United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
OPINION AND ORDER
CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE, Senior United States District Judge
matter is before the court on Petitioner Darrell
Williams' Motion to Amend Judgment pursuant to Rule
59(e). ECF No. 63. The challenged judgment, entered November
14, 2017, adopted the Report and Recommendation of the
Magistrate Judge and granted summary judgment to Respondent.
ECF No. 60 (Order), 61 (Judgment). Petitioner has also filed
a motion for extension of time to file an appeal. ECF No. 64.
Respondent filed responses in opposition to both. ECF Nos.
65, 66. Petitioner filed a reply. ECF No. 68.
threshold issue present in this case is one of timeliness.
Under Rule 59(e), a party moving to alter or amend the
judgment must file the motion within 28 days of the entry of
judgment. In this case, the judgment was entered November 14,
2017 (see ECF No. 61), but Petitioner's motion was not
received by this court until February 8, 2018. Although
Petitioner's Rule 59(e) motion does not address this
timeliness issue, his motion to extend time to appeal notes
his motion to alter/amend was mistakenly (but timely) sent to
the Charleston County Probate Court instead of the Federal
District Court. See ECF No. 64. An exhibit attached to the
motion for extension shows Petitioner mailed a document to
“United States District Court Charleston Division, 84
Broad Street, Charleston, S.C., 29401” on November 22,
2017. ECF No. 64-1. This piece of mail was returned to him
from the Probate Court, which does sit at 84 Broad Street in
Charleston, on January 24, 2018. Id. He then mailed
his motions to this court on February 6, 2018. ECF No. 64-2.
of the reason for the late filing, the district court does
not have the power to enlarge the time period for filing a
Rule 59(e) motion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(2) (“A court must
not extend the time to act under Rules 50(b) and (d), 52(b),
59(b), (d), and (e), 60(b).”); Panhorst v. United
States, 241 F.3d 367, 370 (4th Cir. 2001). Therefore,
the court is unable to accept Petitioner's filing as a
timely Rule 59(e) motion. However, because Petitioner filed
his motion within a year of the entry of the summary judgment
order, this court will construe Petitioner's motion as
one for reconsideration under Rule 60(b). See United
States v. Winestock, 340 F.3d 200, 203 (4th Cir. 2003)
(treating motion to reconsider filed after the deadline for
Rule 59(e) motions as a Rule 60(b) motion); Moody v.
Maynard, 105 F. App'x 458, 462 (4th Cir. 2004)
(unpublished) (treating untimely Rule 59(e) motion as
“more properly viewed as one for relief from a judgment
under Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
which may be filed within a year from the entry of the order
sought to be appealed.”).
Merits of Petitioner's Motion (ECF No. 63)
motion argues two main points: (1) the court erred in ruling
the state trial court appropriately followed Old Chief v.
United States, 519 U.S. 172 (1997) because “the
state submitted indictments which set out facts of prior
convictions, ” and (2) ground four is not procedurally
defaulted because “Petitioner has challenged his
sentence at hearing.” ECF No. 63. Respondent argues
Petitioner's motion is untimely, and fails on the merits as
Petitioner only advances two arguments already made in his
objections, and mere disagreement with the ruling is not
grounds for a Rule 59(e) motion. ECF No. 65.
Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) allows for relief from a final
judgment for certain reasons: mistake, inadvertence,
surprise, or excusable neglect; newly discovered evidence;
fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party;
void judgment; a judgment based on an earlier judgment
reversed or vacated, or one no longer equitable; or
“any other reason that justifies relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1)-(6). “A motion under Rule 60(b)
must be timely brought, and the movant assumes the burden of
showing a meritorious defense against the claim on which
judgment was entered as a threshold condition to any relief
whatsoever under the Rule.” McLawhorn v. John W.
Daniel & Co., 924 F.2d 535, 538 (4th Cir. 1991)
(internal citation omitted). “The remedy provided by
the Rule [60(b)], however, is extraordinary and is only to be
invoked upon a showing of exceptional circumstances.”
