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Neville v. McCaghren

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division

January 3, 2019

ROBERT NEVILLE, Plaintiff,
v.
ELIZABETH C. MCCAGHREN, Defendant.

          ORDER

          J. RANDAL HALL JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are twelve post judgment motions from Plaintiff and Defendant's motion for sanctions. The Court will address each motion in this Order.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff and Defendant are half-siblings and the children of Jessica Neville, who died in a house fire in 2008. (Compl., Doc. 1, at 2.) Plaintiff alleged that his sister engaged in fraud in administering their mother's estate, both before and after her death. (Id. at 3.) He specifically alleged that Defendant effected a "straw sale" of the estate's interest in real property located in Bulloch County, Georgia (the "Bulloch Property"). (Id.)

         This is the third time Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court making the same allegations. (See Neville v. McCaghren, No. 6:13-CV-050 (S.D. Ga. dismissed Nov. 20, 2013) ("2013 Action"), Doc. 1; Neville v. McCaghren, No. 6:15-CV-028 (S.D. Ga. dismissed May 20, 2016) ("2015 Action"), Doc. 1.) Each action was dismissed for Plaintiff's failure to comply with procedural or jurisdictional requirements. In the 2015 Action, the Court sua sponte imposed sanctions on Plaintiff for continuing to file frivolous motions after judgement, thereby restricting his ability to file cases in this District. (2015 Action, Doc. 52, at 8-10.) Accordingly, when Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint and motion to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP"), it was preliminarily screened for arguable merit before a new case file was opened. (See Neville v. McCaghren, No. 6:17-MC-001 (S.D. Ga. filed May 8, 2017), Docs. 1, 2, 3.) The United States Magistrate Judge concluded that Plaintiff had cured the subject matter jurisdiction issues that eventually led to the dismissal of the 2015 Action. (Order of Aug. 23, 2017, Doc. 7, at 2.) On May 1, 2018, the Court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction after finding that Plaintiff failed to show Defendant had minimum contacts with Georgia. (Order of May 1, 2018, Doc. 35, at 14.) Now, Plaintiff has continued his practice of filing numerous motions after dismissal of his claims.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Since October 23rd, Plaintiff has filed twelve motions in this case. (Docs. 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 53, 54, 60, 64, 65, 70, 73.) Each motion stems either from Plaintiff's disagreements with the Court's decision to dismiss Defendant or his quarrels with defense counsel. Because Plaintiff continues to file motion after motion after this case was closed, Defendant moves for sanctions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. (Doc. 63.) The Court will address each motion in turn.

         A. Plaintiff's Motions for Reconsideration

         Plaintiff made six filings challenging the Court's May 1st Order finding it had no personal jurisdiction over Defendant. (Docs. 40, 41, 42, 49, 50, 51.) Plaintiff's first three filings are letters submitted within three weeks of the Court's May 1st Order. (Docs. 40, 41, 42.) Five months later Plaintiff made a motion to vacate the Court's judgment and two motions for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). (Docs. 49, 50, 51.)

         Motions for reconsideration can be made pursuant to Rule 59 or 60, Shaarbay v. State of Fla., 269 F. App'x 866, 867 (11th Cir. 2008), and therefore the court must determine the Rule under which to consider Plaintiff's motions. See, e.g., Brown v. Spells, 2011 WL 4543905 (M.D. Ga. Sept. 30, 2011) (resolving whether a motion for reconsideration should be decided under Rule 59 or 60).

         The Court does not consider Plaintiff's three May letters to be motions.[1] The documents are not styled as motions and Plaintiff even states "[i]f you wish I will make a formal motion to vacate." (May 24, 2018 Letter, Doc. 42, at 2.) Because those letters are not motions, the first properly filed motion to vacate or motion for reconsideration was made on October 23, 2018 - almost five months past the twenty-eight-day deadline imposed for Rule 59(e) motions. Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e). The Court will therefore analyze Plaintiff's motion to vacate and motions for reconsideration under Rule 60(b), which allows motions to be made within a reasonable time.[2] Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(c)(1); see Mahone v Ray, 326 F.3d 1176, 1178 n.l (11th Cir. 2003).

         Rule 60(b) provides that a Court may relieve a party from judgment in a limited number of circumstances including: (1) mistake or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) fraud; (4) if the judgment is void; or, (5) if the judgment has been satisfied. Fed. R. Civ. P. 60 (b) (1) - (5) . The catchall provision of Rule 60(b) authorizes relief from judgment based on "any other reason that justifies relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) (6). Relief under Rule 60(b)(6) is an ''extraordinary remedy which may be invoked only upon a showing of exceptional circumstances." Griffin v. Swim-Tech Corp., 722 F.2d 677, 680 (11th Cir. 1984) (citation omitted).

         Plaintiff first argues that the Court erroneously treated Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction as a motion for directed verdict. Plaintiff further argues that the Court misconstrued the timeline of events and ruled incorrectly that Defendant had legal authority under Jessica Neville's will to transact in the Bulloch Property. In support, Plaintiff submits purported affidavits[3] that repeat many of the legal conclusions of his Complaint, namely that Defendant committed fraud during the Bulloch Property transactions.

         Plaintiff's arguments do not justify relief under Rule 60(b). He points to no new evidence or "any other reason that justifies relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6). Instead, Plaintiff repeats the same allegations he made in his Complaint and numerous prior filings. Simply disagreeing with the Court's ruling is not grounds for relief under Rule 60(b). See Preserve Endangered Areas of Cobb's History, Inc. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'r, 916 F. Supp. 1556, 1560 (N.D. Ga. 1995) ("A motion for reconsideration is not an opportunity for the moving party ... to instruct the court on how the courtAcould have done it better' the first time.").

         Contrary to Plaintiff's contention, the Court did not treat Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction as a motion for directed verdict. A directed verdict is a motion made during a jury trial, pursuant to Rule 50. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 50. Such a motion is unrelated to a pre-answer motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(2).

         Additionally, the Court did not rule that the 2006 real estate transactions concerning the Bulloch Property were permitted by the will and trust. The Court merely recited the parties' respective allegations about the events of 2006 and 2008 to determine whether Plaintiff met his burden to show the Court had personal jurisdiction over Defendant. (Order of May 1, 2018, at 6-7.) Plaintiff did not carry his burden then and has not carried his burden now for relief under Rule 60(b). Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion to vacate and motions for reconsideration are denied.

         B. Plaintiff's Motion to Reinstate ...


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