN MURRAY, RONALD ROBINSON, JERRY WITTHOFT, AND JOHN CARTER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Williams, Magistrate Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

I. Introduction

On March 16, 2011, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants Kevin Murray, Ronald Robinson, Jerry Witthoft, and John Carter, finding Defendants not liable on all counts of Plaintiff Williams' 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims (Docs. 192, 194, 196, 198). The Court entered judgment in accordance with the verdict on March 18, 2011 (Doc. 201). On April 11, 2011, Plaintiff Williams sought an extension of time to file a motion for new trial under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 (Doc. 209). The Court denied that motion, finding that it was outside this Court's power to grant such an extension of time (Doc. 211). The Court noted that Plaintiff Williams' deadline for filing a timely motion was April 15, 2011. On April 25, 2011, Plaintiff Williams again sought an extension of time in which to file his motion for new trial (Doc. 213) which this Court again denied as it is unable to extend the deadline under Rule 6(b) (Doc. 214).

Subsequently, on May 3, 2011, Plaintiff filed his Motion for New Trial pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.59 and Motion for Relief from Judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) and Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50 (Doc. 215). Although the motion was not filed until more than 15 days after the deadline for filing a motion for new trial under Rule 59, Plaintiff's Certificate of Service stated that he had placed the motion in the mail on April 15, 2011. Defendants have since filed a Response to Plaintiff's motion arguing that the motion is untimely and that the proof of service was falsified (Doc. 223).

The Court originally held an evidentiary hearing on August 4, 2011 in order to determine the timeliness of Plaintiff's motion as well as the legitimacy and authenticity of Plaintiff's certificate of service. At the time, Plaintiff appeared to be having a hard time understanding the Court's questions and informed the Court that he had suffered from a stroke and needed an attorney because he could not write. The Court postponed the hearing until it could obtain Plaintiff's medical records to determine if Plaintiff had indeed suffered a stroke and was incapable of defending his motion in an oral hearing.

After obtaining the medical charts, the Court determined that Plaintiff had presented symptoms of a possible stroke or mini stroke in early August possibly brought on by a hunger strike and issues with his medication, but since that time, the medical charts revealed that Plaintiff appeared to have recovered and was cooperating with the medical staff, taking his medicine, and eating. The Court scheduled a second hearing on September 23, 2011. Plaintiff again appeared by videoconferencing. At the hearing, the Court denied Plaintiff's oral motion to appoint counsel. Although Plaintiff stated that he is not in the same physical condition that he once was and believes that he can not adequately represent himself on the issues before the Court, the Court noted that the issue involved in the hearing was a straightforward factual discussion on the timeliness of his motion which Plaintiff was adequately able to defend his position on and was one in which an attorney would not have been of any added benefit. Further, while the Court acknowledged that Plaintiff appeared to have a malady at the last hearing, it was apparent by his demeanor and ability to address the issues at this hearing that he was in a good physical and mental state. The Court ultimately denied Plaintiff's motion to appoint attorney and proceeded to the main subject of the hearing, the timeliness of Plaintiff's motion.

As to the timeliness of his motion, Plaintiff admits that the time span in which he filed his motions for extension of time and motion for new trial were hazy as he was having issues with his medication during that time period. However, he maintains that he would not have filed a second motion for extension of time if he had received the Court's Order (Doc. 211) denying his first motion for extension of time but that he never received that Order. After being sworn in for testimony on the issue, Plaintiff noted that he has been having trouble receiving his mail in recent months and that he never received the Court's Order denying him an extension of time in which to file his motion for new trial. Plaintiff was also steadfast in his position that he has never altered the dates on a certificate of service and though he does not recall what day he handed his motion for new trial over to the guards for filing, he believes that the date of April 15, 2011 was correct as he never backdated a motion. Plaintiff maintained that the motion was timely filed on April 15, 2011 no matter what day it was actually received by the Court.

In Response, Defendants' counsel argued that while there was no evidence that Plaintiff did not submit his motion on April 15, 2011, as IDOC does not document out-going mail, the docket itself evidenced the untimeliness of the motion. Defendants point to the fact that Plaintiff filed two motions for extension of time before filing his actual motion for new trial and the second motion for extension of time was filed after the April 15, 2011 deadline, making it highly unlikely that he then filed his motion for new trial on April 15, 2011 before filing a motion for extension of time.

After hearing both sides, the Court took the matters under advisement.

II. Discussion

A. Timeliness of Filings

Defendants first argue that Plaintiff's motion for new trial is untimely as it was filed outside of the 28-day window for filing such a motion under FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 59(b) and the time to file can not be extended pursuant to Rule 6(b). Plaintiff filed his first motion for extension of time on April 11, 2011 (Doc. 209) which this Court denied (Doc. 211). Plaintiff again sought an extension of time on April 25, 2011 (Doc. 213) which this Court again denied (Doc. 214) referring to its previous denial for its reasoning. Plaintiff submitted his motion for new trial on May 3, 2011 (Doc. 215). Attached to his motion, Plaintiff's certificate of service stated that he had filed the motion on April 15, 2011, the last date for a timely motion for new trial to be filed within the 28-day window. Defendants argue that Plaintiff's certificate of service has been falsified as his second motion for extension of time was filed after the deadlines set forth in Rule 59(b).

Defendants are correct that Rule 59(b) has a set deadline which cannot be extended. A motion for new trial under FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 59 "must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment." FED.R.CIV.P. 59(b). The deadline for filing said motion cannot be extended. Se e FED.R.CIV.P. 6(b)(2); s e e als o Robsinson v. City of Harv y , 489 H.3d 864, 870-71 (7th Cir. 2007) ("Rule 59 motions must be made within [28] days of the entry of judgment - a time limit that cannot be extended." (citations omitted) (citing FED.R.CIV.P.6(b))); B aile y v . Sh arp , 782 F.2d 1366, 1367 (7th Cir. 1986) (per curiam) ("[A] court ' may not extend the time for taking an action under' Rule 59(b)" (quoting FED.R.CIV.P. 6(b)).

After holding an evidentiary hearing to determine the timeliness of Plaintiff's motion and the authenticity of his certificate of service, the Court finds that Plaintiff's motion under Rule 59 is timely. As judgment was entered in this case on March 17, 2011, Plaintiff had 28 days from the date of judgment, up to and including April 15, 2011, in which to file his motion for new trial. While Plaintiff sought two extensions of time, one of which was filed with the Court after the April 15, 2011 deadline had expired, Plaintiff maintains that his motion for new trial was filed on April 15, 2011. While he says he can not account for that time nor can he account for what the officers did with his motion once he handed it off to be filed, he stated in his sworn testimony that he did not falsify the certificate of service and since it is dated April 15, 2011 that is the date in which it was filed. While the Court does find it suspicious that it received a motion for extension of time after the April 15, 2011 deadline and then did not receive Plaintiff's motion for new trial until May 3, 2011, there is no evidence to suggest that Plaintiff falsified the certificate or is being untruthful as to when he delivered his motion to the guards to submit. In fact, Defendants offered no evidence, other than the docketed dates, to ...


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