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Melton v. Litteral

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

October 22, 2018



          Greg N. Stivers, United States District Court.

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration (DN 26). For the foregoing reasons, the motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 26, 2005, Billy Keith Melton (“Petitioner”) was convicted in Monroe Circuit Court of murder, two counts of first degree rape, one count of intimidating a witness, and one count of being a persistent felony offender in the second degree. (Resp't's Answer App. PageID # 429-32, DN 11-2). Melton was sentenced to life imprisonment-a conviction which was upheld by the Kentucky Supreme Court. Melton v. Commonwealth, No. 2006-SC-000080-MR, 2007 WL 4139640 (Ky. Nov. 21, 2007). That conviction was upheld again in 2011 by the Kentucky Court of Appeals after Melton initiated a collateral attack against his sentence pursuant to Kentucky Rule of Criminal Procedure (“RCr”) 11.42. Melton v. Commonwealth, No. 2009-CA-002271-MR, 2011 2078590 (Ky. App. May 27, 2011).

         On July 10, 2017-over ten years following his appearance before the Kentucky Supreme Court, and nearly eight years after his initial collateral attack to the sentence-Melton, pro se, submitted a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (DN 1). This matter was referred to the United States Magistrate Judge for Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation (“R&R”) (DN 14).

         In the R&R, Judge Brennenstuhl recommended that the petition be denied as untimely pursuant to the one-year statute of limitations contained within 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1) because Petitioner filed his petition over eight years late. (R&R 2). Judge Brennenstuhl also considered whether equitable tolling should apply because of Petitioner's limited cognitive capabilities. (R&R 4). He considered the contents of a report assessing Melton's abilities prepared by John M. Gatschenberger, Ph.D. and concluded that the contents of that report neither indicated Melton was incapable of contemplating filing deadlines, nor demonstrated a causal link between his abilities and the late filing. (R&R 3-4). Judge Brennenstuhl then concluded that equitable tolling was improper and that a Certificate of Appealability should not be issued. (R&R 5-6).

         Subsequently, after Petitioner submitted a motion to have James Harrison (“Harrison”) act as his next friend in this matter, Respondent Kathy Litteral (“Respondent”) moved to strike Harrison's the filing as unauthorized. (Pet'r's Mot. Allow Next Friend, DN 16; Resp't's Mot. Strike, DN 19). This Court adopted the findings and conclusions of the R&R, denied Petitioner's motion to have Harrison act as next friend, and granted Respondent's motion to strike Harrison's pleadings. (Order, DN 23). This Court reasoned that Harrison failed to satisfy his burden to obtain “next friend” status based on the contents of Dr. Gatschenberger's report and Petitioner's prior assertions of his mental competence. (Order 2).

         Now, Petitioner has moved for reconsideration of the Court's order adopting the R&R. (Pet'r's Mot. Reconsider, DN 26). The Court has construed that motion to challenge the Court's adoption of Judge Brennenstuhl's R&R concerning equitable tolling, as well as its decision to deny Harrison next friend status.


         This Court has jurisdiction to “entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court” under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).


         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly provide for motions for reconsideration, but they do permit litigants subject to an adverse judgment to file a motion to alter or amend the judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), or to file a motion seeking relief from the judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b). Harvey v. United States, No. 1:11-CR-24-TBR, 2017 WL 89492, at *1 (W.D. Ky. Jan. 9, 2017). Neither rule permits a party to reargue a case. Ayers v. Anderson, No. 3:16-CV-00572-CRS, 2018 WL 3244410, at *2 (W.D. Ky. July 3, 2018) (citing Whitehead v. Bowen, 301 Fed.Appx. 484, 489 (6th Cir. 2008)). Nor does either rule “allow a defeated litigant a second chance to present new explanations, legal theories, or proof.” Id. (quoting Tyler v. Anderson, 749 F.3d 499, 509 (6th Cir. 2014)). For both Rule 59(e) and Rule 60(b), the burden of showing entitlement to relief is on the moving party. See id. at *1 (citation omitted).

         Rule 59(e) motions give district courts an opportunity to fix their own errors, “sparing the parties and appellate courts the burden of unnecessary appellate proceedings.” Howard v. United States, 533 F.3d 472, 475 (6th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). Granting a Rule 59(e) motion is appropriate when there is: “(1) a clear error of law; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) an intervening change in controlling law; or (4) a need to prevent manifest injustice.” Schlaud v. Snyder, 785 F.3d 1119, 1124 (6th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). Rule 59(e) motions are “extraordinary and sparingly granted.” Marshall v. Johnson, No. 3:07-CV-171-H, 2007 WL 1175046, *2 (W.D. Ky. Apr. 19, 2007) (citation omitted).

         Rule 60(b), on the other hand, grants power to courts to “reopen cases well after final judgment has been entered.” Howard, 533 F.3d at 475 (citation omitted). This rule provides that a court “may relieve a party or its legal representative from final judgment, order, or proceeding” for numerous reasons. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). Because Petitioner did not style his motion for Rule 60(b) relief, the Court must determine which of the grounds enumerated for relief might apply here. In the Court's view, Petitioner's claims potentially fall within two of the categories of relief enumerated in ...

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