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Turleyy v. Lawrence

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 3, 2019

GREGORY J. TURLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANK LAWRENCE, Defendants.[1]

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Gilbert C. Sison, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Background

         Pending before the Court is Defendant's October 25, 2018 motion to reconsider the Court's Order and injunction (Doc. 370) and Judgment (Doc. 371). Plaintiff opposes the motion (Doc. 376).[2] After reviewing the entire record and the applicable law, the Court denies the motion.

         Originally, Gregory Turley, pro se and a former inmate at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), filed suit for violations of his constitutional rights. Turley alleges, inter alia, that being housed in the North I cell house of Menard with a cellmate constituted deliberate indifference to his health and well-being as a result of the cells being cramped and too small for two adult inmates. Turley's claims were dismissed from the case at the initial 28 U.S.C. § 1915A review while other claims proceeded to trial. Turley appealed and the Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of Turley's cell size claims and those claims went to trial. At the close of Turley's evidence, the Court dismissed the individual capacity claims against the named defendants leaving a claim for injunctive relief, which sought an Order prohibiting the Warden of Menard from placing Turley in the North I cell house with a cell mate.

         On September 26, 2018, Magistrate Judge Stephen C. Williams issued an Order and Injunction enjoining then Menard Warden Jacqueline Lashbrook in her official capacity, and any of her successors in their official capacity, from housing Turley in the North I cell house with one or more inmates or cellmates (Doc. 370).[3]The following day, the Clerk of Court entered Judgment, inter alia, reflecting the same (Doc. 371). On October 25, 2018, Lashbrook filed a motion to reconsider the Court's Order and Injunction (Doc. 370) and Judgment (Doc. 371). Turley opposes the motion (Doc. 376). As the motion is ripe, the Court turns to the merits of the motion.

         Analysis

         The Seventh Circuit has held that a motion challenging the merits of a district court order will automatically be considered as having been filed pursuant to either Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b). See Mares v. Busby, 34 F.3d 533, 535 (7th Cir. 1994). Different timetables and standards govern these motions. Rule 59(e), for example, permits a court to amend a judgment only if the movant demonstrates a manifest error of law or fact or presents newly discovered evidence that was not previously available. See Sigsworth v. City of Aurora, 487 F.3d 506, 511-512 (7th Cir. 2007). Rule 60(b), on the other hand, permits a court to relieve a party from an order or judgment based on such grounds as mistake, surprise or excusable neglect by the movant; fraud or misconduct by the opposing party; a judgment that is void or has been discharged; or newly discovered evidence that could not have been discovered within the 28-day deadline for filing a Rule 59(b) motion. However, the reasons offered by a movant for setting aside a judgment under Rule 60(b) must be something that could not have been employed to obtain a reversal by direct appeal. See Bell v. Eastman Kodak Co., 214 F.3d 798, 801 (7th Cir. 2000).

         Both Rule 59(e) and 60(b) eliminate the finality of a judgment and permit further proceedings, but Rule 59(e) generally requires a lower threshold of proof than does Rule 60(b). See Helm v. Resolution Trust Corp., 43 F.3d 1163, 1166 (7th Cir. 1995). See also Ball v. City of Chicago, 2 F.3d 752, 760 (7th Cir. 1993)(distinguishing the “exacting standard” of Rule 60(b) from the “more liberal standard” of Rule 59(e)).

         The purpose of a motion to alter or amend judgment under Rule 59(e) is to ask the court to reconsider matters “properly encompassed in a decision on the merits.” Osterneck v. Ernst & Whinney, 489 U.S. 169, 174 (1989). “A Rule 59(e) motion will be successful only where the movant clearly establishes: (1) that the court committed a manifest error of law or fact, or (2) that newly discovered evidence precluded entry of judgment.” Cincinnati Life Ins. Co. v. Beyrer, 722 F.3d 939, 954 (7th Cir. 2013)(citation and quotation marks omitted).

         Relief pursuant to a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend is an “extraordinary remed[y] reserved for the exceptional case.” Foster v. DeLuca, 545 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2008). A Rule 59(e) motion may be used “to draw the district court's attention to a manifest error of law or fact or to newly discovered evidence.” United States v. Resnick, 594 F.3d 562, 568 (7th Cir. 2010). A manifest error “is not demonstrated by the disappointment of the losing party. It is the wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.” Oto v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000)(citation and quotation marks omitted). Furthermore, “a Rule 59(e) motion is not an opportunity to relitigate motions or present arguments, issues, or facts that could and should have been presented earlier.” Chapman v. United States, No. 3:16-CV-0691-DRH, 2016 WL 6095316, at *1 (S.D. Ill. Oct. 19, 2016).

         First, the Court addresses the untimeliness issue raised by Turley in his opposition. Turley argues that Defendant's motion is untimely as it was filed 29 days after the September 26, 2018 Injunction Order was entered. By the Court's calculation, however, the Court finds the motion is timely filed. The final Judgment in this case was entered on September 27, 2018. The motion to reconsider the Order and Injunction and the Judgment was filed on October 25, 2018, which is 28 days after the Judgment was entered. Therefore, the Court will address the motion under the easier to prove Rule 59(e) standard. See, e.g., United States v. Deutsch, 981 F.2d 299, 301-302 (7th Cir. 1992)(recognizing bright line rule for determining whether a motion falls under Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b) as dependent on the date of service of the motion).[4]

         The Court finds that Defendant is not entitled to relief under the Rule 59(e) standard. After reviewing the record, the Court finds that Defendant identifies no manifest error of law or newly discovered evidence which would warrant the granting of relief under the rule. For example, Defendant has not presented new evidence or new arguments that were not previously unavailable at the time of the Court's rulings. Instead, Defendant merely reiterates arguments that could have been and should have been raised previously. Specifically, Defendant contends that the Court erred when it found that Turley's transfer was pretextual. Rather, the Defendant contends that as a result of the transfer the case was moot. The Defendant further contends that the Court erred when it made findings regarding Turley's medical conditions absent the support of medical evidence. The Court rejects these arguments.

         Regarding the pretextual transfer, Judge Williams specifically found as follows:

“As Plaintiff points out, the reasons relating to visitation makes no sense. He has not had any visitors for 27 years and did not request the transfer to Hill in the first place. A second explanation given is that Mr. Turley meets the criteria for under 30 years to transfer to a Medium Security Facility. On its face, this seems like a simple, concrete, and non-pretextual reason for a transfer for which Plaintiff has no answer. But a quick review of the inmates at Hill Correctional Center that have cases currently open in this district, reveals that at least one inmate who is detained at Hill, Ricky Patterson, still has 37 years remaining on his sentence. The final rationale for transferring Mr. Turley, good ...

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