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Allam v. Harry

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 20, 2018

ANDREW J. ALLAM SR, Petitioner
LAUREL HARRY, Respondent



         I. Introduction and Procedural History

         Presently before the Court are two motions to amend, (Docs. 50, 52), as well as several letter requests to "reinstate" appeal rights, (Docs. 51, 53, 54), filed by petitioner Andrew J. Allam, Sr. ("Petitioner"). Petitioner seeks to amend his motion for relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) (Doc. 46), which this Court has already denied, (see Docs. 48, 49). Petitioner also requests to extend the time in which he can appeal the denial of his Rule 60(b) motion, claiming he never received a copy of the Court's memorandum opinion and order.

         A detailed factual and procedural background of this case has been fully set forth in the magistrate judge's report, (see Doc. 34 at 2-21), and knowledge of that extensive background is presumed here. A short recitation of the procedural history will suffice for the instant matter.

         Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking relief from his state-court convictions for dozens of charges involving the sexual abuse of a minor. (Doc. 1). On February 21, 2017, Chief Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab issued a comprehensive fifty-two page report recommending that Petitioner's habeas claims be denied. (Doc. 34). Petitioner filed numerous objections to Judge Schwab's report, none of which was found to have merit. Thus, on April 4, 2017, the Honorable William W. Caldwell overruled Petitioner's objections and denied the habeas petition. (See Docs. 38, 39). A certificate of appealability was also denied. (Doc. 42).

         Petitioner sought a certificate of appealability from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. (See Docs. 40, 43). On July 24, 2017, the Third Circuit denied Petitioner's request, finding that for "substantially the same reasons given by the District Court and the Magistrate Judge, [Petitioner] has not made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right nor shown that reasonable jurists would find the correctness of the procedural aspects of the District Court's determination debatable." (Doc. 45 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2); Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000))).

         On November 13, 2017, Petitioner filed, in this Court, a motion for relief from judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). (Doc. 46). On February 6, 2018, Petitioner's case was reassigned from Judge Caldwell to the undersigned due to Judge Caldwell's retirement. On February 26, 2018, the Court issued a memorandum opinion and order denying Petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion. (Docs. 48, 49).

         On April 30, 2018, Petitioner filed a motion to amend his Rule 60(b) motion. (Doc. 50). The Clerk of Court sent a courtesy copy of the docket sheet to Petitioner that same day, as the Rule 60(b) motion had already been decided. In a letter to the Clerk of Court dated May 2, 2018, Petitioner acknowledged receiving the docket sheet but contended that he never received a copy of the February 26, 2018 memorandum opinion and order. (Doc. 51). He further requested that his appeal rights be reinstated. (Id.)

         Several weeks later, Petitioner filed another motion to amend his Rule 60(b) motion, despite having actual knowledge that his Rule 60(b) motion had been denied. (Doc. 52). He then sent two more letters, essentially arguing that because he had not received a copy of the opinion and order denying his Rule 60(b) motion, the Court should extend the time in which he could appeal that denial. (Docs. 53, 54). For the reasons that follow, Petitioner's motions to amend will be denied, but the Court will reopen the time for Petitioner to appeal the denial of his Rule 60(b) motion.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15, if more than twenty-one days have elapsed after service of a pleading or service of a responsive pleading, a party may amend only with the opposing party's written consent or with leave of court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1), (2). Leave to amend should be freely given by the court when justice so requires. Id. 15(a)(2).

         In the seminal case of Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178 (1962), the Supreme Court of the United States provided guidance for when leave to amend may be denied. Circumstances that weigh against granting leave to amend include undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party, and futility of amendment. Foman, 371 U.S. at 182. "Futility" means that the proposed amendment would fail to redress the material insufficiencies or flaws found in the original motion or pleading. Cf. Travelers Indem. Co. v. Dammann & Co., 594 F.3d 238, 243 (3d Cir. 2010) (explaining that, in context of denying leave to amend complaint that was found insufficiently pleaded, "futility means that the complaint, as amended, would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted" (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)).

         Petitioner seeks to amend his Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment, which this Court previously construed as a motion for relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6). (Doc. 48 at 3-4). The Third Circuit has consistently admonished that "the Rule 60(b)(6) ground for relief from judgment provides for extraordinary relief and may only be invoked upon a showing of exceptional circumstances." Coltec Indus., Inc. v. Hobgood, 280 F.3d 262, 273 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting In re Fine Paper Antitrust Litig., 840 F.2d 188, 194 (3d Cir. 1988)). Relief under Rule 60(b)(6) should be granted only "where, without such relief, an extreme and unexpected hardship would occur." Cox v. Horn, 757 F.3d 113, 115 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Sawka v. Healtheast, Inc., 989 F.2d 138, 140 (3d Cir. 1993)). "This is a difficult standard to meet, and 'such circumstances will rarely occur in the habeas context.'" Satterfield v. District Attorney Phila., 872 F.3d 152, 158 (3d Cir. 2017) (quoting Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 528 (2005)).

         In addressing claims invoking Rule 60(b)(6), the Third Circuit employs a flexible case-by-case analysis that "takes into account all the particulars of a movant's case" before determining whether Rule 60(b)(6) relief should be granted. Cox, 757 F.3d at 122. The movant bears the ...

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