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Martin v. Fidelity National Title

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 23, 2015

LLOYD RAYMOND MARTIN, III, ET AL
v.
FIDELITY NATIONAL TITLE, ET AL., SECTION: R(4)

ORDER AND REASONS

SARAH S. VANCE, District Judge.

Before the Court is plaintiffs' motion to vacate judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 60(b).[1] For the following reasons, the Court DENIES the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Lloyd Martin, III, and Nicole Martin filed suit against Fidelity National Title Insurance Company regarding a title insurance contract dispute.[2] The factual background of that dispute is not relevant to this motion. On September 11, 2012, Judge Milazzo granted summary judgment in favor of Fidelity and dismissed the Martins' claims against it.[3] On April 16, 2013, Judge Milazzo entered final judgment in the case and certified the September 11, 2012 summary judgment order as final and appealable.

The Martins appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. On August 5, 2013, the Fifth Circuit affirmed Judge Milazzo's grant of summary judgment in Fidelity's favor.[4] Later that month, on August 27, 2013, Judge Milazzo disqualified herself from the case and ordered the case transferred to a different section of the court.[5]

Over a year later, on September 3, 2014, the Martins moved this section of the Court to vacate Judge Milazzo's September 2012 summary judgment order under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). They argue that Judge Milazzo's self-disqualification justifies relief under the rule.

II. DISCUSSION

Rule 60(b) provides six reasons for which a district court may grant relief from a final judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). The burden of establishing at least one of the reasons is on the moving party, and the district court enjoys broad discretion in assessing whether any of the reasons are present in a given case. Teal v. Eagle Fleet, Inc., 933 F.2d 341, 347 (5th Cir. 1991).

The Martins request relief under two of the six reasons. First, they request relief under Rule 60(b)(2), which permits relief when a party comes forward with "newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b)." But the Martins are not entitled to relief under Rule 60(b)(2), for two reasons.

First, although the Martins contend that the "newly discovered evidence" regarding Judge Milazzo's selfdisqualification merits relief, this reference to "newly discovered evidence" is not the type of merits evidence to which Rule 60(b)(2) refers. Second, the Martins' motion under Rule 60(b)(2) is untimely. Motions brought pursuant to Rule 60(b)(2) must be filed within one year of entry of the judgment from which the party seeks relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(c)(1). Here, the Martins filed their Rule 60 motion nearly 17 months after Judge Milazzo entered final judgment. Thus, the Martins are timebarred from moving under Rule 60(b)(2).

In the alternative, the Martins request relief under Rule 60(b)(6). Under Rule 60(b)(6), a court may grant relief from a final judgment or order for "any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment." Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6). This relief is "extraordinary, " and the movant bears the burden of demonstrating the exceptional circumstances that warrant relief. See Heirs of H.P. Guerra v. United States, 207 F.3d 763, 767 (5th Cir. 2000) (citing Klapprott v. United States, 335 U.S. 601, 613-14, 69 S.Ct. 384, 390 (1949)).

To determine whether Rule 60(b) relief is appropriate, a district court considers the following factors:

(1) final judgments should not be lightly disturbed; (2) a Rule 60(b) motion is not to be used as a substitute for appeal; (3) the rule should be liberally construed in order to achieve substantial justice; (4) whether the motion was filed within a reasonable time; (5) whether-if the judgment was a default or a dismissal in which there was no consideration of the merits-the interest in deciding cases on the merits outweighs, in the particular case, the interest in the finality of judgments, and there is merit in the movant's claim or defense; (6) whether-if the judgment was rendered after a trial on the merits-the movant had a fair opportunity to present his claim or defense; (7) whether there are intervening equities that would make it inequitable to grant relief; and (8) any other factors relevant to the justice of the judgment under attack.

Crutcher v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 746 F.2d 1076, 1082 (5th Cir. 1984) (citing United States v. Gould, 301 F.2d 353, 355-56 (5th Cir. 1962). "[T]hese factors are to be considered in the light of the great desirability of preserving the principle of the finality of judgments." Id. Thus, ...


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