Bruce et al v. Wilson, et al
ORDER Denying Plaintiff's 55 Motion For Relief From Judgment. By Judge William J. Martinez on 01/29/2016. (athom, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Judge William J. Martínez
Civil Action No. 13-cv-0491-WJM-CBS
F. CORDOVA, and
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM JUDGMENT
Before the Court is Plaintiff Antoine Bruce’s Motion for Relief from a Final
Judgment or Order Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) (“Motion”). (ECF No.
55.) For the reasons explained below, the motion is denied.
Bruce and a co-plaintiff, Jeremy Pinson, filed this lawsuit pro se in February
2013, alleging that they both had received unconstitutionally inadequate medical care
while incarcerated at USP Florence. (ECF No. 1.) Pinson’s case was severed (ECF
No. 10) and Bruce then filed an amended complaint (ECF No. 18). Defendants moved
to dismiss (ECF No. 39), but Bruce never responded to that motion. He instead filed a
motion for appointment of counsel and a motion for a preliminary injunction, both of
which were denied. (See ECF Nos. 48, 49, 51, 52.) In October 2013, United States
Magistrate Judge Craig B. Shaffer issued a Report and Recommendation
(“Recommendation”) recommending that the Court grant Defendants’ motion to dismiss
without prejudice for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 52.) Bruce filed no objection to
the Recommendation; this Court adopted it and entered f inal judgment in November
2013. (ECF Nos. 53–54.)
In June 2015, Bruce filed his current Motion. Understanding the Motion requires
understanding the “three strikes rule” embodied in the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”), codified at various locations in Titles 28 and 42 of the United States Code.
Under one provision of the PLRA, no prisoner may be granted in forma pauperis status
in a newly filed action
if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while
incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or
appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on
the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner
is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). At the time this lawsuit was filed, Bruce’s co-plaintiff, Pinson,
apparently already had more than three strikes against him.1 Bruce claims in his Motion
that Pinson took advantage of Bruce’s mental illness to file this lawsuit without Bruce’s
consent or understanding, apparently in hopes of avoiding the three strikes rule. (ECF
No. 55 at 1–4.) The problem, says Bruce, is that he now has three strikes against him
based on the disposition of this lawsuit (i.e., dismissal for failure to state a claim) and
two other suits he has filed. (Id. at 7.) Given that he allegedly never wanted to be a
part of this lawsuit in the first place, Bruce asks the Court to “relieve [him] from the final
Judgement, or order of dismissal in this action in which [he] incurred a strike.” (Id. at
This Court’s CM/ECF system shows that Pinson has filed dozens of cases in the
District of Colorado. A Westlaw search reveals that he has also filed lawsuits in at least twelve
other federal districts.
Bruce invokes Rule 60(b), which permits the Court to vacate the judgment on
(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;
(6) any other reason that justifies relief.
The Court finds that this unique situation conceivably fits within Rule 60(b)(6). See also
Klapprott v. United States, 335 U.S. 601, 614–15 (1949) (“the language of the ‘other
reason’ clause . . . vests power in courts adequate to enable them to vacate judgments
whenever such action is appropriate to accomplish justice”). Nonetheless, the record is
not sufficient to justify relief.
Even after Pinson was dismissed from the suit, Bruce filed an amended
complaint, a motion for appointment of counsel, and a motion for a preliminary
injunction. That is not the behavior of an individual who does not want to pursue a
lawsuit. In his Reply, Bruce states that he was essentially forced to continue litigating,
but his explanation is not persuasive. Bruce says that he learned fairly quickly that
Pinson had initiated a lawsuit without his consent, but he lacked the legal knowledge at
that time to move for a voluntary dismissal. (ECF No. 58 at 5.) He further claims that
he could not inform the Court of his lack of consent because he would have been
labeled “a snitch” by fellow prisoners and thereby “risk being seriously physically injured
and harmed by other prisoners.” (Id.) He therefore asked other prisoners to assist him
in amending the complaint, because he feared that failing to do so would itself
constitute a strike under the PLRA. (Id. at 5–6.)
If this was Bruce’s motivation, he fails to explain why he also moved for a
preliminary injunction, moved for appointment of counsel, and failed to respond to
Defendants’ motion to dismiss. In addition, he fails to explain why he is willing to be
seen as a “snitch” now, even though he was not willing to do so earlier.2
Finally, the Court could locate no precedent for the relief Bruce seeks. He
effectively wants the Court to treat this lawsuit as if it never happened, solely to avoid a
PLRA strike. Procedurally, this might be possible: the Court could vacate the judgment
and then additionally construe the Motion as a request for voluntary dismissal under
Rule 41. But the Court is frankly concerned that establishing such precedent would
create an end-run around the PLRA and thereby open yet another path for prisoners to
file intensely resource-consuming motions—claiming, for example, that they did not
understand the potential PLRA consequences of filing a suit, and should therefore be
relieved of those consequences.
For all of these reasons, Bruce’s Motion for Relief from a Final Judgment or
Order Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) (ECF No. 55) is DENIED.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate locator service reports that Pinson remains at
Dated this 29th day of January, 2016.
BY THE COURT:
William J. Martínez
United States District Judge
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