Vreeland v. Suthers
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 107 Motion for Leave to Amend Relief Requested in 89 Complaint. By Magistrate Judge Kathleen M. Tafoya on 4/7/2014.(klyon, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Magistrate Judge Kathleen M. Tafoya
Civil Action No. 12–cv–01921–PAB–KMT
DELMART E.J.M. VREELAND, II,
SERGEANT GRIGGS, CDOC/BVCF Mailroom,
This matter is before the court on Plaintiff’s “Motion for Leave to Amend Relief
Requested in Complaint” (Doc. No. 107 [Mot.], filed February 24, 2014). Defendant filed his
response on March 26, 2014 (Doc. No. 118 [Resp.]) and a supplement response on April 2, 2014
(Doc. No. 126 [Supplemental Resp.]).
Plaintiff seeks to amend the relief he seeks because he feels “the damages would be
different given the length of time it would take to resolve [the case], and or place the case before
a jury.” (Id. at 107.) Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P 15(a), the court is to freely allow amendment of
the pleadings “when justice so requires.” The grant or denial of an opportunity to amend is
within the discretion of the court, but “outright refusal to grant the leave without any justifying
reason appearing for the denial is not an exercise of discretion; it is merely abuse of that
discretion and inconsistent with the spirit of the Federal Rules.” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178,
182 (1962). “Refusing leave to amend is generally only justified upon a showing of undue
delay, undue prejudice to the opposing party, bad faith or dilatory motive, failure to cure
deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, or futility of amendment.” Frank v. U.S. West,
Inc., 3 F.3d 1357, 1365 (10th Cir. 1993).
First, Plaintiff seeks to increase the amount of punitive and compensatory damages he
seeks. (See Doc. No. 107-1, ¶¶ 1–3.) Plaintiff also seeks all court costs and fees. (Id., ¶ 4.)
Absent prejudice to the defendant, an amendment to increase damages is typically allowed. See
Armand v. Osborn, No. 11-cv-482(NGG)(CLP), 2014 WL 723381, at *10 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 19,
2014); Sullivan v. County of Suffolk, CV 04-3651, 2006 WL 2844205, at *11 (E.D.N.Y. June 1,
2006). Cf. Marson v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 87 F.R.D. 151 (E.D.Wis.1980) (holding
plaintiff could not add a five million dollar punitive damage claim four years after initial
complaint). Though Plaintiff does not provide any basis for an increase in damages, and he fails
to articulate why these damages were not sought in prior amendments, Defendant does not
oppose Plaintiff’s request to increase the amount of damages sought. Nor does Defendant
oppose Plaintiff’s request for costs and fees. Therefore, Plaintiff’s motion to amend the amount
of punitive and compensatory damages and his motion to amend to include court costs and fees
(Doc. No. 107-1, ¶¶ 1–4) is granted.
Next, Plaintiff seeks to amend his complaint to add requests for declaratory relief. (See
Doc. No. 107-1, ¶¶ 5–8.) Plaintiff seeks a declaration that the defendant impeded his rights to
post-conviction relief. (Id., ¶ 6.) However, even if the court were to grant his request, the
declaratory judgment would not “affect[ ] the behavior of the defendant toward the plaintiff,”
because Defendant would not be required to take any course of action. See Rhodes v. Stewart,
488 U.S. 1, 4 (1988). In other words, Plaintiff is seeking a retrospective opinion that the
defendant wrongly harmed him, which is an impermissible use of a declaratory judgment. See
Ashcroft v. Mattis, 431 U.S. 171, 172 (1977) (holding that a claim for declaratory relief was
moot where the “primary claim of a present interest in the controversy is that [the plaintiff] will
obtain emotional satisfaction from [the] ruling”); Green v. Branson, 108 F.3d 1296, 1299 (10th
Cir. 1997) (“This ‘legal interest’ must be more than simply the satisfaction of a declaration that a
person was wronged.”). Therefore, Plaintiff’s motion to amend to include this claim for
declaratory relief is denied.
