United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
Flowers Conti Chief United States District Court.
February 15, 2018, the court issued its judgment in this
capital habeas case filed by Robert Gene Rega
("Rega"). (ECF No. 93). The court denied Rega's
guilt-phase claims and granted him sentencing-phase relief on
his claim that his trial counsel were ineffective for failing
to investigate his prior criminal records to support the
argument that the jury should not find, or give little to no
weight to, the aggravating factor at 42 Pa. Cons. Stat.
§ 9711(d)(9), and his related claim of direct appeal
counsels' ineffectiveness. Pending before the court is
the Commonwealth's motion requesting that the court
reconsider its decision to grant Rega sentencing-phase
relief. (ECF No. 96). Also pending before the court is a
motion for reconsideration filed pro se by Rega.
(ECF No. 98). For the reasons that follow, the court denies
the Commonwealth's motion and directs the Clerk of Court
to strike Rega's pro se motion.
Commonwealth moves for reconsideration under Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b). "Although motions for
reconsideration under" these two Rules "serve
similar functions, each has a particular purpose."
United States v. Fiorelli, 337 F.3d 282, 288 (3d
Cir. 2003). "[A] timely Rule 59(e) motion suspends the
finality of the judgment by tolling the time for appeal"
in recognition of "the inherent power that [a district
court] has to rectify its own mistakes prior to the entry of
judgment for a brief period of time immediately after
judgment is entered." Blystone v. Horn, 664
F.3d 397, 414 (3d Cir. 2011) (emphasis omitted). The standard
for obtaining relief under Rule 59(e) is difficult for a
party to meet. The United States Court of Appeals for the
Third Circuit explained:
The scope of a motion for reconsideration, we have held, is
extremely limited. Such motions are not to be used as an
opportunity to relitigate the case; rather, they may be used
only to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present
newly discovered evidence. Howard Hess Dental Labs., Inc.
v. Dentsply Int'l Inc., 602 F.3d 237, 251 (3d Cir.
2010). "Accordingly, a judgment may be altered or
amended [only] if the party seeking reconsideration shows at
least one of the following grounds: (1) an intervening change
in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence
that was not available when the court [issued the challenged
decision]; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or
fact or to prevent manifest injustice." Id.
(quotation marks omitted)… We have made clear that
"'new evidence, ' for reconsideration purposes,
does not refer to evidence that a party...submits to the
court after an adverse ruling. Rather, new evidence in this
context means evidence that a party could not earlier submit
to the court because that evidence was not previously
available." Id. at 252. Evidence that is not
newly discovered, as so defined, cannot provide the basis for
a successful motion for reconsideration. Harsco Corp. v.
Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985).
Id. at 415-16 (first bracketed text added by the
court of appeals, emphasis omitted).
Rule 60(b) motion may not be used as a substitute for an
appeal, and…legal error, without more does not warrant
relief under that provision[.]" Fiorelli, 337
F.3d at 288 (internal quotation and citation omitted). As
with Rule 59(e), the standard for obtaining relief under Rule
60(b) is difficult for a party to meet. It allows a party to
seek relief from a final judgment under the following limited
set of circumstances:
(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;
(2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable
diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for
a new trial under Rule 59(b);
(3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic),
misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party;
(4) the judgment is void;
(5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged;
it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or
vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable;
(6) any other reason that justifies relief.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 60. A movant seeking relief under Rule
60(b)(6) must "show extraordinary circumstances
justifying the reopening of a final judgment."
Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 535 (2005)
(internal quotations and citations omitted). "Such