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Eggleston v. Daniels

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

September 7, 2017

SOPHIA EGGLESTON, Plaintiff,
v.
LEE DANIELS, et al., Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO RE-OPEN (DKT. 81), GRANTING COUNSEL'S MOTION TO WITHDRAW (DKT. 93), AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MISCELLANEOUS MOTIONS TO GRANT TESTIMONY (DKT. 87, 88, 89, 90, 92)

          TERRENCE G. BERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Sophia Eggleston (“Plaintiff” or “Eggleston”) had sued the FOX Broadcasting Company and the writers, producers, directors, and distributors of television series Empire claiming that one of Empire's main characters, Loretha “Cookie” Lyon, was based on Plaintiff's 2009 memoir The Hidden Hand. See Dkt. 1 (Complaint); Dkt. 43 (Amended Complaint). On March 21, 2017 the parties stipulated to a voluntary dismissal of this case without prejudice, which the Court granted. Dkt. 79.

         There are currently a number of motions before the Court, two of which require some discussion. The first is Plaintiff's pro se Motion to Re-open her case. Dkt. 81. The second is Plaintiff counsel Thomas Heed's (“Counsel” or “Heed”) Motion for Leave to Withdraw from his representation of Plaintiff. Dkt. 85. Plaintiff has also filed five additional pro se miscellaneous motions-two of which are titled “Motions to Grant Testimony”-and all of which reiterate arguments in support of this Court re-evaluating Plaintiff's mental health history and re-opening her case. Dkts. 87; 88; 89; 90; 92. For the reasons outlined below, Plaintiff's Motion to Re-Open her case is DENIED, Counsel's Motion for Leave to Withdraw is GRANTED, and Plaintiff's five miscellaneous motions are DENIED.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff filed the underlying action pro se on May 27, 2015. Dkt. 1. In her original Complaint Plaintiff alleged that the Empire series character Cookie Lyon was based on Plaintiff's depiction of herself in her 2009 memoir The Hidden Hand. Id. Plaintiff ultimately retained Counsel and filed an Amended Complaint on November 20, 2015, Dkt. 43, alleging one count of copyright infringement under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 501, et. seq., and one count of Appropriation of Right of Publicity under Michigan state law. Id. at Pg. ID 15-19.

         On January 8, 2016 Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. 46. On August 16, 2016 this Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's state law claim for Appropriation of Right of Publicity with prejudice, but denied their motion to dismiss Plaintiff's federal copyright infringement claim. Dkt. 61 at Pg. ID 28.

         On December 13, 2016 the parties filed a stipulation for an adjournment pending the completion of a psychiatric examination that the Honorable Bernard A. Friedman had ordered for Plaintiff in a concurrent criminal prosecution against her for health care fraud. Dkt. 78. The Court granted the adjournment and rescheduled the Case Management Scheduling Conference in this case for March 22, 2017. Dkt 78. On March 21, 2017 the parties filed a stipulated order dismissing the case without prejudice, which the Court granted. Dkt. 79. Acting pro se, Plaintiff moved to re-open the case less than two months later. Dkt. 81. Defendants have responded in opposition. Dkt. 83. On June 2, 2017, Plaintiff's Counsel filed a Motion for Leave to Withdraw from representing Plaintiff. Dkt. 85. Since then Plaintiff has filed five miscellaneous motions regarding her mental competency. Dkts. 87; 88; 89; 90; 92.

         III. Analysis

         For the reasons discussed below the Court will DENY Plaintiff's Motion to Re-Open her case, GRANT Counsel's Motion for Leave to Withdraw, and DENY Plaintiff's Motions to Grant Testimony and for Miscellaneous Forms of Relief.

         a. Motion to Re-Open the case

         Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her case without prejudice under FRCP 41(a). Dkt. 79 at Pg. ID 1687. She then filed a pro se motion to re-open it. Dkt. 81. In that Motion to Re-Open Plaintiff states that at the time of the voluntary dismissal she asked Counsel to request a stay rather than dismiss the case outright. Dkt. 81 at Pg. ID 1700. Plaintiff also alleges that her counsel “colluded” with Attorney Linda Ashford-who was then representing Plaintiff as defense counsel in the criminal matter-to dismiss this case. Dkt. 81 at Pg. ID 1701.

         In their Response and Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Re-open Defendants argue that: 1) Plaintiff's Motion to Re-Open is effectively a Rule 60(b) motion for relief from a final judgment or order; 2) the stipulated dismissal without prejudice was not a final order or judgment from which Plaintiff can seek relief under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b); and 3) even if it were a final order or judgment, Plaintiff has not satisfied any of the 60(b) requirements for obtaining such relief. Dkt. 83 at Pg. ID 1707.

         Courts regularly construe pro se plaintiffs' requests to “re-open” cases as motions for relief from a judgment or order under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60(b). See, e.g., Hendricks v. Kasich, No. No. 2:12-cv-729, 2016 WL 1019259, at * 2 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 15, 2016)(construing a pro se plaintiff's motion to re-open a case he had voluntarily dismissed as a Rule 60(b) motion where plaintiff did not specify the “procedural mechanism” on which he had based his request to re-open); Li v. Recellular, Inc., No. 09-cv-11363, 2010 WL 1526379, at *4, n. 4 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 16, 2010)(noting that Plaintiff's pro se motion to set ...


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