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Shelton v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division

November 23, 2016

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


          Michael F. Urbanski United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on plaintiff Ronnie Shelton's ("Shelton") "Motion for Reconsideration." ECF No. 16. Shelton asks the court' to reconsider its September 13, 2016 order dismissing this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (ECF No. 15). For the reasons that follow, Shelton's motion is DENIED.


         Shelton filed his complaint on April 23, 2015. The complaint stems from a series of applications Shelton made for Social Security Income land Disability Insurance Benefits, all of which were denied.[1] Shelton sought review of the Social Security Administration's dismissal of his most recent claim for benefits on res judicata grounds. Carolyn Colvin, the Commissioner of Social Security ("Colvin") filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the court was without jurisdiction to consider Shelton's complaint. ECF No. 7. The motion was referred to Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe, who issued a report recommending the court grant Colvin's motion. ECF No. 12.

         The report noted that judicial review is ordinarily precluded where an application for social security benefits is dismissed on res judicata grounds. Id. at 4. However, courts still have jurisdiction to consider constitutional issues. Id. The report identified one such issue: under Shrader v. Harris. 631 F.2d 297 (4th Cir. 1980), "[w]hen mental illness precluded a pro se claimant from understanding how to obtain an evidentiary hearing after ex parte denial of his application for benefits, " dismissal of that claimant's subsequent motion for a hearing on res judicata grounds violates the due process clause of the Constitution. Id. (quoting Shrader, 631 F.2d at 300). The report found that the rule articulated in Shrader did not save Shelton's claim from dismissal for the simple reason that Sheltoh was represented by an attorney during his application process. Id. at 6. Thus, dismissal of his claim does not violate due process. Id. at 7.

         On September 13, 2016, this court, after de novo review of Shelton's single objection (ECF No. 13), adopted Judge Hoppe's report in its entirety, and dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. ECF No. 15. On October 11, Shelton filed his motion for reconsideration, ECF No. 16, to which Colvin subsequently filed a response in opposition, ECF No. 17.


         Motions for reconsideration, while not uncommon in federal practice, are not recognized under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Ambling Mgmt. Co. v. Univ. View Partners. LLC, No. WDQ-07-2071, 2010 WL 457508, at *1 n.3 (D. Md. Feb. 3, 2010); Above the Belt. Inc. v. Mel Bohannan Roofing. Inc.. 99 F.R.D. 99, 100 (E.D. Va. 1983). Nevertheless, courts have held that these motions can perform a valuable function. Above the Belt. Inc., 99 F.R.D. at 101. Such a motion would be appropriate where, for example,

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. A further basis for a motion to reconsider would be a controlling or significant change in the law or acts since the submission of the issue to the Court. Such problems rarely arise and the motion to reconsider should be1 equally rare.

Id. Indeed, because of the interest in finality, courts should grant motions for reconsideration sparingly. Univ. of Va. Patent Found, v. Gen. Elec. Co., 755 F.Supp.2d 738, 743-44 (W.D. Va. 2011) (quoting Dayoub v. Penn-Del Directory Co.. 90 F.Supp.2d 636, 637 (E.D. Pa 2000)); see Downie v. Revco Discount Drug Ctrs.. No. 3:05cv00021, 2006 WL 1171960, at *1 (W.D. Va. May 1, 2006). A motion' to reconsider should not be used to reiterate arguments previously made or "to ask the Court to rethink what the Court had already thought through-rightly or wrongly." Above the Belt. Inc.. 99 F.R.D. at 100.

         Pursuant to the Federal Rules, a party can move for a new trial or to alter or amend a judgment pursuant to Rule 59, or move for relief from a judgment or order pursuant to Rule 60. A party making a motion under Rule 59 must file the motion no later "than 28 days after the entry of judgment." Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(b). The Fourth Circuit has held that courts should construe a post judgment motion for reconsideration filed within the Rule 59 deadline as a motion to alter or amend a judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e). See Dove v. CODESCO, 569 F.2d 807, 809 (4th Cir. 1978) ("[I]f a post judgment motion is filed within ten days of the entry of judgment and calls into question the correctness of that judgment it should be treated as a motion under Rule 59(e), however it may be formally styled."[2]); see also MLC Auto. LLC v. Town of S. Pines. 532 F.3d 269, 277-78 (4th Cir. 2008) (noting CODESCO continues to apply notwithstanding the amendment of' Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4). A motion that is filed later is construed as a Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment or order. In re Burnley. 988 F.2d 1, 2-3 (4th Cir. 1992); Ambling Mgmt. Co., 2010 WL 457508, at *1 n.3.

         Here, Shelton filed his motion for reconsideration on October 11, 2016, exactly twenty-eight days after the court dismissed the case. Thus, the court will construe his motion as a motion to alter or amend under Rule 59(e).


         Although Rule 59(e) does not set forth the standard under which a district court may amend an earlier judgment, the Fourth Circuit ...

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