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Sheikh v. Medical Board of California

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


October 20, 2010

FARZANA SHEIKH, M.D., PLAINTIFF,
v.
MEDICAL BOARD OF CALIFORNIA, AND STATE OF CALIFORNIA, DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Frank C. Damrell, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter is before the court on plaintiff Farzana Skeikh's ("Skeikh" or "plaintiff") motion for relief from the court's final judgment*fn1 granting defendants Medical Board of California and the State of California's (collectively "defendants") motion to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint.

Defendants oppose plaintiff's motion. For the forgoing reasons, plaintiff's motion for relief from judgment is DENIED.*fn2

BACKGROUND

On January 27, 2010 a petition for "Writ of Review" was filed on behalf of plaintiff, by her non-attorney husband, against defendants. (Docket #2). On February 17, 2010 plaintiff filed an amended petition for review ("amended complaint"). (Docket #14). Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint and a request for judicial notice on March 4, 2010. (Docket ## 18, 20). The original petition filed on behalf of plaintiff, which was construed as a complaint, was ultimately striken by Magistrate Judge Gregory G. Hollows on March 18, 2010.*fn3 (Docket #22). On March 28, 2010, plaintiff filed a request for reconsideration of Judge Hollows' March 18, 2010 order, claiming that she had not consented to the jurisdiction of the magistrate judge and that the court erred in disallowing her husband to represent her. (Docket #27). This court denied plaintiff's request on April 28, 2010. (Docket #39).

The hearing on defendants' motion to dismiss was held before Judge Hollows and submitted on June 10, 2010.*fn4 Plaintiff filed a letter addressed to Judge Hollows on June 21, 2010, wherein she asserted that Judge Hollows had no authority to rule on defendants' motion to dismiss and plaintiff again requested that her husband be allowed to represent her. (Docket #50). On July 14, 2010 Judge Hollows filed his order, recommending that defendants' request for judicial notice and amended motion to dismiss be granted, thereby dismissing plaintiff's action. (Docket #55). Plaintiff had fourteen days to file objections to Judge Hollows' findings and recommendations. (Docket #55). On July 28, 2010, plaintiff filed a document entitled "Revised Notice of Motion- Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss Defendants' Motion for Dismissal of Plaintiff's Petition for Administrative Review." (Docket #57).

On August 23, 2010, after construing plaintiff's filing as objections, this court adopted Judge Hollows' findings and recommendations in full (the "final judgment"). (Docket # 58). Defendants' motion to dismiss was granted and the case was closed. (Docket ## 58, 59). Despite the case closing, plaintiff continued to file a number of documents with the court, including various purported requests for judicial notice and requests for admissions. (See Docket ## 70-77). Defendants filed a reply to plaintiff's various post-judgment submissions on September 21, 2010, which is also the day plaintiff filed her motion for relief from final judgment and her notice of appeal. (Docket ## 80-83).

STANDARD

Where the court's ruling has resulted in a final judgment or order, a motion for reconsideration may be based either on Rule 59(e) (motion to alter or amend judgment) or Rule 60(b) (motion for relief from judgment) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See School Dist. No. 1J, Multnomah County v. ACandS, Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1262 (9th Cir. 1993). A motion for reconsideration is treated as a motion to alter or amend judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) if it is filed within twenty-eight days of entry of judgment; otherwise, it is treated as a rule 60(b) motion for relief from a judgment or order. American Ironworks & Erectors, Inc. v. North Am. Const. Corp., 248 F.3d 892 (9th Cir. 2001).

Absent "highly unusual circumstances," reconsideration of a final judgment under Rule 59(e) is appropriate only where (1) the court is presented with newly-discovered evidence, (2) the court committed "clear error or the initial decision was manifestly unjust," or (3) there is an intervening change in the controlling law. School Dist. No. 1J, Multnomah County, 5 F.3d at 1263; Zimmerman v. City of Oakland, 255 F.3d 734, 740 (9th Cir. 2001). A district judge may provide relief from final judgment, under Rule 60(b), if the moving party can show: "(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud..., misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or (6) any other reason that justifies relief." United Nat'l Ins. Co. v. Spectrum Worldwide, Inc., 555 F.3d 772, 780 (9th Cir. 2009)(citing Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60(b)).

ANALYSIS

Defendants argue plaintiff's motion, whether brought under Rule 59(e) or 60(b),*fn5 has no merit and must be denied. (Opp'n at 2). Specifically, defendants contend plaintiff's motion is untimely under Rule 59(e), and that her contentions under Rule 60(b) are grounded only in "her disagreement with [the court's] rulings, findings, and conclusions of law," which does not merit relief from the court's judgment.*fn6 (Opp'n at 5-6).

A Rule 60(b) motion is "not a vehicle to reargue a motion or present evidence which should have been raised before." U.S. v. Westlands Water Dist., 134 F. Supp.2d 1111, 1131 (E.D. Cal. 2001)(quoting Bermingham v. Sony Corp. of Am., Inc., 820 F. Supp. 834, 856 (D. N.J. 1992)). "A party seeking reconsideration must show more than a disagreement with the Court's decision, and recapitulation of the cases and arguments considered by the court before rendering its original decision fails to carry the moving party's burden." Id. Ultimately, motions for reconsideration are committed to the discretion of the trial court. Combs v. Nick Garin Trucking, 825 F.2d 437, 441 (D.C. Cir. 1987); Rodgers v. Watt, 722 F.2d 456, 460 (9th Cir. 1983), en banc.

Although the bases for plaintiff's motion are not readily apparent from her papers, the court construes plaintiff's motion as asserting two primary grounds for relief from final judgment.*fn7

First, plaintiff asserts she should be granted relief from judgment under Rule 60(b)(4) because she did not consent to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge. However, under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) a magistrate judge, such as Judge Hollows, may "conduct hearings, including evidentiary hearings, and submit to a judge of the court proposed findings of fact and recommendations for the disposition, by a judge of the court, of any motion excepted in subparagraph (A)." The Eastern District of California directs all civil actions where the plaintiff or defendant is proceeding in propria persona to a magistrate judge, for dispositive and non-dispositive motions and matters. E.D. Cal. L.R. 302(c)(21). Judge Hollows thus had authority to hear this matter and submit proposed findings of fact and recommendations to the court; therefore, this court's dismissal of plaintiff's action, based on its adoption of Judge Hollows' findings of fact and recommendation, is not void under Rule 60(b)(4).

As to plaintiff's second claimed basis for relief, plaintiff argues the documents she submitted post-judgment are "newly discovered evidence" under Rule 60(b)(2). (See Docket ## 70, 71, 74, 75, 76, 77)*fn8. However, even if the court were to take judicial notice of the documents submitted post-judgment, plaintiff has not demonstrated that these documents are "newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(e)." (See Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(2)). To the contrary, as indicated by the dates, each document was in existence well before the time required for plaintiff to make a Rule 59(e) motion. Therefore, because plaintiff has not demonstrated that the documents are "newly discovered" as required by Rule 60(b)(2), she is not entitled to relief from final judgment on this ground.

Because plaintiff has not demonstrated that there is "newly discovered evidence" in her action or that the final judgment was void, she is not entitled to relief under Rule 60(b)(2) or Rule 60(b)(4). Therefore, plaintiff's motion for relief from final judgment must be denied.

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff's Rule 60(b) motion for relief from final judgment (Docket ## 58, 59) is DENIED.*fn9

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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