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Epperson v. Beckles

United States District Court, D. Delaware

October 30, 2019

SGT. WILFRED BECKLES, 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 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)


         Plaintiffs 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)

         III. RULE 60(b)(4)

         A. Legal Standards

         Federal 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).

         B. Discussion

         Plaintiff 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.

         Relief 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).

         The 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.

         Finally, 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.").

         Plaintiff 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)

         IV. ...

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