Plaintiff also seeks an “Order declaring that [he is] entitled to a full waiver of the
exhaustion rules as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in federal habeas corpus applications” in
Colorado, Florida, and Michigan (Doc. No. 107-1, ¶ 5) and “an order declaring that the one year
time bar for filing a [federal habeas corpus application] is waived. . .” (id., ¶ 7). The affirmative
defenses of timeliness under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d) and/or exhaustion of state court remedies under
28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A) must be raised by the respondent in a habeas corpus case. See
Kilgore v. Attorney General, 519 F.3d 1084, 1089 (10th Cir. 2008) (holding that the general rule
in civil cases is that affirmative defenses must be raised by the respondent). Where a prisoner
seeks a declaratory judgment as to the validity of a defense the state may, or may not, raise in a
habeas corpus proceeding, such a suit does not allow the resolution of a case or controversy, but
rather attempts to gain a litigation advantage by obtaining an advance ruling on an affirmative
defense. Calderon v. Ashmus, 523 U.S. 740, 747 (1998). This is an improper purpose for the
use of the Declaratory Judgment Act. Calderon, 523 U.S. at 746. Therefore, Plaintiff’s motion
to amend his complaint to seek these claims for declaratory relief is denied.
Plaintiff also seeks an order vacating his Colorado state court criminal convictions and
releasing him from prison. (Doc. No. 107-1, ¶ 8.) Plaintiff may not challenge the validity of his
criminal convictions in an action for money damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In Heck, the United States Supreme Court held that if a
judgment favorable to a plaintiff in a § 1983 action necessarily would imply the invalidity of the
plaintiff’s criminal conviction or sentence, the § 1983 action does not arise until the “conviction
or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by
an authorized state tribunal or called into question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of
habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254.” Heck, 512 U.S. at 486–87.
Though Plaintiff states that he noes not wish to invalidate his conviction (see Doc. No.
107-1, ¶ 8), a judgment in favor of Plaintiff as to this request for relief necessarily would imply
the invalidity of his state court criminal proceedings. Plaintiff does not allege or otherwise
demonstrate that his conviction has been invalidated. Accordingly, his attempt to challenge his
state criminal proceeding and conviction is barred by Heck. Thus, because Plaintiff’s request for
injunctive relief under § 1983 has not yet accrued, his motion to add this claim for relief is
Finally, Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief preventing the CDOC from denying offenders
access to their criminal case files. (Doc. No. 107-1, ¶ 9.) Pro se prisoner plaintiffs may not
bring claims on behalf of other prisoners. Tijerina v. Offender Mgmt. Review Comm., 91 F.
App’x 86, 88 (10th Cir. 2004) (citing Fymbo v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 213 F.3d 1320,
1321 (10th Cir. 2000)). Therefore, Plaintiff’s motion to amend to add a claim for injunctive
relief on behalf of other prisoners is denied.
Therefore, for the foregoing reasons, it is
ORDERED that Plaintiff’s “Motion for Leave to Amend Relief Requested in
Complaint” (Doc. No. 107) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. The motion is
GRANTED to the extent that paragraph numbers 1 through 4 in Plaintiff’s Amended Relief
Requested (Doc. No. 107-1) are accepted and are deemed substituted for paragraphs 1 though 4
of the Request for Relief in Plaintiff’s previously-filed Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 89 at 27).
The motion is DENIED in all other respects.1
Dated this 7th day of April, 2014.
A motion to amend a pleading is generally viewed as a non-dispositive matter that can
be ruled on by a magistrate judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). See Franke v. ARUP Labs.,
Inc., 390 F. A’ppx 822, 828 (10th Cir. 2010) (Plaintiff’s “motion to amend was a nondispositive
pretrial matter that the magistrate judge was authorized to decide pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(A).”); Lariviere, Grubman & Payne, LLP v. Phillips, No. 07–cv–01723, 2010 WL
4818101, at *5 (D. Colo. Nov. 9, 2010) (“Generally a motion to amend a complaint is considered
a nondispositive motion because it involves pretrial matters not dispositive of a claim or defense
of a party within the purview of Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a).”) (quotation marks and brackets omitted).
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