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Frenken v. Hunter

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 2, 2018



          HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR.United States District Judge

         On April 13, 2018, Plaintiff Geerte Frenken moved for reconsideration of the Court's order granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant Christopher Perry Hunter. Dkt. Nos. 75-1 (“Mot.”); see also Dkt. No. 72 (“Order”).[1] Specifically, Plaintiff requests that the Court reconsider its Order under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Rule(s)”) 60(b)(1), 60(b)(3), and 60(b)(6). Defendant filed an opposition to the motion on April 27, 2018. Dkt. No. 76 (“Opp.”). After carefully considering the parties' arguments, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion.[2]


         Rule 60(b) allows courts to relieve a party from a final judgment or order for:

(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 (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), 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.

         “Under Rule 60(b)(3), the moving party must establish by clear and convincing evidence that a judgment was obtained by fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct, and that the conduct complained of prevented the moving party from fully and fairly presenting the case.” Lafarge Conseils Et Etudes, S.A. v. Kaiser Cement & Gypsum Corp., 791 F.2d 1334, 1338 (9th Cir. 1986). Rule 60(b)(6) is read as “exclusive of the preceding clauses, ” and is reserved “for extraordinary circumstances.” Id. (quotations omitted).


         Plaintiff seeks reconsideration on two overlapping grounds. First, Plaintiff claims that reconsideration under Rule 60(b)(1) and 60(b)(6) is appropriate because the Court erroneously relied on false statements by Defendant's counsel, failed to consider several documents in the record, and cited distinguishable case law. Mot. at 4-6. Second and similarly, Plaintiff argues that relief is appropriate under Rule 60(b)(3) because defense counsel obtained the Court's summary judgment ruling by making fraudulent representations. Id.

         The Court disagrees. Turning first to Plaintiff's allegations of fraud, Plaintiff identifies three supposedly false statements from defense counsel's declaration: (1) Plaintiff took Child to the Netherlands without Father's consent, Mot. at 2-3; (2) Father obtained sole physical custody over Child in November 2014, Mot. at 3; and (3) the Marin County Superior Court found that California is Child's habitual residence. Mot. at 3-4. None of these statements warrant Rule 60(b) relief. With respect to whether Father consented to Plaintiff's trip with Child to the Netherlands, the documents cited by Plaintiff do not controvert the statement made by defense counsel. See Order at 2; Dkt. No. 41-3 (“Reiter Decl.”) ¶ 7. Plaintiff's documents state, in sum, that Plaintiff was not legally required to obtain Father's written consent to travel with Child to the Netherlands; rather, Plaintiff needed only to notify Father. See Mot. at 2-3. These documents do not show that defense counsel made a false statement by representing that Father did not, in fact, consent to this trip.

         In addition, this statement was not dispositive of the Court's Order. As the Court stated in its Order, the key issue before the Court was Child's place of habitual residence. Order at 5-6. In finding that that Child's habitual residence was the United States, the Court cited four other court decisions so stating, and documents that Plaintiff attached to her own complaint. See Id. That Plaintiff informed Father of her travel with Child to the Netherlands did not then determine and does not now alter the Court's habitual residence finding. As a result, Plaintiff cannot show under Rule 60(b)(1) that the Court mistakenly or erroneusly relied on this statement. Furthermore, even assuming that this statement was false, it does not create the kind of gross injustice that compels departing from res judicata principles under Rule 60(b)(3). See Appling v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 340 F.3d 769, 780 (9th Cir. 2003) (holding that an action under Rule 60(b) to “to set aside a judgment for fraud on the court is ‘reserved for those cases of injustices which, in certain instances, are deemed sufficiently gross to demand a departure from rigid adherence to the doctrine of res judicata'” (quoting United States v. Beggerly, 524 U.S. 38, 46 (1998)); In re Levander, 180 F.3d 1114, 1119 (9th Cir. 1999) (finding “fraud on the court” where the court itself relied on the allegedly false statements in a prior holding); In re ...

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