United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
JAMES R. THOMAS, Petitioner,
BONITA HOFFNER, Respondent.
ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR AN AMENDED
JUDGMENT (Doc. 9)
COHN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a habeas case under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. On February 6,
2017, petitioner James R. Thomas, a Michigan prisoner
proceeding pro se, filed a habeas petition
challenging his 1978 state court convictions for
second-degree murder and assault with intent to commit
murder. (Doc. 1). Petitioner claimed that his trial
attorney's gross misadvice and failure to object to an
illusory plea bargain violated his Sixth Amendment right to
effective assistance of counsel. In a motion for equitable
tolling that Petitioner filed with his petition (Doc. 2),
Petitioner acknowledged that his petition was filed outside
the one-year statute of limitations. He nevertheless argued
that the statute of limitations began to run as of April 15,
2014, when the State ceased to impede his ability to assert
his claims in a habeas petition.
April 12, 2017, the Court denied Petitioner's motion for
equitable tolling and dismissed the petition as untimely.
(Doc. 8). Now before the Court is Petitioner's motion for
an amended judgment in which he seeks reconsideration of the
dismissal. (Doc. 9). For the reasons that follow, the motion
will be denied.
brings his motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
59(e), which permits individuals to ask a court to alter or
amend its judgment. “The purpose of a Rule 59(e) motion
is to allow the court to reevaluate the basis for its
decision.” Keyes v. Nat'l R. R.
Passenger Corp., 766 F.Supp. 277, 280 (E.D. Pa. 1991).
But “[a] district court may grant a Rule 59(e) motion
to alter or amend judgment only if there is: ‘(1) a
clear error of law; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) an
intervening change in controlling law; or (4) a need to
prevent manifest injustice.' ” Henderson v.
Walled Lake Consol. Sch., 469 F.3d 479, 496
(6th Cir. 2006) (quoting Intera Corp. v. Henderson,
428 F.3d 605, 620 (6th Cir. 2005)). This is similar to the
standard for reconsideration where the Court:
will not grant motions for rehearing or reconsideration that
merely present the same issues ruled upon by the Court,
either expressly or by reasonable implication. The movant
must not only demonstrate a palpable defect by which the
Court and the parties and other persons entitled to be heard
on the motion have been misled but also show that correcting
the defect will result in a different disposition of the
7.1(h)(3) (E.D. Mich. July 1, 2013). “A ‘palpable
defect' is a defect which is obvious, clear,
unmistakable, manifest, or plain.” Hawkins v.
Genesys Health Systems, 704 F.Supp.2d 688, 709 (E.D.
Mich. 2010) (quoting Ososki v. St. Paul Surplus Lines
Ins. Co., 162 F.Supp.2d 714, 718 (E.D. Mich. 2001)).
dismissing the petition, the Court found that even if the
limitation period did not begin to run until April 15, 2014,
as Petitioner claims, the petition was still untimely. In his
motion for an amended judgment, Petitioner does not challenge
this finding but offers additional reasons that prevented him
from timely filing a petition until 2017. Petitioner, for
instance, says he has a physical condition known as
“enstrophe, ” which renders him virtually blind,
and that he had four surgeries for his condition between
April 15, 2014, and early 2017 when he filed his habeas
petition. He also says that while the MDOC provided him with
legal assistance through November 24, 2015, he was then
transferred to another prison (Lakeland Correctional
Facility), and he had to re-apply for legal assistance.
According to Petitioner, there was a delay in verifying his
medical condition, but eventually he was approved for legal
assistance at the Lakeland Facility, and a legal writer then
helped him prepare his habeas petition. Petitioner asks the
Court to take this information into consideration and
reconsider whether the petition should be equitably tolled.
the information provided by Petitioner entitles him to
equitable tolling. The fact that Petitioner was without legal
assistance for an unspecified amount of time is not a basis
for excusing his late filing. Keeling v. Warden, Lebanon
Corr. Inst., 673 F.3d 452, 464 (6th Cir. 2012).
Furthermore, although Petitioner's virtual blindness and
surgeries may have incapacitated him for a time, he has not
supported his allegations with any documentation about his
physical condition. He also has not alleged the date on which
he was approved for legal assistance at the Lakeland
Facility. His visual impediment would cease to be a problem
once he acquired legal assistance. Colwell v.
Tanner, 79 Fed.Appx. 89, 93 (6th Cir. 2003).
reasons stated above, Petitioner has failed to demonstrate
that he is entitled to equitable tolling between April 15,
2014, the date on which the State supposedly lifted its
impediment to filing a timely habeas petition, and early 2017
when Petitioner actually filed his petition. Thus, the Court
did not make a palpable error in its decision dismissing the
petition, and no ...