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Bealer v. S. Rios

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 26, 2017

ANTWOINE BEALER, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER S. RIOS and SERGEANT R. BRANNUM, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S RULE 60 MOTION; DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RETURN OF FUNDS (DOC. NOS. 247, 250)

         Antwoine Bealer (“plaintiff) is a state prisoner who appeared pro se and was granted in forma pauperis status in this civil rights action which he filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The undersigned presided over the trial in this action, which proceeded to jury trial on plaintiffs Fourth Amended Complaint wherein he alleged that the defendants had subjected him to the excessive use of force in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. (Doc. No. 21.) On August 11, 2016, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of defendants, finding that defendants R. Brannum and S. Rios did not use excessive force against plaintiff on November 1, 2010. (Doc. No. 206.) At the time of the trial, defendants R. Brannum and S. Rios were the only remaining defendants in the case, and plaintiffs excessive use of force claim was the only remaining claim. (Doc. No. 33.)

         On February 2, 2017, the court issued an order denying plaintiff's post-trial motions: (i) for an extension of time to submit a motion for a new trial and a notice of appeal, (Doc. Nos. 214-15); (ii) for a new trial, (Doc. Nos. 218, 235); (iii) to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal and for a new trial, (Doc. No. 230); (iv) for reconsideration of the court's October 17, 2016 order denying his motion for preparation of a trial transcript at government expense, (Doc. No. 231); (v) for authorization of post-trial juror interviews, (Doc. No. 234); (vi) for the undersigned to appear as a witness, (Doc. No. 234); and (vii) for videotape evidence in support of his motion for a new trial, (Doc. No. 237). (Doc. No. 238.) On March 7, 2017, the court issued an amended order denying many of those same motions. (Doc. No. 243.)

         On April 24, 2017, plaintiff filed a Rule 60 motion for reconsideration of the court's order denying his motion for a new trial. (Doc. No. 247.) On June 5, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion for the return of funds removed from his trust account by the court. (Doc. No. 250.) For the following reasons, the court will grant plaintiff's motion for reconsideration in part and upon reconsideration confirms its order denying his motion for a new trial solely on its merits and deny plaintiff's motion for a return of funds.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         ANALYSIS

         A. Rule 60 Motion For Reconsideration

         Plaintiff moves for reconsideration of the court's order denying his motion for a new trial.

         Federal Civil Procedure Rule 60(b) provides that “[o]n motion and upon such terms as are just, the court may relieve a party. . . from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; . . . or (6) any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment. “The law in this circuit is that errors of law are cognizable under Rule 60(b).” Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. EEOC, 691 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1982).

         Relief under Rule 60 “is to be used sparingly as an equitable remedy to prevent manifest injustice and is to be utilized only where extraordinary circumstances” exist. Harvest v. Castro, 531 F.3d 737, 749 (9th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations marks and citation omitted) (addressing reconsideration under Rule 60(b)(1)-(5)). The moving party “must demonstrate both injury and circumstances beyond his control.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Further, Local Rule 230(j) requires, in relevant part, that in moving for reconsideration of an order denying or granting a prior motion, a party must show “what new or different facts or circumstances are claimed to exist which did not exist or were not shown” previously, “what other grounds exist for the motion, ” and “why the facts or circumstances were not shown” at the time the substance of the order which is objected to was considered.

         “A motion for reconsideration should not be granted, absent highly unusual circumstances, unless the district court is presented with newly discovered evidence, committed clear error, or if there is an intervening change in the controlling law, ” and it “may not be used to raise arguments or present evidence for the first time when they could reasonably have been raised earlier in the litigation.” Marlyn Nutraceuticals, Inc. v. Mucos Pharma GmbH & Co., 571 F.3d 873, 880 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotations marks and citations omitted) (emphasis in original).

         Here, plaintiff moves for reconsideration of the court's order denying his motion for a new trial. Motions for a new trial are governed by Federal Civil Procedure Rule 59, which provides that any such motions “must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59. Motions to alter or amend a judgment brought under Rule 59(e) must also be “filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment.” Id. Under the “mailbox rule, ” motions filed by pro se prisoners are considered filed on the date they are delivered to prison authorities for forwarding to the district court. See Douglas v. Noelle, 567 F.3d 1103, 1107 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 270-72 (1988)); see also Hostler v. Groves, 912 F.2d 1158, 1160-61 (9th Cir. 1990); Jackson v. City of Pittsburgh, No. 07-111, 2010 WL 4878795, at *1 (W.D. Penn. Nov. 24, 2010) (applying the mailbox rule to a motion for a new trial under Rule 59).

         As noted, on March 7, 2017, this court issued its order denying plaintiffs motion for a new trial on two grounds. (Doc. No. 243.) First, the court concluded that the motion was untimely. (Doc. No. 243 at 3.) Specifically, the court noted that judgment was entered in favor of defendants in this case on August 12, 2016, and that although the twenty eight day period for filing a motion for a new trial lapsed on September 9, 2016, plaintiff's motion for a new trial was not filed with the court until September 15, 2016. (Id.) Second, the court also concluded that on its merits, plaintiff's motion did not present any valid and supported grounds for the granting of a new trial. (Id. at 3-4 n.3.)

         Plaintiff moves for reconsideration of this order, arguing that the court erred in denying his motion for a new trial as untimely. (Doc. No. 218.) In particular, plaintiff contends that his motion for a new trial was timely under the “mailbox rule” because it was submitted to prison authorities for filing on September 8, 2016, within the twenty-eight day deadline. (Doc. No. 249.)

         Judgment was entered in this action in favor of defendants on August 12, 2016, and the twenty-eight-day period for filing a motion for a new trial lapsed on September 9, 2016. (Doc. No. 209.) While the court did not receive plaintiff's motion for filing until September 15, 2016 (Doc. No. 218), plaintiff has pointed to evidence suggesting that he delivered his motion for a new trial to prison authorities for filing on September 8, 2016. As plaintiff notes, his original motion for a new trial is Dated: the signature line as having been signed on September 8, 2016. (Doc. No. 218.) Plaintiff has also submitted a declaration stating that he submitted the motion for a new trial to prison authorities on September 8, 2016. (Doc. No. 249 at 1.) Therefore, upon reconsideration, the court now concludes that plaintiff's motion for a new trial was timely filed under the mailbox rule. See Guzman v. United States, No. 05-214-ML, 2007 WL 141073, at *2 n. 4 (D. R.I. Jan. 17, 2007) (“[U]nder the mailbox rule, the motion will be considered filed as of the date it was signed.” (citation omitted)); Blackmer v. Warden, No. 03-275-PB, 2004 WL 2823216, at *1 n. 1 (D. N.H. Dec. 9, 2004) (relying on “the date that appears on the petition” to establish the filing date). But see Parrila Sanes v. ...


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