United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
LOUISE W. FLANAGAN, District Judge.
This matter comes before the court on plaintiff's unopposed motion for reconsideration (DE 17) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) and motion to amend (DE 19). In this posture, the issues raised are ripe for adjudication.
On August 10, 2012, plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants the Secretary of the Division of Prisons Reuben F. Young and the Director of the Division of Prisons Robert C. Lewis, challenging the constitutionality of the ten dollar ($10.00) administrative fee imposed on state inmates found guilty of a disciplinary conviction. Plaintiff also challenged the validity of his August 23, 2005, criminal conviction as well as unidentified disciplinary convictions. On February 8, 2013, the court entered an order dismissing as frivolous plaintiff's challenge to the administrative fees charged for disciplinary convictions. The court also dismissed without prejudice plaintiff's challenge to his criminal conviction. Finally, the court dismissed without prejudice plaintiff's challenge to any particular disciplinary conviction for lack of factual support.
Following the court's dismissal of this action, plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration of the court's February 8, 2013, judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). Plaintiff sought reconsideration of the court's dismissal of his challenge to the administrative fees and his challenge to his disciplinary convictions. Additionally, as part of his motion, plaintiff attempted to raise an access to courts claim, as well as a new claim against nonparty Nancy Crider ("Crider"), an accountant at Albemarle Correctional Institution, alleging that Crider misused funds plaintiff received from his family on March 8, 2013.
On January 23, 2014, the court issued an order ruling on plaintiff's Rule 60(b) motion. First, the court determined that plaintiff could not raise his new misuse of funds claim against Crider for the first time in his Rule 60(b) motion. The court further determined that such claim would be subject to dismissal for failure to exhaust administrative remedies pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) because it arose subsequent to the date plaintiff filed this action. The court further determined that plaintiff was not entitled to relief for his claim challenging the administrative fee or his access to courts claim. The court, however, granted plaintiff's Rule 60(b) motion as to his claim arising out of his February 27, 2008, and May 19, 2010, disciplinary convictions on the grounds that plaintiff provided sufficient factual support for these claims. The court denied the remainder of plaintiff's Rule 60(b) motion.
On February 3, 2014, plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration of the court's January 23, 2014, order. In particular, plaintiff requested that the court reconsider its refusal to allow plaintiff to assert a new claim against Crider in his Rule 60(b) motion. Plaintiff also requested that the court reconsider its disposition of his access to court's claim. Plaintiff next filed a motion to amend his complaint.
A. Motion for Reconsideration
Pursuant to Rule 54(b), in the absence of an express order directing final judgment as to certain claims or parties:
[A]ny order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all of the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b). Under this rule, "a district court retains the power to reconsider and modify its interlocutory judgments, including partial summary judgments, at any time prior to final judgment when such is warranted." Am. Canoe Ass'n v. Murphy Farms, Inc. , 326 F.3d 505, 514-515 (4th Cir. 2003) (citing Fayetteville Investors v. Commercial Builders, Inc. , 936 F.2d 1462, 1469 (4th Cir. 1991)).
"Motions for reconsideration of interlocutory orders are not subject to the strict standards applicable to motions for reconsideration of a final judgment." Id. at 514. Rather, the resolution of such motion is "committed to the discretion of the district court." Id. at 515. As a means of guiding that discretion, courts have looked to "doctrines such as law of the case, " under which a prior dispositive order must be followed unless "(1) a subsequent trial produces substantially different evidence, (2) controlling authority has since made contrary decision of law applicable to the issue, or (3) the prior decision was clearly erroneous and would work manifest injustice." Id . (quoting Sejman v. Warner-Lambert Co., Inc. , 845 F.2d 66, 69 (4th Cir. 1988)).
Here, plaintiff asks the court to reconsider its denial of his request to bring both misuse of funds and access to courts claims against Crider in his Rule 60(b) motion. As part of his argument, plaintiff appears to acknowledge that he could not bring these new claims in his Rule 60(b) motion, but now states that his new claims are related to his original claims and requests permission to amend his complaint to include his misuse of funds and access to courts claims against ...