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Robert Leon Mertens v. United States of America

July 5, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: U. S. District Judge Honorable Edward J. Lodge


Before the Court in the above-entitled matters are Petitioner Robert Leon Mertens Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment, Motion for Leave to File Excess Pages, Motion to Adjudicate Motion to Alter, and Amended Motion for New Trial. The parties have now filed their responsive briefing and the matter is ripe for the Court's consideration. Having fully reviewed the record herein, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, this motion shall be decided on the record before this Court without oral argument.


1. Motion to Alter or Amend

On November 16, 2011, this Court entered an Order and separate Judgment denying and dismissing his § 2255 Petition in its entirety. (CV Dkt. 19, 20.)*fn1 Mr. Mertens now asks that the Court alter or amend that Judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) and to issue findings and conclusions pursuant to Rule 52(a) and (b). (CV Dkt. 22.)*fn2 The Government opposes the Motion arguing it is untimely, inapplicable in this § 2255 proceeding, and without merit as to their substantive basis. (CV Dkt. 26.)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52 applies to findings and conclusions issued by the Court in a case tried without a jury or with an advisory jury. Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a)(1). This Rule simply does not apply to § 2255 Petitions and, therefore, the Motion is denied as to its request based on Rule 52.

As to the Motion's requested relief sought under Rule 59(e), the Court notes that "Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 59(e) provides a means whereby the Court may alter or amend the judgment." A.H.D.C. v. City of Fresno, Cal., No. CIV-F-97-5498, 2004 WL 5866233, *8 (E.D. Cal. March 9, 2004) (citing Northern Cheyenne Tribe v. Hodel, 851 F.2d 1152, 1155 (9th Cir. 1988); United States v. Western Elec. Co., 690 F.Supp. 22, 25 (D.D.C.1988) (Rule 59(e) motion permits court to correct errors of fact or law appearing on the face of the record)). The scope and purpose of a motion to alter or amend under Rule 59(e) have been analyzed as follows:

Motions for a new trial or to alter or amend a judgment must clearly establish either a manifest error of law or fact or must present newly discovered evidence. These motions cannot be used to raise arguments which could, and should, have been made before the judgment issued. Moreover they cannot be used to argue a case under a new legal theory.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. v. Meyer, 781 F.2d 1260, 1268 (7th Cir. 1986) (citations omitted);

Whatever may be the purpose of Rule 59(e) it should not be supposed that it is intended to give an unhappy litigant one additional chance to sway the judge. . . .

[A] rehash of the arguments previously presented affords no basis for a revision of the Court's order.

Illinois Central Gulf Railroad Company v. Tabor Grain Company, 488 F.Supp. 110, 122 (N.D. Ill. 1980).

Where Rule 59(e) motions are merely being pursued "as a means to reargue matters already argued and disposed of and to put forward additional arguments which [the party] could have made but neglected to make before judgment, [S]uch motions are not properly classifiable as being motions under Rule 59(e)" and must therefore be dismissed. Davis v. Lukhard, 106 F.R.D. 317, 318 (E.D.Va. 1984); see also, Above the Belt, Inc. v. Mel Bohannan Roofing, Inc., 99 F.R.D. 99, 101 (E.D.Va. 1983) ("Plaintiff improperly used the motion to reconsider to ask the Court to rethink what the Court had already thought -- rightly or wrongly."). The Ninth Circuit has identified three reasons sufficient to warrant a court's reconsideration of a prior order: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the discovery of new evidence not previously available; and (3) the need to correct clear or manifest error in law or fact, to prevent manifest injustice. School Dist. No. 1J v. ACandS, Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1263 (9th Cir. 1993). Upon demonstration of one of these three grounds, the movant must then come forward with "facts or law of a strongly convincing nature to induce the court to reverse its prior decision." Donaldson v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 947 F. Supp. 429, 430 (D. Haw. 1996).

"With regard to a motion to alter or amend judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e):" Since specific grounds for a motion to amend or alter are not listed in the rule, the district court enjoys considerable discretion in granting or denying the motion. However, reconsideration of a judgment after its entry is an extraordinary remedy which should be used sparingly. There are four basic grounds upon which a Rule 59(e) motion may be granted. First, the movant may demonstrate that the motion is necessary to correct manifest errors of law or fact upon which the judgment is based. Second, the motion may be granted so that the movant may present newly discovered or previously unavailable evidence. Third, the motion will be granted if necessary ...

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