Matthews v. Summers

Filing 80

ORDER: IT IS ORDERED that Defendant's motion for reconsideration, 75 , is hereby DENIED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant's motion to continue the jury trial, (Doc. 75 at 5), is hereby DENIED. [see attached Order for details]. Signed by Senior Judge James A Teilborg on 2/23/2016. (KAL)

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WO 1 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 Moses Isaiah Matthews, No. CV-14-00062-PHX-JAT Plaintiff, 10 11 v. 12 ORDER Heather Summers, 13 Defendant. 14 15 Pending before the Court is Defendant Heather Summers’s motion for a new trial 16 pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)(2). (Doc. 75). Defendant’s motion 17 follows the Court’s February 19, 2016, Order concluding that Defendant had failed to 18 carry her burden under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) (2012) 19 (the “PLRA”), as she failed to establish that Plaintiff Moses Matthews did not exhaust his 20 available administrative remedies. See Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1169, 1172 (9th 21 Cir. 2014) (en banc). The Court now rules on the pending motion. 22 23 I. 24 The Court begins by noting that it finds that Rule 59(a)(2) is not the appropriate 25 procedural vehicle for reconsideration of the February 19 Order. Recalling the Court’s 26 October 27, 2015, Order granting Defendant’s motion to bifurcate, (Doc. 52), the Ninth 27 Circuit has recently explained that while the “[f]ailure to exhaust under the PLRA is ‘an 28 affirmative defense the defendant must plead and prove,’” Albino, 747 F.3d at 1166 1 (quoting Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 204 (2007)), it is a preliminary matter that the 2 Court is to decide “before reaching the merits of a prisoner’s claim.” Id. at 1170. Albino 3 held that the proper mechanism to address a defendant’s exhaustion defense is summary 4 judgment.1 Id. But the Ninth Circuit did not hold that a failure to exhaust defense must be 5 raised at the summary judgment stage. Rather, the “disputed factual questions relevant to 6 exhaustion should be decided by the judge” at a preliminary hearing, and “consistent with 7 the Federal Rules.” Id. at 1168, 1170 (noting that “[t]o the extent evidence in the record 8 permits, the appropriate device is a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56”). 9 The Court acknowledges that a bench trial was held on the issue of exhaustion on 10 February 18, 2016, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(b). But the purpose was to address the 11 preliminary matter of Defendant’s affirmative defense prior to “reaching the merits of 12 [the] prisoner’s claim.” Albino, 747 F.3d at 1170. Accordingly, the Court finds that the 13 appropriate procedural mechanism for relief available to Defendant is a motion for 14 reconsideration pursuant to L.R.Civ.P. 7.2(g)(1); see also Motorola, Inc. v. J.B. Rodgers 15 Mech. Contractors, Inc., 215 F.R.D. 581, 586 (D. Ariz. 2003) (considering the 16 appropriate standard to apply for motions to reconsider interlocutory orders). 17 “Motions for reconsideration are disfavored . . . and are not the place for parties to 18 make new arguments not raised in their original briefs” or at trial. Motorola, Inc., 215 19 F.R.D. at 582 (citation omitted). Nor should a party file a motion to reconsider to ask a 20 court “to rethink what the court had already thought through, rightly or wrongly.” Above 21 the Belt, Inc. v. Mel Bohannon Roofing, Inc., 99 F.R.D. 99, 101 (E.D. Va. 1983). And 22 “[n]o motion for reconsideration shall repeat in any manner any oral or written argument 23 made in support of or in opposition to the original motion.” Motorola, Inc., 215 F.R.D. at 24 586; see also L.R.Civ.P. 7.2(g)(1). 25 reconsideration of an Order absent a showing of manifest error or a showing of new facts The Court ordinarily will deny a “motion for 26 27 28 1 Albino thus abandoned the prior practice of raising the failure to exhaust defense under § 1997e(a) pursuant to an “unenumerated Rule 12(b) motion.” 747 F.3d at 1166 (citation omitted). -2- 1 or legal authority that could not have been brought to its attention earlier with reasonable 2 diligence.” L.R.Civ.P. 7.2(g)(1). 3 II. 4 Defendant urges reconsideration on the grounds that Plaintiff “deprived the 5 defense and the Court” of “both truthful testimony and a fair ability to scrutinize 6 assertions of fact in order to achieve justice.” (Doc. 75 at 2 (emphasis in original)). In its 7 February 19, 2016, Order, the Court found Plaintiff to be a credible witness with respect 8 to the date in which he first submitted a written, informal grievance. (Doc. 74 at 2-3). The 9 Court based this conclusion, in part, on the finding that Plaintiff was able to tie the date 10 he submitted his grievance to his release from an ADOC medical facility, an event the 11 Court described as “noteworthy.” (Id. at 4 n.5). The defense asserts that Plaintiff provided 12 false testimony on this issue, as a prison record2 shows that Plaintiff returned from the 13 medical facility on March 27, 2012—not March 30. (Doc. 75-2 at 2) 14 The defense argues that although it has “long been” Plaintiff’s position “that he 15 first submitted a grievance . . . on March 30, 2012,” this position conflicts with Plaintiff’s 16 deposition testimony, in which Plaintiff testified that he submitted his first informal 17 grievance “within the first couple weeks of . . . being back from the hospital,” and 18 “[m]aybe a week” after the March 22, 2012, incident. (Doc. 75 at 2-3). Based on this 19 testimony, the defense argues that it “had no reason to scrutinize Plaintiff’s movements 20 from the hospital or within the prison system as of March 30, 2012.” (Id.). Thus, the 21 defense was “taken by surprise” upon hearing Plaintiff’s testimony at the bench trial. 