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Lewis v. Oubre

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

August 15, 2014

PHILLIP MORRIS LEWIS, Petitioner,
v.
SHEILA OUBRE, Respondent.

ORDER & OPINION

JULIE E. CARNES, District Judge.

This case is before the Court on petitioner Phillip Morris Lewis's Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment and to Stay or Hold Proceedings in Abeyance [63] ("Motion to Amend"). The Court has considered the record and the arguments of the parties and, for the following reasons, concludes that petitioner's Motion to Amend [63] should be DENIED.

BACKGROUND

In February of 2003 a Murray County jury convicted petitioner of rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated assault, criminal trespass, two counts of felony obstruction of a law enforcement officer, and possession of marijuana. See Lewis v. State, 271 Ga.App. 744, 744-45 (2005). The Murray County Superior Court sentenced petitioner to concurrent sentences totaling twenty years, which it modified to two concurrent life sentences without parole upon motion by the State. (Order [61] at 4.) Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Georgia Court of Appeals, which affirmed, but did not seek further review from either the Supreme Court of Georgia or the Supreme Court of the United States. ( Id. at 4-5); Lewis, 271 Ga.App. at 745.

Then, on June 6, 2005, petitioner filed a habeas corpus petition in the Gwinnett County Superior Court (his "state habeas petition"), claiming ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, and actual innocence and contesting his conviction and the sentence imposed. ( See Notice [7] at Ex. 1, Pt. 1, at 5-9, 17-26.) The Gwinnett County Superior Court denied petitioner's claims, mostly. ( Id. at 28-45.) One section of the court's order found that the revised sentence imposed by the Murray County Superior Court contained a clerical error. While the Murray County court re-sentenced petitioner under O.C.G.A. § 17-10-7, the memorialization of that action stated that petitioner's life sentence for aggravated sodomy was imposed pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 17-10-16.1. ( Id. at 41-43; compare Notice [7] at Ex. 1, Pt. 12, at 32-43 with Notice [7] at Ex. 1, Pt. 4, at 8.) This, the court found, required remand "for the limited purpose of correcting the aforementioned clerical errors in [p]etitioner's sentence." (Notice [7] at Ex. 1, Pt. 1, at 43.) The Gwinnett County court issued its order on April 19, 2006, and the Murray County court entered a "final disposition" correcting the clerical error in petitioner's sentence on June 28, 2006. ( Id. at 45; Mot. to Expand the R. [27] at Final Disposition of Sup. Ct.)

Two months before the Murray County Superior Court took its corrective action, however, petitioner applied to the Supreme Court of Georgia for a Certificate of Probable Cause to appeal the Gwinnett County Superior Court's Order on the grounds that the underlying verdict was contrary to law and evidence and that he was incompetent to stand trial. (Notice [7] at Ex. 1, Pt. 2, at 51-52.) In conjunction with his application for a Certificate of Probable Cause, petitioner also filed a Notice of Appeal with the Gwinnett County Superior Court on May 19, 2006, and an Amended Notice of Appeal on May 31, 2006. (Mot. to Expand the R. [27] at App. A, R. of State Habeas Proceedings, at 5-10.)

The Supreme Court of Georgia denied petitioner's application for a Certificate of Probable Cause on November 6, 2006. ( Id. at 19.) Thereafter, petitioner filed his federal habeas corpus petition in this Court on October 23, 2007. (Pet. [1].) After thorough and thoughtful consideration, the Court determined that petition to be untimely, granting the State's motion to dismiss it. (Order [61].) In response, petitioner filed his Motion to Amend [63] on October 1, 2012, which is now before the Court.

DISCUSSION

I. PETITIONER'S MOTION TO AMEND

Petitioner requests that this Court "alter and amend its judgment of October 1, 2012, which dismissed his Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus based upon its Order of September 30, 2012, on the ground that he did not file it within the AEDPA's one-year limitations period." (Mot. to Amend [63] at 1.) In support of his motion, petitioner claims that the Murray County Superior Court lacked "jurisdiction or authority over his case at the time it ordered his production in court and re-sentenced him." ( Id. at 3.) This is so, petitioner alleges, because his application for a Certificate of Probable Cause to appeal the denial of his state habeas petition was pending before the Supreme Court of Georgia at the time, acting as a supersedeas in all related matters. ( Id. at 5-6.) Since Murray County Superior Court did not have jurisdiction to re-sentence petitioner, "the implication of [its] action is that [petitioner] has no valid sentence", and, consequently, the "statute of limitations [for his federal habeas petition] has not yet begun to run." ( Id. at 6.)

II. FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 59

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 permits "a district court to correct its own errors, sparing the parties and the appellate courts the burden of unnecessary appellate proceedings.'" In re Diplomat Cost., Inc., Bankr. No. 09-68613-MGD, 2013 WL 5999713, *1 (Bankr. N.D.Ga. Oct. 24, 2013)(Diehl, Bankr. J.)(quoting Russell v. Delco Remy Div. of Gen. Motors Corp., 51 F.3d 746, 749 (7th Cir. 1995)); FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e) (2014).

Federal Rule 59 itself does not provide a standard by which a court should evaluate motions to alter or amend a judgment, but it is "generally recognized" that there are three grounds for doing so: "(1) to accommodate an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent a manifest injustice.'" In re Diplomat Cost., Inc., 2013 WL 5999713, at *1 (quoting Pac. Life Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat'l Fire Ins. Co., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998)); see also United States v. Battle, 272 F.Supp.2d 1354, 1357 (N.D.Ga. 2003)(Evans, C.J.). Put another way, "the only grounds for granting a Rule 59 motion are ...


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