United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are four motions filed by Petitioner Christopher
Jermaine Taylor: a “Motion to Alter or Amend a Judgment
Pursuant to Rule 59(e), ” a “Motion for Notice of
Appeal and Request for Certificate of Appealability to
Proceed In Forma Pauperis, ” and two motions to
“Amend Notice of Appeal, Request for Certificate of
Appealability, and to Proceed In Forma Pauperis.”
Mot. to Alter or Amend, ECF No. 122; Mot. for
Certificate of Appealability, ECF Nos. 124, 125;
Mot. to Amend, ECF No. 128; Second Mot. to
Amend, ECF 130. For the reasons set forth below, the
Court DENIES Petitioner's first motion
in its entirety. With respect to Petitioner's second
motion, the Court DENIES his request for a
certificate of appealability and DENIES AS
MOOT his request to proceed on appeal in forma
pauperis. The Court likewise DENIES AS
MOOT Petitioner's third and fourth motions.
complete retreading of the procedural and factual background
of this case is unnecessary to resolve the narrow issues
presented in Petitioner's motions. Nevertheless, it is
worth briefly reviewing several relevant inflection points
over the course of Petitioner's case. On February 3,
2015, Petitioner entered an informed guilty plea to an
information charging him with conspiracy to distribute 100
grams or more of heroin. See, e.g.,
Plea Hr'g, ECF No. 5. On September 8, 2015, this
Court sentenced Petitioner to a term of imprisonment of 138
months and a period of supervised release of four years.
Judgment, ECF No. 47. Nearly a year later-on June 8,
2016-Petitioner filed a “Motion to Vacate Illegal
Conviction and Sentence” pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2255. Mot. to Vacate, ECF No. 68, at 1. In his
motion, Petitioner alleged that he had received ineffective
assistance of counsel prior to entering his guilty plea and
that the Court incorrectly applied a two-point gun
enhancement to his calculated sentencing range under the
United States Sentencing Guidelines. Id. at 4-8.
After Petitioner had filed a flurry of further motions,
Magistrate Judge Aboulhosn issued his Proposed Findings and
Recommendation (“PF&R”) on April 2, 2019.
PF&R, ECF 113, at 22. The Magistrate Judge
concluded that Petitioner's ineffective assistance of
counsel claims were without merit, and that his claims
related to the two-point firearm enhancement were precluded
by the appellate waiver contained in his plea agreement.
Id. at 17, 19. Petitioner timely objected to the
PF&R on April 15, 2019. Obj. to PF&R, ECF
No. 108. This Court overruled these objections in its July
30, 2019 Memorandum Opinion and Order, and ordered
Petitioner's case removed from its docket. Mem. Op.
& Order, ECF No. 117, at 3.
August 30, 2019, Petitioner filed a “Motion to Alter or
Amend a Judgment Pursuant to Rule 59(e).” Mot. to
Alter or Amend, at 1. Petitioner avers that he received
the Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order on August 2,
2019, and that his motion therefore falls within the 28-day
window prescribed by Rule 59(e). Id. While he
expresses disagreement with the Court's judgment with
reference to several particularized issues, Petitioner's
argument at core is that “the court adopted and denied
his motion without merit.” Id. On September 9,
2019, Petitioner filed a “Motion for Notice of Appeal
and Request for Certificate of Appealability to Proceed In
Forma Pauperis.” Mot. for Certificate of
Appealability, at 1. On September 16, Petitioner filed a
motion to amend his earlier motion in order to argue that the
Court abused its discretion in declining to hold an
evidentiary hearing before denying his original motion to
vacate his conviction under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Mot.
to Amend, at 1. Finally, on September 23 Petitioner
filed a second motion to further amend his original motion
for a certificate of appealability to include allegations
related to the Speedy Trial Act. Second Mot. to
Amend, at 1. The Court will consider each motion in
Petitioner is proceeding pro se, the Court will
liberally construe his filings. Estelle v. Gamble,
429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). A liberal construction is not a
boundless construction, however, and the Court will not craft
Petitioner's legal arguments for him. Beaudett v.
City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).
These principles guide the following discussion.
