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Edwards v. City of Tupelo

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

November 1, 2019

VINCENT EDWARDS, Individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated PLAINTIFF



         This proposed class action case is before the Court on the City of Tupelo, Mississippi's motion for reconsideration of the Court's September 24, 2019, order. Doc. #121.


         Procedural History

         On August 18, 2017, Vincent Edwards, “individually and as class representatives, ” filed a “Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights” against the City of Tupelo, Mississippi; Lee County, Mississippi; Ramierre Warren; and certain fictitious parties. Doc. #1. In addition to individual claims asserted by Edwards, the complaint proposed a class action based on certain allegedly unconstitutional practices of the City and the County. Id. at 3-5. On October 12, 2018, Edwards filed a motion to certify the proposed class. Doc. #41.

         Later, Edwards, with leave of the Court, filed an amended complaint against the same defendants.[1] Doc. #57. In addition to individual claims, the amended complaint asserted four proposed constitutional claims, titled as (1) “The City Violated Plaintiffs' Rights by Incarcerating Them for Non-Payment of Debts without a Constitutional Inquiry into Their Ability to Pay, ” (Count One); (2) “The City Violated the Plaintiffs' Rights by Imprisoning Them for Inability to Pay Debts without Appointing Adequate Counsel, ” (Count Two); (3) “The City of Tupelo and Lee County's Scheme of Forcing Indigent Prisoners to Labor in Order to Work Off Their Debts Violates the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Federal Law, ” (Count Three); and (4) “The Use of Incarceration and Threats of Incarceration to Collect Debts Owed to the City Violates the Equal Protection Clause, ” (Count Four). Id. at 10-13. On February 28, 2019, Edwards filed a supplemental motion for class certification based on the claims asserted in the amended complaint. Doc. #82 at 1-2.

         On July 24, 2019, United States Magistrate Judge David A. Sanders issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending, among other things, that the motions to certify be denied. Doc. #94. On August 13, 2019, Edwards filed objections to the R&R, Doc. #97; a motion for voluntary dismissal as to all claims but those related to indigency hearings for those held in contempt, Doc. #98; and a motion for an evidentiary hearing on the issue of class certification, Doc. #99.

         On September 24, 2019, this Court issued an order which, of relevance here (1) construed Edwards' motion for voluntary dismissal as a motion to amend filed after the amendment deadline; (2) found good cause to modify the scheduling order to consider Edwards' untimely filing; and (3) found sufficient grounds to grant the motion to amend. Doc. #120. On October 1, 2019, the City of Tupelo filed a motion for reconsideration on the issue of amendment, Doc. #121; the County joined the motion for reconsideration, Doc. #123; and Edwards, pursuant to the September 24 order, filed a second amended proposed class action complaint, Doc. #124. The motion for reconsideration has been fully briefed. Docs. #122, #126, #127, #128.


         Standard of Review

         As a general rule, a request for reconsideration of an interlocutory order, such as the one at issue here, [2] is properly treated as a motion for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). See Helena Labs. Corp. v. Alpha Sci. Corp., 483 F.Supp.2d 538, 538 n.1 (E.D. Tex. 2007) (“Alpha's motion was improperly filed under [Rule] 59(e) because no final judgment has been entered. However, it is undisputed that the court has discretion to treat the motion as one for reconsideration under [Rule] 54(b).”).

Although the source of the court's authority to revise or amend an order or judgment is different for interlocutory orders than for final orders or judgments, many of the same policy considerations apply both to motions for reconsideration under Rule 54(b) and to motions for reconsideration under Rule 59(e). Accordingly, district courts … frequently apply the same standards to the two.

eTool Dev., Inc. v. Nat'l Semiconductor Corp., 881 F.Supp.2d 745, 748 (E.D. Tex. 2012) (collecting cases). “A motion to alter or amend the judgment under Rule 59(e) must clearly establish either a manifest error of law or fact or must present newly discovered evidence and cannot be used to raise arguments which could, and should, have been made before the judgment issued.” Schiller v. Physicians Res. Grp. Inc., 342 F.3d 563, 567 (5th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Relief under Rule 59(e) is also appropriate when there has been an intervening change in the controlling law.” Id. Additionally, “a trial court is free to reconsider and reverse interlocutory orders for any reason it deems sufficient, even in the absence of new ...

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