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Melvin v. U.S.A. Today

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

July 28, 2015

PAMELA MELVIN, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S.A. TODAY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES R. SPENCER, Senior District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on: (1) Plaintiff's Motion for the Court to Clarify its January 30, 2015 Order That the Court Upheld in its June 23, 2015 Order Dismissing This Action With Prejudice ("Motion to Clarify") (ECF No. 47); and (2) Plaintiff's Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment, or in the Alternative, Motion for Relief From Judgment or Order and to Amend the Complaint to Add Defendants and Claims ("Motion to Alter or Amend") (ECF No. 48). For the reasons that follow, each of the aforementioned Motions is hereby DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

On June 17, 2014, Plaintiff Pamela Melvin ("Melvin") filed a Complaint against eleven newspaper defendants, including USA Today, The Washington Post, Detroit Free Press, The Star-Ledger, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Dallas Morning News, Inc. (collectively, "the newspaper defendants"), Sun-Times Media, LLC, d/b/a Chicago Sun-Times ("Sun-Times"), Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC ("Boston Globe"), Los Angeles Times, Tampa Bay Times, and The Atlanta Journal Constitution, alleging violations of her First Amendment rights as well as violations of her civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1981. In September 2014, the newspaper defendants as well as the Sun-Times and Boston Globe each filed a motion to dismiss. On January 20, 2015, this Court granted each of the motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ( See ECF Nos. 41, 42.) The Court further ordered that the Complaint be dismissed with prejudice against the newspaper defendants, the Sun-Times and the Boston Globe. ( Id. )

On January 30, 2015, Melvin filed a Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (ECF No. 43), pursuant to Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Finding that the motion was procedurally improper, this Court denied Melvin's motion on June 23, 2015. (ECF No. 46.)

Melvin then filed the present Motions on July 7, 2015. None of the defendants responded to the Motions, and their time for doing so has now passed.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

a. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e)

A motion to reconsider takes the form of a motion to alter or amend a judgment under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See EEOC v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 116 F.3d 110, 112 (4th Cir. 1997). Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs motions to alter or amend a judgment. The Rule simply provides, "[a] motion to alter or amend a judgment must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment." Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e).

It is well-settled, that there are only three grounds for granting a motion to alter or amend a judgment: "(1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice." Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1081 (4th Cir. 1993). Rule 59(e) is intended to allow "a district court to correct its own errors, sparing the parties and the appellate courts the burden of unnecessary appellate proceedings.'" Pac. Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat'l Fire Ins. Co., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998) (quoting Russell v. Delco Remy Div. of Gen. Motors Corp., 51 F.3d 746, 749 (7th Cir. 1995)). A Rule 59(e) motion is "an extraordinary remedy which should be used sparingly." Pac. Ins. Co., 148 F.3d at 403 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

b. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)

"In order to justify relief under Rule 60, a movant must make a showing of timeliness, a meritorious defense, lack of unfair prejudice to the opposing party, and exceptional circumstances." Siegel v. Arlington Cnty. Dep't of Cmty. Planning Housing and Dev., No. Civ. A. 02-902-A, 2003 WL 23733547, at *2 (E.D. Va. Jan. 23, 2003) (citing Werner v. Carbo, 731 F.2d 204, 206-07 (4th Cir. 1984)). If the movant makes this preliminary showing, then she "must proceed to satisfy one of the following six grounds for relief: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence, which by due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial; (3) fraud, misrepresentation, or other conduct; (4) the judgment is void; (5) a prior judgment upon which the judgment is based has been reversed or vacated; or (6) any other reason justifying relief from judgment." Id. (citing Werner, 731 F.2d at 207; Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)).

c. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15

Rule 15(a) states that a party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within 21 days after serving it or within 21 days after service of a responsive pleading. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(A)-(B). "In all other cases, a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Typically, a court should allow a party to amend unless an amendment would prove futile or the party seeking the amendment proceeds in bad ...


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