22 While counsel attempted to “take a few moments to search his records to try and verify” 23 the discrepancy at trial, he could not “conduct such a search without delaying the Court’s 24 schedule.” (Id. at 5). The defense was able to confirm the falsity the following day. (Id.). 25 The Court is not persuaded. Reconsideration of an interlocutory order is 26 27 28 2 The prison record in question has yet to be authenticated. (Doc. 75-2 at 2). The Court, for purposes of this motion, treats it as authentic. Its presence in the record does not impact the Court’s conclusion with respect to the pending motion. -3- 1 appropriate when new facts are brought to the Court’s attention “that could not have been 2 brought to its attention earlier with reasonable diligence,” L.R.Civ.P. 7.2(g)(1), and 3 where the fact could not have been known by the defense “through reasonable diligence.” 4 Motorola, Inc., 215 F.R.D. at 586. The defense acknowledges in its motion that it had 5 access to—and was aware of—Plaintiff’s December 27, 2012, written grievance where 6 Plaintiff claimed that he submitted a grievance on March 30, 2012. (Doc. 75 at 2). The 7 defense further affirms that it questioned Plaintiff on the March 30, 2012, date when 8 Plaintiff was deposed. (Id.). The fact that Plaintiff testified at the bench trial as to the 9 specific date that he returned from the ADOC medical facility is not grounds for 10 reconsideration. The defense was capable of impeaching Plaintiff at trial with earlier 11 deposition testimony that he submitted his first written grievance “within the first couple 12 weeks of . . . being back from the hospital.” Moreover, the defense knew—well before 13 trial—that Plaintiff tied his initial filing date to March 30, 2012, via the December 27 14 written grievance. The defense, through reasonable diligence, could have pulled the 15 record that would have provided basis for directly attacking Plaintiff’s credibility on the 16 issue, and, in turn, weaken the assertion contained in Plaintiff’s December 27, 2012, 17 written grievance. 18 The prison record at issue is evidence that “could reasonably have been raised 19 earlier in the litigation.” Kona Enters., Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th 20 Cir. 2000). That Defendant “had no reason to scrutinize Plaintiff’s movements from the 21 hospital” does not excuse the fact that the evidence could have been readily discovered 22 and brought to the Court’s attention earlier with “[r]easonable diligence.”3 Motorola, 23 24 25 26 27 28 3 Defendant’s motion asks the Court to consider its requested relief pursuant to Rule 59(a)(2). As noted supra, the Court finds that the proper procedure for such relief is L.R.Civ.P. 7.2(g)(1). But even assuming that the Court were to consider the pending motion under Rule 59(a)(2) and Defendant’s proffered persuasive authority, the Court would reach the same conclusion. Having considered the unauthenticated record attached to Defendant’s motion, the Court remains of the mind that it is not “reasonably well satisfied that the testimony given by a material witness [wa]s false.” Davis by Davis v. Jellico Community Hosp. Inc., 912 F.2d 129, 134 (6th Cir. 1990). Moreover, the Court finds that the defense was able to “meet” the false testimony delivered at trial. The -4- 1 Inc., 215 F.R.D. at 586. Succinctly, Defendant has “not shown material differences in fact 2 or law that were not and could not have been presented to the Court prior to its decision.” 3 Motorola, Inc., 215 F.R.D. at 586. Nor does Defendant “allege new facts, an intervening 4 change in the law, or that the Court failed to consider facts that were before it.” Id. 5 Accordingly, Defendant’s motion will be denied. 6 7 III. 8 For the aforementioned reasons, 9 IT IS ORDERED that Defendant’s motion for reconsideration, (Doc. 75), is 10 11 12 13 hereby DENIED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant’s motion to continue the jury trial, (Doc. 75 at 5), is hereby DENIED. Dated this 23rd day of February, 2016. 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 defense had access to Plaintiff’s prior written grievances and knew that Plaintiff had tied his submission to the specific date of March 30, 2012. And the defense had access to prisoner transportation records that would have both undercut the veracity of certain documentary evidence and could have been used to directly attack Plaintiff’s credibility. That the defense was unable to locate the evidence during trial—without requesting even a short recess to search for the evidence—is not sufficient. Thus, even under a Rule 59(a)(2) analysis, the Court would reach the same conclusion. 28 -5-

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