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Epperson v. Graves

United States District Court, D. Delaware

October 7, 2019

T.HENLEY GRAVES, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Kevin S. Epperson ("Plaintiff'), a former inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC") in Smyrna, Delaware, now housed at SCI Somerset in Somerset, Pennsylvania, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (D.I. 3) Plaintiff appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 6) On May 10, 2019, the Court screened the case and dismissed it based upon Defendants' immunity from suit. (D.I. 14; D.I. 15). Plaintiff moves for reconsideration. (D.I. 20; D.I. 24). He also seeks my recusal. (D.I. 25) The matter is currently on appeal. See Epperson v. Graves, No. 19-2233 (3d Cir.).


         Plaintiff moves for reconsideration in light of the FCIA (i.e., Federal Courts Improvements Act) amendment and on the grounds that amendment is not futile. (D.I. 20; D.I. 24) As discussed in the Court's screening order, the Complaint alleges that Superior Court Judge T. Henley Graves ("Judge Graves") and Superior Court Judge Abigail LeGrow ("LeGrow") denied Plaintiff access to the courts to challenge violations of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff takes exception to rulings by Judge Graves and Judge LeGrow in his criminal trial and in petitions he filed collaterally attacking his criminal conviction.

         On June 5, 2006, the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware enjoined Plaintiff from filing any claims in its court without first seeking leave after Plaintiff filed what appeared to be his eighth postconviction motion since Plaintiffs direct appeal of his criminal conviction was decided in 1997. (D.I. 5-1 at 6) On November 25, 2015, Judge Graves advised Plaintiff that the Court had received his request for writ of prohibition on November 19, 2015, that it was untimely, that Plaintiff had filed 21 motions for postconviction relief plus motions to correct an illegal sentence, and that Plaintiff "long ago lost any standing to contest [his] conviction." (Id. at 8) Judge Graves ordered the New Castle County Prothonotary to docket any other motions, petitions or applications, but to not send them to Judge Graves or any other judge for consideration. (Id.)

         On April 10, 2018, the Superior Court of the State of Delaware returned filings to Plaintiff because the "Court has deemed frivolous filers and documents need permission from a judge before they can proceed." (Id. at 9-12) On May 8, 2018, Judge LeGrow advised Plaintiff that his Rule 35(a) motion would not be ruled on for reasons previously stated, and denied Plaintiffs motion to file as moot. (Id. at 16)

         On June 22, 2018, Plaintiff was advised by the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware that it had received his complaint in proceedings for extraordinary writ. (D.I. 5-1 at 3) The documents were refused for filing on the grounds that they were insufficient to invoke the Court's jurisdiction and were a blatant and inappropriate attempt to appeal the Superior Court's May 8, 2014 order denying Plaintiffs Rule 35(a) motion. (Id.) For relief, Plaintiff asks this Court to lift the injunction and permit him to file a Criminal Rule 35(a) petition in the State Court.

         On May 10, 2019, this Court dismissed Plaintiffs Complaint finding that it lacked an arguable basis in law or in fact and that Defendants had judicial immunity. (D.I. 14; D.I. 15) The Court also dismissed any claims attacking Plaintiffs conviction to the extent that was his intent. (Id.) Unhappy with dismissal, Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal and three weeks later filed his first motion for reconsideration. (D.I. 18; D.I. 20) He recently filed a second motion for reconsideration and a motion seeking my recusal. (D.I. 24; D.I. 25)


         A. Legal Standards

         The standard for obtaining relief under Rule 59(e) is difficult for Plaintiff to meet. The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to "correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Max's Seafood Cafe ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999). "A proper Rule 59(e) motion ... must rely on one of three grounds: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice." Lazaridis v. Wehmer, 591 F.3d 666, 669 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995)). A motion for reconsideration is not properly grounded on a request that a court rethink a decision already made. See Glendon Energy Co. v. Borough of Glendon, 836 F.Supp. 1109, 1122 (E.D. Pa. 1993). Motions for reargument or reconsideration may not be used "as a means to argue new facts or issues that inexcusably were not presented to the court in the matter previously decided." Brambles USA, Inc. v. Blocker, 735 F.Supp. 1239, 1240 (D. Del. 1990). Reargument, however, may be appropriate where "the Court has patently misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the court by the parties, or has made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension." Brambles USA, 735 F.Supp. at 1241 (D. Del. 1990) (citations omitted); See also D. Del. LR 7.1.5.

         B. Discussion

         Plaintiff seeks reconsideration on the grounds that there is no immunity for declaratory judgments, that immunity is not available to state judges, and that Defendants are not immune from equitable and declaratory relief. (D.I. 20 at 2; D.I. 24 at 2) Plaintiff argues that the State Court judges should not have enjoined him from filing "simply based on his litigiousness" and that his right of access to the courts has been denied and obstructed by Delaware State Courts and this court. (D.I. 20 at 15-19; D.I. 24 at 12-19) Plaintiff wants this Court to "lift" the injunction in State Court so that the State Court could "fix" its error under Plaintiffs Rule 35(a) motion for correction of an illegal sentence. (D.I. 24 at 11)

         In both motions for reconsideration, Plaintiff alleges that I gave him false information in a 2018 order "which altered and hinders [his] development to correct error of law" and that I insisted he file an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (D.I. 20 at 4; D.I. 24 at 6) Plaintiff does not identify the case, but presumably he is referring to a September 19, 2018 memorandum and order I entered in Epperson v. Metzger, Civ. No. 18-1271-CFC, that denied Plaintiffs unauthorized second or successive petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for lack of jurisdiction and that declined to issue a certificate of appealability. See Id. at D.I. 4; D.I. 5. The memorandum advised Plaintiff that, to the extent he alleged denial of access to the courts in his ยง 2254 petition, he had improperly presented the argument and instead, the claim must be presented in a civil rights action pursuant to 42 ...

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