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United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
December 8, 2020, Decided
No. 20-10864 Non-Argument Calendar
[*477] PER CURIAM:
More than eight years ago, the district court dismissed with prejudice Valentine Andela's case against U-Haul International, Inc. Andela still believes that the district court's dismissal was an egregious error and has now made multiple attempts to correct that ruling. In his latest attempt, he filed an independent action for relief from judgment for fraud upon the court under Rule 60(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.1 The district court sua sponte dismissed his complaint and then denied his motion to alter or amend the judgment. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm the district court's dismissal.
] We review the dismissal of an independent action for relief from judgment under an abuse of discretion standard. Booker v. Dugger, 825 F.2d 281, 285 (11th Cir. 1987). An [**2] independent action "should be available only to prevent a grave miscarriage of justice." United States v. Beggerly, 524 U.S. 38, 47, 118 S. Ct. 1862, 141 L. Ed. 2d 32 (1998).
Rule 60(d) allows a district court to entertain an independent action for relief from judgment and to set aside a judgment for fraud on the court. Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(d). But the spectrum of fraud that warrants relief is very narrow. It embraces "only that species of fraud which does or attempts to, defile the court itself, or is a fraud perpetrated by officers of the court so that the judicial machinery cannot perform in the usual manner its impartial task of adjudging cases." Travelers Indem. Co. v. Gore, 761 F.2d 1549, 1551 (11th Cir. 1985) (quotation omitted).2 We have held that an independent action should not be used to relitigate issues that were or could have been raised in the original case. Id. at 1552. For instance, neither a party's perjury nor fabricated evidence constitutes fraud upon the court because those "are evils that can and should be exposed at trial." Id. (quotations omitted). In sum, only the "most egregious misconduct, such as bribery of a judge or members of a jury, or the fabrication of evidence by a party in which an attorney is implicated, will constitute a fraud on the court" and justify relief from the original judgment. Rozier v. Ford Motor Co., 573 F.2d 1332, 1338 (5th Cir. 1978) (quotation omitted).
[*478] Andela [**3] has not shown that the district court abused its discretion by finding that he had not alleged such egregious misconduct here. Indeed, as the district court observed, Andela appears to be trying to relitigate potential legal errors in his previous case, which he now labels as "fraud." In his briefing, Andela insists that the district court judge in his original case committed fraud on the court by dismissing his case "in clear absence of all jurisdiction," and by submitting a "patently false affidavit" to this Court. That "patently false affidavit" was, actually, the district court's order dismissing the case and denying Andela's motion to proceed on appeal in forma pauperis. And the allegedly "materially false" statement that Andela points to was the explanation the district court gave for denying his motion to proceed in forma pauperis: "Andela would be unable to show that his appeal involves non frivolous issues." His complaint also identified several other procedural or legal errors in his 2012 case, including that U-Haul failed to provide timely disclosures, that the district court incorrectly found that Andela's summary judgment motion was premature, and that the district court [**4] wrongly determined that Andela had failed to file a statement of undisputed facts with his summary judgment motion.
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831 Fed. Appx. 476 *; 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 38191 **; 2020 WL 7230590
VALENTINE B. ANDELA, Plaintiff-Appellant, versus U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL, INC., KATHLEEN M. WILLIAMS, U.S. District Court Judge, Defendants-Appellees.
Notice: PLEASE REFER TO FEDERAL RULES OF APPELLATE PROCEDURE RULE 32.1 GOVERNING THE CITATION TO UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS.
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. D.C. Docket No. 1:19-cv-25269-JEM.
Andela v. U-Haul Int'l, Inc., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1123 (S.D. Fla., Jan. 3, 2020)
district court, independent action, relief from judgment, in forma pauperis, false affidavit, original case, relitigate, egregious, quotation, patently, summary judgment motion, district court judge, constitute fraud, justify relief, legal error, no abuse, fabricated, misconduct, amend
Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Judgments, Relief From Judgments, Independent Actions, Grounds for Relief from Final Judgment, Order or Proceeding, Fraud, Misconduct & Misrepresentation