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Terry Rivera v. Dennis Smith

May 13, 2011

TERRY RIVERA,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
DENNIS SMITH, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM JUDGMENT ) AND MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL [Doc. #37]

INTRODUCTION

This lawsuit arose from the killing of Correctional Officer Jose Rivera ("Officer Rivera") by two inmates at the United States Penitentiary in Atwater, California. On June 7, 2010, Plaintiff Terry Rivera, surviving mother of Officer Rivera, filed a Complaint against numerous federal employees, alleging claims under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Plaintiff brought her claims in her individual capacity and as Administrator of the Estate of Officer Rivera.

On January 4, 2011, Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint under Rule 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff did not file an opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss, but instead filed an untimely First Amended Complaint ("FAC") on February 22, 2010. The Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss on March 15, 2011. In the March 15, 2011 order, the Court (1) struck Plaintiff's FAC from the record because it was filed in violation of Rule 15(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; (2) concluded that Plaintiff, in her individual capacity, lacked sanding to bring a claim asserting a violation of Officer Rivera's constitutional rights; and (3) held that Bivens relief was inappropriate for the alleged constitutional violation of Officer Rivera because of Congress' enactment of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act. In accordance with the March 15, 2011 order, the Court entered a final judgment.

On April 8, 2011, Plaintiff filed a motion for relief from judgment or, in the alternative, motion for new trial. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a court to relieve a party from final judgment, order or proceeding for the following reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct of the adverse party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; and (6) any other reason justifying relief. A court may correct an error of law under Rule 60(b)(1). Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n, 691 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1982).

Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court may order a new trial following a jury or non-jury trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a)(1)(A) and (B). Rule 59 does not specify the grounds on which a motion for a new trial may be granted. Zhang v. Am. Gem Seafoods, Inc., 339 F.3d 1020, 1035 (9th Cir. 2003). Rather, a court is "bound by those grounds that have been historically recognized." Id.

DISCUSSION

1. Motion for Relief from Judgment

A. Standing

Plaintiff argues that the Court's conclusion regarding Plaintiff's standing to bring an individual claim was erroneous. Motion at 2:13-14. Citing to Ward v. City of San Jose, 967 F.2d 280, 283 (9th Cir. 1992), Plaintiff contends that she has standing to sue individually for a violation of her constitutionally protected liberty interest in the companionship and society of her son. Id. at 2:15-17.

Article III standing requires federal courts to satisfy themselves that the plaintiff has alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to warrant his invocation of federal-court jurisdiction. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975). The plaintiff bears the burden of showing that he has standing for each type of relief sought. City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 105 (1983).

The Court's conclusion that Plaintiff lacked standing to bring an individual claim was legally correct. In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that she was suing individually and as the Administrator of the Estate of Officer Rivera. Complaint at ¶ 5. Plaintiff's Complaint, however, only alleged a violation of Officer Rivera's Fifth Amendment Rights. Id. at ¶ 58. Thus, Plaintiff failed to meet her burden on her individual claim because she rested her individual claim to relief on the legal rights and interests of Officer Rivera.

Plaintiff correctly cites to Ward for the legal proposition that parents have a constitutionally protected interest in the companionship and society of their children. In this case, Plaintiff's Complaint did not assert a violation of her parental rights or seek damages to compensate her for the loss of her son's companionship and society. As stated above, Plaintiff only alleged and sought relief for violations of Officer Rivera's ...


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