United States District Court, D. Delaware
Honorable Maryellen Noreika United States District Judge
James Arthur Biggins ("Petitioner") was convicted
in 1997 by a Delaware Superior Court jury of three counts of
second degree unlawful intercourse, one count of third degree
assault, and one count of second degree unlawful
imprisonment. See Biggins v. Carroll, 2002 WL
31094810, at *1 (D. Del. Sept. 13, 2002). The Superior Court
sentenced him to thirty years of incarceration followed by
probation. Id. On March 25, 1999, Petitioner filed
his first federal habeas petition ("Petition")
challenging his 1997 conviction, which the Honorable Gregory
M. Sleet denied on September 13, 2002 after determining that
the claims raised therein were either procedurally barred or
failed to warrant habeas relief under § 2254(d).
Id. at *8-13. Since then, Petitioner has filed six
additional habeas petitions challenging the same 1997
conviction, all of which were denied as second or successive.
See Biggins v. Carroll, C.A. No. 03-273-GMS, Mem.
Order (D. Del. Apr. 9, 2003); Biggins v. Phelps et.
al, C.A. No. 09-741-GMS, Order (D. Del. Mar. 3, 2010);
Biggins v. Phelps, C.A. No. 10-292-GMS, Order (D.
Del. Apr. 20, 2010); Biggins v. Phelps, C.A. No.
10-724-GMS. Mem. Order (D. Del. Sept. 28, 2010); Biggins
v. Phelps, C.A. No. 11-366-GMS, Order (D. Del. June 20,
2011); and Biggins v. Phelps, C.A. No. 12-586- GMS,
Mem. Order (D. Del. Mar. 4, 2013). Petitioner has also
previously filed three motions for reconsideration pursuant
to Rule 60(b) asking the Court to reconsider its 2002 denial
of his first habeas petition. (D.I. 54, 61, 86). All three
Rule 60(b) motions were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction
because they constituted unauthorized second or successive
habeas petitions. (D.I 58, 61, 62, 87, 88). Petitioner filed
a notice of appeal from the denial of his third Rule 60(b)
motion, which the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
denied on June 15, 2016. (D.I. 94).
pending before the Court is Petitioner's Rule 59(e)
Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment with respect to the 2002
denial of his habeas Petition. (D.I. 97).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion for reargument/reconsideration may be filed pursuant
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) or Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 60(b). Although motions for reargument/
reconsideration under Rule 59(e) and Rule 60(b) serve similar
functions, each has a particular purpose. See United
States v. Fiorelli, 337 F.3d 282, 288 (3d Cir. 2003).
For instance, Rule 59(e) is "a device  used to allege
legal error, " and may only be used to correct manifest
errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered
evidence. See Howard Hess Dental Labs, Inc. v. Dentsply
Int'l Inc, 602 F.3d 237, 251 (3d Cir. 201 a). The
scope of a Rule 59(e) motion is extremely limited, and may
not be used as an opportunity to relitigate the case. See
Blystone v. Horn, 664 F.3d 397, 414 (3d Cir. 2011);
see also Brambles USA Inc. v. Blocker, 735 F.Supp.
1239, 1240 (D. Del. 1990). The moving party must show one of
the following in order to prevail on a Rule 59(e) motion: (1)
an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the
availability of new evidence that was not available when the
court issued its order; or (3) the need to correct a clear
error of law or fact or to prevent a manifest injustice.
See Max's Seafood Cafe v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d
669, 677 (3dCir. 1999).
59(e) motion "must be filed no later than 28 days after
the entry of the judgment." Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). When a
timely Rule 59(e) motion is premised on "newly
discovered evidence," the new evidence must be evidence
that a party could not submit to the court earlier because it
was unavailable, and evidence not newly discovered in such a
manner "cannot provide the basis for a successful motion
for reconsideration." Blystone, 664 F.3d at
contrast, "Rule 60(b) allows a party to seek relief from
a final judgment, and request reopening of his case, under a
limited set of circumstances including fraud, mistake, and
newly discovered evidence." Gonzalez v. Crosby,
545 U.S. 524, 528 (2005). A motion filed pursuant to Rule
60(b) is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court
guided by accepted legal principles applied in light of all
relevant circumstances,  but may be granted only in
extraordinary circumstances. See Moolenaar v. Gov't
of Virgin Islands, 822 F.2d 1342, 1346 (3d Cir. 1987).
60(b)(2) motion seeking relief on the basis of "newly
discovered evidence" must be filed no more than a year
after the entry of the judgment, order, or date of
proceeding. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(c)(1). A Rule
60(b)(6) motion seeking relief for "any other
reason" must be filed within a "reasonable time,
" which is determined by considering the
interest of finality, the reason for delay, the practical
ability of the litigant to learn earlier of the grounds
relied upon, and the consideration of prejudice, if any, to
other parties. See Dietsch v. United States, 2
F.Supp.2d 627, 633 (D.N.J. 1988). As a general rule, a Rule
60(b)(6) motion filed more than one year after final judgment
is untimely unless "extraordinary circumstances"
excuse the party's failure to proceed sooner. See
generally Ackerman v. United States, 340 U.S. 193, 202
district court is presented with a Rule 60(b) motion for
reconsideration after it has denied the petitioner's
federal habeas petition, the court must determine if the
motion constitutes a second or successive application under
the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
("AEDPA"). Under AEDPA, a prisoner cannot file a
second or successive habeas petition without first obtaining
approval from the court of appeals and, absent such
authorization, a district court cannot consider the merits of
a subsequent petition. See 28 U.S.C. §
2244(b)(3(A); Robinson v. Johnson, 313 F.3d 128,
139-40 (3d Cir. 2002). A district court presented with an
unauthorized second or successive habeas petition must either
"dismiss the petition or transfer it to the court of
appeals pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631."
Robinson, 313 F.3d at 139.
Third Circuit precedent requires a district court to view a
timely Rule 59(e) motion as lying "outside the reach of
the jurisdictional limitations that AEDPA imposes upon
multiple collateral attacks." Blystone, 664
F.3d at 414. In other words, timely Rule 59(e) motions to
amend or alter judgment are materially different from Rule
60(b) motions for reconsideration, such that a timely Rule
59(e) motion does not constitute a second or successive
habeas petition even if it advances a habeas claim.
Id. at 413.
instant Rule 59(e) Motion, Petitioner asserts he has newly
discovered evidence that the blood evidence used to convict
him was contaminated due to the vials being broken during
transit. He contends that the denial of his habeas Petition
should be amended or altered because the State violated
Brady and "chain of custody" rules by
failing to inform about the contamination prior to trial.
original habeas Petition was denied in 2002, and he filed the
instant Rule 59(e) Motion in March 2018. Since Petitioner
filed his Rule 59(e) Motion almost 16 full years after the
denial of his habeas Petition, the instant Motion is