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Addahoumi v. Pastides

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

May 8, 2018

Sammi H. Addahoumi, Plaintiff,
v.
Harris Pastides, Dennis Pruitt, Bobby Gist, Alisa Liggett, Maureen Grewe, Augusta Schneider, Timothy Bedford, Leslie G. Wiser, Jr., Josef Olmert, Scott Prill, Carl R. Wells, Officer J. Newton, Richard L. Frierson, and the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE Senior United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration pursuant to Rules[1] 59(e) and 60.[2] ECF No. 86. Plaintiff also filed a motion for leave to file Third Amended Complaint. ECF No. 85. The challenged judgment, entered January 30, 2018, granted Defendants' motions to dismiss for failure to comply with Rules 8(a) and 10(b) and dismissed Plaintiff's case with prejudice. ECF Nos. 80 (Order), 81 (Judgment). Defendants filed a response in opposition to Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration, and a motion to stay the motion for leave to amend pending the outcome of the motion for reconsideration. ECF Nos. 87, 88. Plaintiff filed a “consolidated reply” in support of his reconsideration motion and in opposition to Defendants' motion to stay. ECF No. 97. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration is denied. His motion for leave to file Third Amended Complaint, therefore, is moot, as is Defendants' motion to stay.

         1. Background

         Plaintiff, a former student at the University of South Carolina, initiated this action on May 15, 2016, after he was suspended from the University. The original Complaint named Harris Pastides, Dennis Pruitt, Bobby Gist, Alisa Ligget, Maureen Grewe, Augusta Schneider, Timothy Bedford, Leslie G. Wiser, Jr., Josef Olmert, Jane Doe, Carl R. Wells, and Officer Newton as Defendants. ECF No. 1. This Complaint was 59 pages, contained 152 paragraphs and ten causes of action, and was submitted by Plaintiff's first attorney. Id. Defendants filed motions to dismiss (ECF Nos. 6, 10) after which the Magistrate Judge granted Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint (ECF Nos. 16, 30). Plaintiff, through counsel, stated he wished to “condense and clarify the allegations in his complaint to make them more short and plain. . . .” ECF No. 16. The parties indicated they were actively engaged in settlement negotiations, so the deadline to file the Amended Complaint was set for June 19, 2017. Settlement negotiations apparently broke down, as the Amended Complaint was filed June 19. It was significantly longer than the original Complaint, at 235 pages and 869 paragraphs, and included nearly 100 pages of attachments. ECF No. 41. It also added Richard L. Frierson and the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees as Defendants. Id. Although Plaintiff's second attorney filed the Amended Complaint, it was apparently drafted by Plaintiff, [3] and that attorney withdrew as counsel shortly after the filing. Defendants filed motions to dismiss (ECF Nos. 43, 44), and the Magistrate Judge filed a Report recommending Plaintiff be allowed to file a second and final amended complaint “that comports with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).” ECF No. 52. The Magistrate Judge warned Plaintiff that failure to file a proper amended complaint would result in his case being dismissed with prejudice. Id. at 6. Before this court ruled on that Report, Plaintiff filed his 44 page Second Amended Complaint, with 138 paragraphs of factual allegations, eight counts, and 149 pages of attachments. ECF No. 54.

         Defendants again filed motions to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. ECF Nos. 56, 57. Due to Plaintiff's pro se status, the Magistrate Judge entered orders pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising him of the importance of the motions and the need to file an adequate response. ECF Nos. 59, 61. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition.[4] ECF No. 65. Defendants filed a reply. ECF No. 66. On November 9, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report recommending Defendants' motions to dismiss be granted and Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment be denied as moot. ECF No. 74. The Magistrate Judge advised the parties of the procedures and requirements for filing objections to the Report and the serious consequences if they failed to do so. On December 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed over 200 pages of objections to the Report. ECF No. 77. Defendants filed a reply on December 15, 2017. ECF No. 78. On January 30, 2018, this court entered an Order adopting the Report, granting Defendants' motions to dismiss, and dismissing Plaintiff's case with prejudice. ECF No. 80.

         Plaintiff now seeks reconsideration of that Order.[5] ECF No. 86. Defendants filed a response in opposition to Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration, arguing Plaintiff has raised no grounds to grant reconsideration under the standard applied by the Fourth Circuit. ECF No. 87. They also note “Plaintiff made no real effort to cure any deficiencies when he filed the Second Amended Complaint.” Id. at 4. They agree “this action was appropriately dismissed with prejudice.” Id. Plaintiff then filed his reply, rehashing and in many places resubmitting word-for-word arguments from his motion for reconsideration. ECF No. 97.

         2. Standard

         The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has interpreted Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to allow the court to alter or amend an earlier judgment: “(1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.” Becker v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 305 F.3d 284, 290 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Pac. Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat'l Fire Ins. Co., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998)). “Rule 59(e) motions may not be used, however, to raise arguments which could have been raised prior to the issuance of judgment, nor may they be used to argue a case under a novel theory that the party had the ability to address in the first instance.” Pac. Ins. Co., 148 F.3d at 403. Relief under Rule 59(e) is “an extraordinary remedy which should be used sparingly.” Id. (internal marks omitted). “Mere disagreement does not support a Rule 59(e) motion.” Becker, 305 F.3d at 290 (quoting Hutchinson v. Stanton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1082 (4th Cir. 1993)).[6]

         Rule 60(b) sets out grounds for relief from final judgment, including mistake or excusable neglect, newly discovered evidence, fraud or misrepresentation, void judgment, satisfied judgment, or “any other reason that justifies relief.” “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 Cir. 1979). “To obtain relief under the Rule, a party must demonstrate inter alia that he was not at fault and that the nonmoving party will not be prejudiced by the relief from judgment.” Home Port Rentals, Inc. v. Ruben, 957 F.2d 126, 132 (4th Cir. 1992).

         3. Discussion

         Plaintiff requests relief under either Rule 59(e) or Rule 60, asking that the court reconsider its Order of dismissal, change the dismissal from with prejudice to without, and grant his latest motion for leave to amend the complaint. ECF No. 86. He notes his proposed Third Amended Complaint “provides a dozen pages of new details about the Defendant entities.” Id. at 2. Plaintiff then makes several arguments in support of his request for reconsideration. For clarification, the court will label the sections to correspond to Plaintiff's characterizations of the arguments in his motion.

         a. Grounds for Reconsideration Based on Exceptions to Particular Statements, Findings, and Conclusions in the Order

          In this section, Plaintiff argues his claims were not dismissed for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and that the court should have converted Defendants' motions to dismiss into ones for summary judgment.[7] Id. at 3-9. He argues his Complaint should not have been dismissed based on affirmative defenses at the pleadings stage. Id. at 9. Plaintiff further contends the Report was “a writing that is not an exhibit to Plaintiff's Complaint and therefore cannot be considered part of the pleadings.” Id.

         Plaintiff's motion demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding regarding the dismissal of his claims. He is correct the court did not dismiss the claims under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, but does not appear to understand his Complaint was instead dismissed for failure to comply with Rules 8(a) and 10(b) requiring a “short and plain statement” of his claims and because “it was impossible to determine which factual allegations applied to which cause of action against which Defendant(s).” See ECF No. 80 at 5. Plaintiff's Complaints were so unclear as to violate these rules, and his filings (objections to the Report and this motion) serve only to further muddy the waters. As his Complaint was not dismissed based on Rule 12(b)(6), this argument for reconsideration provides no rationale for allowing Plaintiff's case to go forward. The court could not have converted Defendants' motions to ones for summary judgment because the motions addressed the form ...


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