“Motion to Alter or Amend a Judgment Pursuant to Rule
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a “motion to
alter or amend a judgment must be filed no later than 28 days
after the entry of the judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e).
The purpose of Rule 59(e) is to permit “a district
court to correct its own errors, sparing the parties and the
appellate courts the burden of unnecessary appellate
proceedings.” Pac. Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat'l Fire
Ins. Co., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998) (citing
Russell v. Delco Remy Div. of Gen. Motors Corp., 116
F.3d 746, 749 (7th Cir. 1995)) (internal quotations omitted).
While the Federal Rules provide no standard by which to
evaluate Rule 59(e) motions, the Court recognizes that
“reconsideration of a judgment after its entry is an
extraordinary remedy which should be used sparingly.”
Id. With this standard in mind, relief may be
granted only “(1) to accommodate an intervening change
in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not
available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or
prevent manifest injustice.” Hutchinson v.
Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1081 (4th Cir. 1993).
Importantly, a “party's mere disagreement with the
court's ruling does not warrant a Rule 59(e) motion, and
such motions should not be used to raise arguments which
could have been raised prior to the issuance of the judgment,
nor may they be used to argue a case under a novel legal
theory that the party had the ability to address in the first
instance.” Smith v. Donahoe, 917 F.Supp.2d.
562, 572 (E.D. Va. 2013) (internal quotations omitted);
see also Durkin v. Taylor, 44 F.Supp. 879, 889 (E.D.
order to succeed on his Rule 59(e) motion, Petitioner must
point to an “intervening change in controlling law,
” “new evidence not available at trial, ”
“a clear error of law, ” or a need to
“prevent manifest injustice.” See
Hutchinson, 994 F.2d at 1081. While never explicitly
stated in his motion, it appears Petitioner is asserting that
this Court committed a clear legal error or that alteration
of its decision will be necessary to prevent manifest
injustice. As Petitioner's motion demonstrates, this is
an argument without merit.
outset, Petitioner uses his Motion to Alter or Amend to
present many of the same well-worn legal and factual
allegations that have formed the bulk of his previous
filings. Once again, he argues that he received ineffective
assistance of counsel in the days and weeks before his Plea
Hearing and Sentencing. See Mot. to Alter or Amend,
at 2-4. He repeats many of his original claims, essentially
arguing that counsel was ineffective by encouraging him to
enter into a plea agreement and failing to call witnesses and
object to testimony at his Sentencing. See Id.
(“Petitioner contends that counsel misled him and also
the court to [sic] the understanding of the plea rendering
counsel ineffective and the plea unknowingly [sic].”).
He also renews his argument that a two-point gun enhancement
was improperly applied to his calculated sentencing range
under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, though he
offers no legal basis to counter the Magistrate Judge's
conclusion that he had waived his right to appeal matters
outside the ineffective assistance of counsel. Id.
when considered in the most liberal possible light,
Petitioner's motion fails to lay out any legally
sufficient grounds to justify alteration or amendment of this
Court's prior judgment. While Petitioner argues that
“the court adopted and denied his motion without
merit” and “knowingly adopted the Magistrates
[sic] inaccurate recommendations to deny, ”
id. at 1, a “party's mere disagreement
with the court's ruling does not warrant a Rule 59(e)
motion, ” Smith, 917 F.Supp.2d. at 572.
Moreover, Petitioner's remaining arguments are simply
recitations of claims already addressed in the PF&R that
this Court adopted in its July 30, 2019 Memorandum Opinion
and Order. The portions of the Memorandum Opinion and Order
Petitioner specifically references are frequently inapposite
to his motion, and often draw entirely baseless conclusions.
For example, Petitioner argues that the Court acknowledged
“Petitioner's motion has merits [sic]” when
it noted that the PF&R did not address the merits of his
two-point gun enhancement argument. See Mot. to Alter or
Amend, at 2. The Court made no such finding, and only
pointed out that the PF&R did not consider the merits of
Petitioner's application because he had “waived any
right to appeal this matter.” Mem. Op. &
Order, at 3. Petitioner also attacks the Court's
finding that his objections were general and conclusory,