The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, District Judge
On September 24, 2003, Judge John S. Martin*fn1 of this Court issued
an Opinion and Order finding that Gwen Bennett, Patrick Bennet's wife,
does not have a legitimate interest in three parcels of property that are
subject to forfeiture as a result of Patrick Bennett's conviction for
securities fraud, bank fraud and money laundering. See United States
v. Bennett, No. $197 Cr. 639, 2003 WL
22208286 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 24, 2003). Gwen Bennett now moves to alter
or amend that judgment, and for relief from the judgment, pursuant to
Rules 59 and 60 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
On June 10, 1999, a jury convicted Patrick Bennett of securities fraud,
bank fraud and money laundering. The jury also returned a special verdict
of forfeiture, requiring Patrick Bennett to forfeit to the United States
$109,088,889.11. Judge Martin thereafter conducted a hearing to
determine Patrick Bennett's interest in three parcels of real property.
At the conclusion of that hearing the Court
determined that all of the properties in question
had been purchased with funds belonging to Patrick
Bennett and that the properties were put into the
name of his wife Gwen Bennett `pursuant to a
scheme and conspiracy in which he and his wife
engaged to defraud potential creditors, starting
with the purchase of the house, which occurred
when the scheme was ongoing, massive, and
defendant knew that ultimately this house of cards
would have to collapse. Money that was derived
through his illegal venture was turned over and
used by his wife to purchase a home.' The Court
also concluded that the Government had not been
able to locate the $109,088,899, in the exercise
of due diligence and [Patrick] Bennett's right,
title and interest in these properties were
forfeited to the United States as substitute
Bennett, 2003 WL 22208286, at *1 (quoting 3/31/00
Transcript ("Tr.") at 11-12). Gwen Bennett subsequently filed claims with
respect to two of the
properties ("the disputed properties").*fn2
On August 14 and
18, 2003, Judge Martin held a hearing, at which Gwen Bennett testified,
to determine her interest in these properties. "[T]he Court found that
her testimony concerning her extensive role in acquiring these properties
and the lack of involvement of Patrick Bennett was not worthy of
belief." Id. at *1. The Court thus concluded that (1) Gwen
Bennett's interest in the properties was not superior to Patrick
Bennett's, (2) Patrick Bennett purchased the properties with money
procured by fraud and placed them in Gwen Bennett's name to deceive
creditors, and (3) Patrick Bennett's transfers of the properties to Gwen
Bennett constituted fraudulent conveyances under sections 275 and 276 of
New York Debtor and Creditor Law.*fn3
See id. at * 1-2.
A. Standard Under Rule 59(e)
Motions pursuant to Rule 59(e) are governed by the same standards
governing motions for reconsideration under Local Civil Rule 6.3. See
Wells Fargo Financial, Inc. v. Fernandez, No. 98 Civ. 6635, 2001 WL
345226, at *1 (S.D.N. Y.Apr. 9, 2001).
Thus, to be entitled to reargument and
reconsideration, the movant must demonstrate that
the Court overlooked controlling decisions or
factual matters that were put before it on the
underlying motion. [The Rule] is to be narrowly
construed and strictly applied so as to avoid
repetitive arguments on issues that have been
considered fully by the Court. In deciding a
reconsideration and reargument motion, the Court
must not allow a party to use the motion as a
substitute for appealing from a final judgment.
Dellefave v. Access Temporaries, Inc., No. 99 Civ. 6098,
2001 WL 286771, at *1 (S.D.N.Y.Mar.22, 2001).
B. Standard Under Rule 60(b)
Rule 60(b) provides that a court may relieve a party from a final
judgment if there is "fraud (whether heretofore denominated extrinsic or
intrinsic), misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party,"
or "the judgment is void." Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(3) and (4). A court may
not "lightly invoke the `extraordinary judicial relief of annulling a
final judgment." Batac Dev. Corp. v.
B&R Consultants, Inc., No. 98 Civ. 721, 2000 WL307400,
at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 23, 2000) (quoting Nemaizer v.
Baker, 793 F.2d 58, 61 (2d Cir. 1986)). Such relief should only
be granted in "exceptional circumstances." Batac, 2000 WL
307400, at *3. See also Employers Mut. Cas. Co. v. Key Pharm.,
75 F.3d 815, 824-25 (2d Cir. 1996) ("A movant under Rule 60(b) must
demonstrate `exceptional circumstances' justifying the extraordinary
relief requested."); Dellefave, 2001 WL 286771, at *2
("Rule 60(b) is `extraordinary judicial relief and can be granted `only upon a
showing of exceptional circumstances.'") (quoting Nemaizer, 793
F.2d at 61). The decision whether to grant a Rule 60(b) motion lies in
the discretion of the district court and will not be reversed on appeal
absent an abuse of discretion. See Jones v. Trump, 971 F. Supp. 783,
786 (S.D.N.Y. 1997), aff'd, No. 97-9017, 1998 WL 1967891
(2d Cir. Sept. 21, 1998).
A Rule 60(b) motion is not a substitute for appeal. See Competex,
S.A. v. Labow, 783 F.2d 333, 335 (2d Cir. 1986). Accordingly,
Rule 60(b) motions that simply attempt to relitigate issues and thereby
circumvent the appellate process are routinely dismissed. See, e.g.,
Hernandez v. United States, No. 99 Civ. 4303, 2000 WL 744148, at *1
(S.D.N.Y. June 8, 2000) (denying Rule 60(b) motion where "[t]he vast bulk
of [movant's] argument constitutes nothing more than a futile effort to
have this Court revisit its Opinion"); Batac, 2000 WL
307400, at *3 (holding that a party "may not . . . use Rule 60(b) as
a substitute for appeal or to relitigate matters already resolved by the
court adversely to that party").
It is well established that "a Rule 60(b)(3) motion cannot be granted
absent clear and convincing evidence of material misrepresentations and
cannot serve as an attempt to relitigate the merits." Fleming v. New
York Univ., 865 F.2d 478,484 (2d Cir. 1989). See also King v.
First Am. Investigations, Inc., 287 F.3d 91, 95 (2d Cir. 2002)
("Fraud upon the court must be established by clear and convincing
evidence."). Fraud upon the court "is limited to fraud which seriously
affects the integrity of the normal process of adjudication," and
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.'" Hadges v. Yonkers Racing
Corp., 48 F.3d 1320,1325 (2d Cir. 1995) (quoting Kupferman v.
Consolidated Research and Mfg. Corp., 459 F.2d 1072, 1078 (2d Cir.
1972) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Examples of conduct that meet
the definition of fraud upon the court include bribery of a judge, jury
tampering, or hiring an attorney for the sole purpose of ...