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Nelson v. South Carolina Department of Social Services

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

April 8, 2016

Yvonne Nelson, Plaintiff,
South Carolina Department of Social Services, Horry County Department of Social Services, and the Social Security Administration, Defendants.


R. Bryan Harwell United States District Judge

This matter is before the Court for resolution of two filings submitted by Plaintiff. See ECF Nos. 52 & 53.

Procedural Background

I. Prior Filings and Orders

On May 28, 2015, Plaintiff Yvonne Nelson, proceeding pro se, filed a complaint against the three above-captioned Defendants.[1] ECF No. 15. On June 30, 2015, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation recommending that the Court summarily dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint without prejudice and without issuance of service of process. ECF No. 33. On July 28, 2015, the Court issued an order adopting the Report and Recommendation, summarily dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint, and, in effect, closing the case; the Clerk entered judgment the same day. ECF Nos. 37 & 38. On August 13, 2015, and September 3, 2015, the Court issued docket text orders denying Plaintiff’s motions for reconsideration.[2] ECF Nos. 44 & 50.

II. Filings Relevant to This Order

On September 11, 2015, Plaintiff filed a letter requesting that the Court reopen the case for consideration of “new evidence”. ECF No. 52. In her letter, Plaintiff also appeared to request reconsideration of the Court’s prior order dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint.[3] Id.

On September 23, 2015, Plaintiff filed a “motion for a restraining order against the 51 states.” ECF No. 53.

On February 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal. ECF No. 55.


I. September 11, 2015 Letter

“In cases where a party submits a motion such as [Plaintiff]’s, which is unnamed and does not refer to a specific Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, the courts have considered that motion either a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend a judgment, or a Rule 60(b) motion for relief from a judgment or order.” In re Burnley, 988 F.2d 1, 2 (4th Cir. 1992) (involving a litigious prisoner who frequently filed civil rights lawsuits). “In this case the question of which rule applies is quickly resolved-[Plaintiff] failed to file the motion within [twenty-eight] days of entry of judgment, therefore Rule 59(e) is inapplicable.”[5] Id. at 3 (construing an untimely Rule 59(e) motion as a Rule 60(b) motion). Accordingly, the Court analyzes Plaintiff’s September 11, 2015 letter under Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[6]

Rule 60(b) provides for an extraordinary remedy that should not be awarded except under exceptional circumstances. Mayfield v. Nat’l Ass’n for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc., 674 F.3d 369, 378 (4th Cir. 2012). Rule 60(b) allows a court to “relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding” for six reasons: (1) “mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect”; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) fraud; (4) a void judgment; (5) a satisfied, released, or discharged judgment; or (6) “any other reason that justifies relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). “A motion under Rule 60(b) must be made within a reasonable time-and for reasons (1), (2), and (3) no more than a year after the entry of the judgment or order or the date of the proceeding.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(c)(1). Before establishing that one of the six subparts is applicable, a party moving for relief under Rule 60(b) “must make a showing of timeliness, a meritorious defense, a lack of unfair prejudice to the opposing party, and exceptional circumstances.” Werner v. Carbo, 731 F.2d 204, 206-07 (4th Cir. 1984). Although “for . . . any other reason that justifies relief” is a catch-all provision, a motion under Rule 60(b)(6) may not be granted absent extraordinary circumstances. Reid v. Angelone, 369 F.3d 363, 370 (4th Cir. 2004); Dowell v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Auto. Ins. Co., 993 F.2d 46, 48 (4th Cir. 1993). “‘Relief under 60(b)(6) is warranted only upon a showing of extraordinary circumstances that create a substantial danger that the underlying judgment was unjust.’” Wojcicki v. Aiken Technical Coll., No. 1:06-CV-00461-MBS, 2012 WL 3596161, at *2 (D.S.C. Aug. 21, 2012) (quoting Margoles v. Johns, 798 F.2d 1069, 1073 (7th Cir. 1986)), aff’d, 501 F. App’x 286 (4th Cir. 2012).

Having considered Plaintiff’s September 11, 2015 letter, the Court finds relief is not warranted under Rule 60(b). Plaintiff has not made a sufficient showing of timeliness, of a meritorious defense, or a lack of unfair prejudice to Defendants, nor has she demonstrated the type of “exceptional circumstances” contemplated by Rule 60(b). See Mayfield, 674 F.3d at 378. ...

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