United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
November 2, 2005.
SCOT CAVINESS, Petitioner,
RONNIE HOLT, Warden, Respondent.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD CONABOY, Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM and ORDER
Before the Court is Scot Caviness' ("Petitioner") Motion to
Alter or Amend the Judgment, (Doc. 20), pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 59(e). Petitioner again seeks Habeas Corpus
relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and claims that this Court
should reconsider its August 24, 2005, Memorandum and Order based
on an error of law.
Petitioner was arrested with two co-defendants on December 7,
1989, following a six-month investigation conducted by the
Federal Drug Enforcement Agency. Arraignment was held on December
18, 1989, and all three defendants were charged with: (1)
Possession with intent to distribute at least 500 grams of
cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); (2) Conspiracy to
possess with intent to distribute at least five kilograms of
cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 846; (3)
Possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime in violation of
21 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1). Petitioner and his two co-defendants proceeded to a
jury trial on March 19, 1990, and were found guilty of all counts
on March 23, 1990. The defendants were sentenced on August 31,
1990, and the sentences were affirmed on appeal on December 31,
In June of 1994, Petitioner absconded from the Federal Prison
Camp at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. On January
8, 1999, he was arrested in Florida on the escape charges and
brought back into custody. Petitioner pled guilty to escape and
received a sentence of twelve months to run consecutive to the
remainder of his original sentence.
On November 3, 2000, Petitioner filed a Motion to Modify the
Sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c). The motion was denied
on June 12, 2002. Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration
and that motion was denied on August 20, 2002. Petitioner
appealed and the ruling was affirmed by the Eleventh Circuit
Court of Appeals on December 23, 2003.
On September 22, 2004, Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of
Habeas Corpus pursuant to § 2241. In that petition, Petitioner
maintained that the extent of his liability was limited to the
one kilogram of cocaine seized from him at the time of his
arrest. He alleged that his sentence should have reflected the
extent of only his personal conduct and not the conspiracy as a
whole. Petitioner cited a 1992 amendment of § 1B1.3 of the Federal Sentencing
Guidelines which he alleges instructed courts to consider the
particularized conduct of each defendant in a drug conspiracy.
According to Petitioner, the guidelines were amended while his
case was on appeal and should have been applied retroactively to
On May 24, 2005, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and
Recommendation and recommended that Petitioner's claim be
dismissed. On May 24, 2005, this Court adopted the Magistrate
Judge's Report and Recommendation and denied Petitioner's claim.
On September 12, 2005, Petitioner filed the instant Motion for
A. Petitioner Filed a Motion to Amend the Judgment
On September 12, 2005, Petitioner filed a Motion to Alter or
Amend Judgment along with a supporting Memorandum. (Docs. 20 &
21). Petitioner filed his motion pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 59(e). Therefore, we will consider Petitioner's
motion as a Motion for Reconsideration.
B. Standard Applied for Motion to Reconsider
"The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct
manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered
evidence." Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d
Cir. 1985). A motion for reconsideration of an order dismissing a complaint is recognized by the Third Circuit as the "functional
equivalent" of a Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) motion to alter or amend a
judgment. Local 634 School Cafeteria Workers, AFL-CIO v.
Hanley, 1996 WL 170321, *2 (E.D.Pa. 1996) (citing Federal
Kemper Ins. Co. v. Rauscher, 807 F.2d 345, 348 (3d. Cir. 1986)).
Furthermore, a timely filed motion for reconsideration under a
local rule is a motion to alter or amend judgment under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). Schroeder v. McDonald,
55 F.3d 454, 459 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing Bestran Corp. v. Eagle
Comtronics, Inc., 720 F.2d 1019 (9th Cir. 1983)).
A litigant who brings such a motion "must rely on one of three
grounds: 1) the availability of new evidence not previously
available, 2) an intervening change in controlling law, or 3) the
need to correct a clear error of law or to prevent manifest
injustice." Rhine v. Dick Clark Productions, Inc., 2000 WL
14875, *2 (E.D.Pa. January 10, 2000) (citations omitted)).
However, courts should grant Rule 59(e) motions "sparingly
because of the interests of finality and conservation of scarce
judicial resources." Ruscavage v. Zuratt, 831 F.Supp. 417, 418
(E.D. Pa. 1993).
Here, Petitioner relies on the third ground and claims that his
motion for reconsideration is properly before the Court because
this Court erred as a matter of law by denying Petitioner's
claim. (Doc. 23).
C. Petitioner's Claim in Light of the Standard Respondent points out that, "a party seeking reconsideration
must show more than a disagreement with the Court's decision, and
`recapitulation of the cases and arguments considered by the
court before rendering its original decision fails to carry the
moving party's burden.'" Database America, Inc. V. Bellsouth
Advertising and Publishing Corp., 825 F.Supp. 1216, 1220 (D.N.J.
1993); see also Glendon Energy Co. V. Borough of Glendon,
836 F.Supp. 1109, 1122 (E.D. Pa. 1993). (Doc. 22).
Respondent argues that Petitioner has failed to meet any of the
three possible grounds for a valid motion for reconsideration.
Furthermore, Respondent claims that Petitioner sets forth here
the same three issues he presented in his original Petition for
Writ of Habeas Corpus and in his objections to the Magistrate
Judge's Report and Recommendation.
Petitioner raises the following three issues in his present
motion: (1) he is innocent of the crime for which he was
convicted and § 2255 is inadequate and ineffective to test the
legality of this claim; (2) Amendment 439 to the U.S.S.G. was
substantive in nature in its application to Petitioner's case;
and (3) ineffective assistance of counsel. (Doc. 21).
Each of the three issues raised by Petitioner in the present
motion has been addressed by this Court in prior opinions. Each
of these issues was discussed in detail by the Magistrate Judge
in his May 24, 2005, Report and Recommendation. This Court
adopted that Report and Recommendation on August 24, 2005.
Therefore, we do not see a need to repeat those discussions here. We agree with
Respondent that Petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration should be
Based on the foregoing discussion, we will DISMISS Petitioner's
Motion for Reconsideration. ORDER
Now, this 2nd day of November, 2005, Petitioner's Motion for
Reconsideration pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e)
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