United States District Court, D. Delaware
KEVIN S. EPPERSON, Plaintiff,
SGT. WILFRED BECKLES, et al., Defendants.
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 and dismissed the
Complaint. (D.I. 14; D.I. 15) Plaintiff appealed and
following dismissal of the appeal filed a motion for relief
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(4). (D.I. 24) He also seeks my
recusal. (D.I. 25)
Complaint claims regarding false disciplinary charges,
wrongful transfer to a higher security classification, and
defamation claim under Delaware law. (D.I. 14; D.I. 15) On
May 10, 2019, the Court dismissed this action as frivolous
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and
1915A(b)(1) and declined to exercise jurisdiction of the
supplemental state claim. Upon dismissal Plaintiff appealed.
(D.I. 18; D.I. 20) On August 15, 2019, the appeal was
dismissed for Plaintiffs failure to pay the required filing
fee. (D.I. 23) On September 11, 2019, Plaintiff filed a
motion for pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(4) and a motion for
my recusal. (D.I. 24; D.I. 25)
Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4) provides relief from
judgment if "the judgment is void." Fed.R.Civ.P.
60(b)(4). A judgment can be void on two grounds: (1) if the
rendering court lacked subject matter jurisdiction; or (2) if
it acted in a manner inconsistent with due process of law.
Mauro v. New Jersey Supreme Court, 238 Fed.Appx.
791, 793 (3d Cir. 2007). A Rule 60(b)(4) motion on the
grounds that a judgment is void may be brought at any time.
See United States v. One Toshiba Color Television,
213 F.3d 147, 157 (3d Cir. 2000) (en banc).
seeks Rule 60(b)(4) relief on the grounds that he raised a
guaranteed due process right and defamation claim based upon
harm to his reputation. (D.I. 24 at 4) Plaintiff contends
that defamation is a due process claim because it deprived
him of a liberty interest in his reputation, and he alleges
stigma to his reputation. (Id.) Plaintiff argues
that amendment was not futile. (Id. at 7) Plaintiff
goes on to make a lengthy argument why the complaint should
not have been dismissed. (Id. at 1-24) He also
submits documents relating to his criminal conviction in
State Court which have no bearing on the instant case.
is not appropriate under Rule 60(b)(4). First, this Court had
subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331
and supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. In addition, there were no
violations of Plaintiffs right to due process. "It is
well settled that an 'elementary and fundamental
requirement of due process in any proceeding which is to be
accorded finality is notice reasonably calculated, under all
the circumstances, to apprise interested parties of the
pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to
present their objections.'" Mullane v. Central
Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, 314 (1950);
See United Student Aid Funds, Inc. v. Espinosa, 559
U.S. 260, 270-71 (2010).
court docket indicates that Plaintiff filed his Complaint,
and it was screened by the Court as required by the Prison
Litigation Reform Act. Upon dismissal of the complaint,
Plaintiff was provided with a copy of the memorandum opinion
and order as evidenced of his timely filing of a notice of
appeal. (See D.I. 14; D.I. 15; D.I. 18) Nothing on
the court docket indicates that the notice was defective. To
the contrary, Plaintiffs notice of appeal is evidence there
was proper notice.
Plaintiffs position that the alleged defamation is a due
process claim that deprived Plaintiff of a liberty interest
in his reputation is seemingly an attempt to conflate two
legal theories - defamation and due process. Plaintiffs
defamation claim arises solely under state law. It is well
established that neither verbal abuse nor defamation of a
prisoner is not actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Aleem-X v. Westcott, 347 Fed.Appx. 731 (3d Cir.
2009) (citing Patton v. Przybylski, 822 F.2d 697,
700 (7th Cir. 1987) ("defamation is not a deprivation of
liberty within the meaning of the due process clause.").
has not demonstrated this Court's judgment is void under
Rule 60(b)(4). Therefore, the motion for Rule 60(b)(4) relief
will be denied. (D.I. 24)