Wanton v. New Mexico Department of Corrections
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by District Judge Judith C. Herrera denying 12 Motion for Extension of Time to Amend and noting that no relief is available in connection with Plaintiff's March 17, 2017 letter 14 . (baw)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
No. 1:16-cv-1058 JCH/GJF
NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT
OF CORRECTIONS, et al,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court is Plaintiff’s motion for an extension of time to file an amended complaint.
(Doc. 12). The Court discerns he actually seeks to set aside the order dismissing his civil rights
case. Plaintiff filed his complaint on September 23, 2016, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Doc. 1). By a Memorandum Opinion and Order
entered December 16, 2016, the Court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a cognizable
claim and granted Plaintiff thirty days to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 9). The ruling
contained detailed guidance on how to cure the pleading defects. The Court warned that if
Plaintiff failed to timely file an amended complaint, the proceeding may be dismissed with
prejudice and without further notice.
The amended complaint was due January 16, 2017. Plaintiff did not file the pleading or
show cause for such failure. On January 24, 2017, the Court entered an order and judgment
dismissing the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). (Docs. 10,
11). The next day, Plaintiff filed the instant motion seeking an extension of the January 16, 2017
deadline. He asserts: (1) there is a significant language barrier for Spanish speaking inmates who
wish to file court documents, and he must work with an interpreter; (2) the New Mexico
Corrections Department hindered his ability to obtain legal assistance from other inmates; and (3)
his transfer to another prison delayed his receipt of the December 16, 2016 Memorandum Opinion
and Order until December 26, 2016.
Because the case has already been dismissed, the Court cannot grant the requested relief
without setting aside the judgment. A motion to alter or amend a judgment filed within
twenty-eight days of its entry is generally analyzed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e). See Van Skiver v.
United States, 952 F.2d 1241, 1243 (10th Cir. 1991); Manco v. Werholtz, 528 F.3d 760, 761 (10th
Cir. 2008). Grounds for setting aside the judgment include: “(1) an intervening change in the
controlling law, (2) new evidence previously unavailable, and (3) the need to correct clear error or
prevent manifest injustice.” Servants of Paraclete v. Does, 204 F.3d 1005, 1012 (10th Cir. 2000).
A district court has considerable discretion in deciding whether to disturb a judgment under Rule
59(e). See Phelps v. Hamilton, 122 F.3d 1309, 1324 (10th Cir. 1997).
After carefully considering the motion and record, the Court concludes Plaintiff has not
demonstrated grounds for relief under Rule 59(e). Plaintiff has not alleged a change in the law or
that he wishes to present newly discovered evidence. The Court is also not convinced the
dismissal was manifestly unjust. Unfortunately, most pro se inmates lack legal assistance. See
Ellis v. Jones, 302 Fed. App’x 817, 819 (10th Cir. 2008) (insufficient legal materials did not toll the
limitations period for inmate’s habeas petition or justify reconsideration of that ruling under Rule
59(e)). Further, the language barrier has not prevented Plaintiff from filing at least five other
pleadings and letters in his case, the most recent of which (Doc. 14) was submitted in Spanish and
translated by the Court’s interpreter. See Pabon v. Lemaster, 408 Fed. App’x 508, 509 (3rd Cir.
2010) (affirming the district court’s refusal to set aside dismissal of inmate’s § 1983 complaint and
observing that “[h]is argument about the difficulties presented by his language problems is
undercut by the seven motions that he filed throughout the litigation”).
Finally, the fact that Plaintiff received the Memorandum Opinion and Order ten days after
its entry does not justify Rule 59(e) relief. The Court waited until eight days after the filing
deadline lapsed to dismiss the case, which afforded Plaintiff a total of twenty-nine days to either
file an amended complaint or seek and extension of the filing deadline. His transfer to another
prison therefore had no material impact on his ability to comply with the Memorandum Opinion
For the foregoing reasons, the Court declines to set aside the judgment and will deny the
motion to extend the deadline to file an amended complaint. To the extent Plaintiff seeks relief in
his March 17, 2017 letter (Doc. 14), which appears to relate to Plaintiff’s original claims of medical
neglect, no relief is available.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Motion for Extension of Time (Doc. 12) is
ORDERED FURTHER that no relief is available in connection with Plaintiff’s March 17,
2017 letter (Doc. 14).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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