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Miller v. Davis

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland

October 22, 2017

APRIL MILLER, et al. PLAINTIFFS
v.
KIM DAVIS, individually and in her official capacity, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          David L. Banning United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court upon Third-Party Defendants Governor Matthew G. Bevin and Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives Terry Manuel's Motion to Amend. (Doc. # 208). Specifically, the Third-Party Defendants ask the Court to amend its July 21, 2017 Memorandum Opinion and Order (Doc. # 206)- which ordered the Commonwealth of Kentucky to pay Plaintiffs' attorneys' fees and costs-and instead, assess the award against Defendant Kim Davis in her official capacity and the entity she represents, the Office of the Rowan County Clerk.

         Plaintiffs April Miller, Karen Roberts, Shantel Burke, Stephen Napier, Jody Fernandez, Kevin Holloway, Aaron Skaggs, and Barry Spartman (collectively “Plaintiffs”), Defendant Rowan County, Kentucky, and Defendant Kim Davis each having filed their Responses in opposition to the Motion (Docs. # 213, 214, and 217), and Third-Party Defendants having filed their Reply (Doc. # 220), the matter is ripe for the Court's review.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On July 21, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs, which brought this § 1983 litigation to a close.[1] (Doc. # 206). In that Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court answered three questions. First, did Plaintiffs “prevail” within the meaning of § 1988? Second, who pays? And third, how much? The answers were: yes, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and, $224, 703.08, respectively. In the instant Motion, Governor Bevin and Commissioner Manuel challenge the answer to the second question: that Defendant Kim Davis, in her official capacity as Rowan County Clerk, represented the Commonwealth of Kentucky with respect to issuing-or refusing to issue-marriage licenses and therefore, the Commonwealth was liable for Plaintiffs' attorneys' fees and costs. For the reasons stated herein, Third-Party Defendants' Motion to Amend (Doc. # 208) is denied.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         Third-Party Defendants styled their Motion as one pursuant to Rule 59(e); however, “by its own terms, ” Rule 59(e) “applies only to judgments.” Dierig v. Lees Leisure Indus., Ltd., No. 2:11-cv-125-DLB, 2012 WL 669968, *2 (E.D. Ky. Feb. 28, 2012). Rule 60, by contrast, applies to both judgments and final orders. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60. Because Rule 60 provides the appropriate means for considering the relief requested, the Court will review Third-Party Defendants' Motion to Amend under Rule 60.

         Rule 60(b) allows the Court to grant relief from a final judgment or order due to: (1) mistake; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) fraud; (4) a void judgment; (5) a satisfied judgment; or (6) any other reason that justifies relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). Although courts have considerable discretion in granting relief from a final judgment or order pursuant to Rule 60(b), that power is “circumscribed by public policy favoring finality of judgments and termination of litigation.” Blue Diamond Coal Co. v. Trustees of UMWA Combined Benefit Fund, 249 F.3d 519, 524 (6th Cir. 2001). Therefore, “relief under Rule 60(b) is … extraordinary.” Zucker v. City of Farmington Hills, 643 F. App'x 555, 562 (6th Cir. 2016).

         Here, Third-Party Defendants do not predicate their motion on grounds of newly discovered evidence, fraud, or a void or satisfied judgment. Instead, they claim that the Court's July 21, 2017 Memorandum Opinion and Order constitutes a clear error of law and is manifestly unjust.[2] (Doc. # 208-1 at 4).

         B. Relief under Rule 60(b) is not warranted.

         As a threshold matter, the Court notes that a Rule 60(b) motion is not the proper vehicle to raise arguments that should have been raised before. “Rule 60(b) does not allow a defeated litigant a second chance to convince the court to rule in his or her favor by presenting new explanations, legal theories, or proof.” Tyler v. Anderson, 749 F.3d 499, 509 (6th Cir. 2014). Nor does Rule 60(b) “provide relief from the consequences of a deliberate choice, even if subsequent events reveal the choice to have been unwise.” Park W. Galleries, Inc. v. Hochman, 692 F.3d 539, 545 (6th Cir. 2012). The Third-Party Defendants not only failed to raise these specific arguments in response to Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs, but elected not to participate in the briefing of Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs at all. (Doc. # 206 at 24).

         Third-Party Defendants' claims that they had been “dismissed” from this action and that “no relief was sought against them in the Petition for Attorneys' Fees” are belied by the record.[3] (Doc. # 220 at 3). Third-Party Defendants were not dismissed from this action by way of a dispositive motion. Rather, the entire case was dismissed and stricken from the Court's active docket. (Doc. # 182). Upon the filing of Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (Doc. # 183), the case was revived for that limited purpose (Doc. # 184), and briefing commenced. Third-Party Defendants were no less a party than Plaintiffs, Defendant Kim Davis, or Defendant Rowan County.

         Because of that lack of participation, Defendant Rowan County argues that Third-Party Defendants' Motion to Amend is procedurally improper and should be denied because they had the opportunity to raise their arguments earlier and failed to do so. (Doc. # 214 at 1-2). The Court agrees that Third-Party Defendants could have-and should have-raised these arguments earlier. However, because the purpose of Rule 60(b) is to provide courts an opportunity to “reconsider its judgment when that judgment rests on a defective foundation, ” the Court will exercise an abundance of caution and consider Third-Party Defendants' arguments. In re Abdur'Rahman, 392 F.3d 174, 179 (6th Cir. 2004), vacated on other grounds, 545 U.S. 1151 (2005); see also Charter Twp. of Muskegon v. City of Muskegon, 303 F.3d 755, 760 (6th Cir. 2002) (“The general purpose of Rule 60(b) … is to strike a proper balance between the conflicting principles that litigation must be brought to an end and that justice must be done.”).

         1. No legal error was committed.

         Under Rule 60(b)(1), a court can vacate a final judgment or order because of “mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.” The Sixth Circuit has explained that “a Rule 60(b)(1) motion is intended to provide relief in only two situations: (1) when a party has made an excusable mistake or an attorney has acted without authority, or (2) when the judge has made a substantive mistake of law or fact in the final judgment or order.” United States v. Reyes, 307 F.3d 451, 455 (6th Cir. 2002) (citing Cacevic v. City of Hazel Park, 226 F.3d 483, 490 (6th Cir. 2000)); see also Pierce v. UMWA Welfare & Ret. Fund ...


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