Compton v. Alton S.S. Co., 608 F.2d 96, 102 (4th
argues Old Chief was not properly applied because the
indictments submitted contained facts of his prior
convictions. However, as noted in the court's order
granting summary judgment, the trial court gave a limiting
instruction that the jury must decide guilt as to the charged
burglary before considering whether the prior convictions
warranted a conviction for first degree burglary, and that
the jury could not use the prior convictions for any other
purpose than determining whether the state met the element of
the first degree burglary statute requiring prior
convictions. See ECF No. 60 at 6. Further, the trial court
allowed a stipulation from the parties regarding
Petitioner's previous burglary convictions. Id.
at 8-9 (citing ECF No. 22-2 at 34 (“[W]e chose to do
the burglary first because he stipulated to it . . .He
admitted that he had two prior burglaries by virtue of
stipulation.”)). Although Petitioner may disagree with
this conclusion, the “exceptional circumstances”
to apply Rule 60(b) are not met.
also renews his “ground four” argument regarding
Lance v. State, 303 S.E.2d 100 (S.C. 1983) and
attaches his state court PCR documents, ostensibly to argue
he did raise this issue in state court and therefore it is
not procedurally defaulted. Petitioner seems to be arguing
South Carolina Code § 17-27-20(a), the Post-Conviction
Procedure Act, allows him to challenge his sentence, and
Lance confirms his sentence can be contested under this
statute. However, this South Carolina statute does not govern
federal habeas corpus petitions such as this one, and its
procedures are not mandated in this action. The court
previously found this ground procedurally defaulted because
while Petitioner did raise this issue during his PCR
proceeding, he did not raise it at trial and therefore it was
not preserved for appellate review. See ECF No. 60 at 9.
There are simply no grounds for overturning this court's
rulings in the summary judgment order. Petitioner's
motion is denied. The court notes it would reach the same
result under the standard governing motions pursuant to Rule
Extension of time to file appeal (ECF No. 64)
has requested this court extend his time to appeal the final
judgment. ECF No. 64. Respondent opposes such an extension,
noting an extension must be requested within 30 days
“after the time prescribed by this Rule 4(a)
expires” and the party requesting the extension must
show excusable neglect and good cause. ECF No. 66.
Petitioner's Rule 59(e) motion was untimely, and thus
converted to a Rule 60(b) motion, Petitioner is unable to
take advantage of Rule 4(a)(4)(A)'s time frame to file an
appeal. Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(4)(A) (“If a party files
in the district court any of the following motions nder the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure - and does so within the
time allowed by those rules - the time to file an appeal runs
for all parties from the entry of the order disposing of the
last such remaining motion . . . (iv) to alter or amend the
judgment under Rule 59; . . . (vi) for relief under Rule 60
if the motion is filed no later than 28 days after the
judgment is entered.”). Petitioner's motion fits
neither (iv) or (vi) due to the untimeliness of its filing.
However, Petitioner has also filed a motion for extension of
time to file an appeal. Under Fed. R. App. P 4(a)(5), the
district court may extend the time to file a notice of appeal
“regardless of whether [Petitioner's] motion is
filed before or during the 30 days after the time prescribed
by this Rule 4(a) expires, [if] that party shows excusable
neglect or a good cause.” The extension may not exceed
30 days after the prescribed time or 14 days after the order
granting the motion is entered, whichever is later. Fed. R.
App. P. 4(a)(5)(C).
case, Petitioner has shown excusable neglect: he addressed
the envelope in which was sending his Rule 59(e) motion
incorrectly, by one number. If the address had been correct,
his Rule 59(e) motion would have been timely filed, thereby
extending the time for filing a notice of appeal. As soon as
Petitioner was aware of his mistake, by the return of his
original filing, he mailed the Rule 59(e) motion and the
motion for extension of time to appeal to the correct
address. The court finds this is excusable neglect as
Petitioner made a good faith effort to file ...