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Barry A. Hazle, Jr v. Mitch Crofoot

January 12, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garland E. Burrell, Jr. United States District Judge


Plaintiff Barry A. Hazle moves for a new trial under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 59(a) arguing: the jury's verdict was contrary to the clear weight of the evidence; the jury failed to award damages which was contrary to law and evinces the jury did not follow the Court's instructions; and, newly discovered evidence shows the Defendants presented false information to the jury.

Mitchell Crofoot ("Crofoot"), Brenda Wilding ("Wilding"), and Richard Jallins ("Jallins") (collectively, "Defendants") oppose Hazle's motion. For the reasons stated below, the motion is DENIED.


Rule 59(a) states, "A new trial may be granted . . . in an action in which there has been a trial by jury, for any of the reasons for which new trials have heretofore been granted in actions at law in the courts of the United States." Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1). The Ninth Circuit has noted, Rule 59 does not specify the grounds on which a motion for a new trial may be granted. Rather, the court is bound by those grounds that have been historically recognized. Historically recognized grounds include, but are not limited to, claims that the verdict is against the weight of the evidence, that the damages are excessive, or that, for other reasons, the trial was not fair to the party moving. [The Ninth Circuit has] held that the trial court may grant a new trial only if the verdict is contrary to the clear weight of the evidence, is based upon false or perjurious evidence, or to prevent a miscarriage of justice.

Molski v. M.J. Cable, Inc., 481 F.3d 724, 729 (9th Cir. 2007) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).


Prior to trial, an order issued granting Hazle's motion for partial summary judgment against Defendants, in which each Defendant was found liable for violating Hazle's Establishment Clause rights by requiring him to participate in a 12-step drug rehabilitation program that contained religious components. (Order, April 7, 2010, ECF No. 87.) The final pretrial order prescribes: "The damage issues will be tried to a jury[.]" (Final Pretrial Order, May 5, 2010, ECF No. 93 1:22-23.)

A jury trial commenced on the damages issues on June 22, 2010. (Reporters Transcript ("RT") 4:1-4.) Following preliminary jury instructions, the judge told the jury about the pretrial ruling on liability as follows: "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I decided in a pretrial ruling that each defendant violated plaintiff's First Amendment Establishment Clause right by requiring that plaintiff attend a 12-step drug rehabilitation program after plaintiff objected to the religious components of the program, and by arresting and incarcerating plaintiff because of that failure to participate in the program." Id. 73:14-19.

A. Undisputed Facts

The following undisputed facts were read to the jury:

As a condition of parole following his incarceration on drug possession charges, Barry Hazle was required to participate in a 12-step religious drug treatment program.

The residential drug treatment program to which Hazle was assigned to fulfill his parole condition was called Empire Recovery Center.

Empire used a 12-step program that included references to God and a higher power.

Mitch Crofoot was Barry Hazle's parole agent at the time that Hazle was at Empire.

One of Mr. Crofoot's responsibilities was to make sure that Hazle complied with the conditions of his parole.

Hazle told Crofoot that he objected to participating in the Empire program because he was an atheist.

Hazle asked Crofoot whether he could fulfill his parole requirements through a secular program.

Crofoot told Hazle that he needed to continue at Empire while Crofoot researched the situation, and told Hazle not to leave class again.

After making inquiries, Crofoot told Hazle there were no programs that were non-12-step.

Crofoot told Hazle that he could file an inmate/parolee appeal, a 602 appeal, but that in the meantime he should continue to participate in the Empire program or he would be returned to prison.

Hazle presented Crofoot on April 3, 2007 with a 602 appeal that set forth the basis for his objection to participation in the Empire program.

According to Crofoot, representatives of the Empire told Crofoot on April 6, 2007, that Hazle has been disruptive, though in a congenial way, to the staff as well as other students.

As to Hazle's disruptive behavior, Crofoot's understanding from the Empire representatives was that Hazle was not being loud; he wasn't throwing things around; he wasn't stomping around; he wasn't being boisterous and that sort of thing. He was sort of passive aggressive.

Crofoot spoke with his unit supervisor Brenda Wilding and concluded that the right thing to do was to refer Hazle to the BPH, the Board of Prison Hearings, on a parole violation for failing to participate in the board-ordered program.

Crofoot and Wilding decided together that Hazle needed to be returned to prison so he could argue his case before the BPH.

Crofoot arrested Hazle on April 6, 2007, and booked him into Shasta County Jail.

After arresting Hazle, Crofoot called the CRC, explained the circumstances pertaining to Hazle, explained that he was requesting that Hazle be returned to custody, and obtained an oral order of return, and an oral order of ...

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