Kruskal v. Chanler et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by District Judge William P. Johnson DENYING 6 Plaintiffs Motion to Reconsider. (mag)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
No. 17cv112 WJ/WPL
KATHY CHANLER and
BERNABE P. STRUCK,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DENYING MOTION TO RECONSIDER
THIS MATTER comes before the Court on pro se Plaintiff’s Motion to Reconsider, Doc.
6, filed February 2, 2017.
Plaintiff sued Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his civil right to due
process. See Complaint at 4. Both Defendants are employed by the State with the Eighth
Judicial District Court in Taos, New Mexico: Defendant Chanler is the “TCAA to Judge
McElroy;”1 Defendant Struck is the “Head Clerk.” Complaint at 1-2. After Judge McElroy
ruled on a case in which Plaintiff was a party, “the clerk made a very rare error, and did not send
any copies, of the final decision, to either party.” Complaint at 2. Plaintiff sued Defendant
“Chanler because Judge McElroy stated from the bench that this ‘rare oversight’ was caused by
her.” Complaint at 3. Plaintiff sued “Struck, the head clerk, because he may be personally
responsible for the failure to give [Plaintiff] notice” of Judge McElroy’s decision. Complaint at
3. After not receiving notice of Judge McElroy’s decision, Plaintiff missed the deadline to file an
appeal, and the “Appellate court refused to hear the case because it was outside the time limitation
to file an appeal.” Complaint at 3. Plaintiff is confident that on appeal, he would have prevailed
Trial Court Administrative Assistant, member of Judge’s personal staff.
on the underlying case and, therefore, “one or both of the clerks are responsible for the damages
[Plaintiff] has suffered by not being able to collect from [the opposing party].” Complaint at 3.
The Court dismissed this case with prejudice because Defendants Chanler and Struck were
acting as official aides of Judge McElroy and, therefore, are absolutely immune from Plaintiff’s
damages claims. See Mem. Op. and Order, Doc. 4, filed January 25, 2017.
Plaintiff subsequently filed his Motion to Reconsider now before the Court. Plaintiff
contends that the Defendants do not have immunity because they “committed gross negligence” by
taking “independent action, without permission from the judge. They did not follow the laws.
They did not follow their own rules.” Motion to Reconsider at 2.
The Court will construe Plaintiff’s Motion to Reconsider, which he filed within eight days
of entry of the Final Order dismissing his case, as a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend judgment.
See Van Skiver v. United States, 952 F.2d 1241, 1243 (10th Cir. 1991) (a motion to reconsider filed
within the time limit for filing a motion to alter or amend a judgment, now 28 days after entry of
judgment, should be construed as a Rule 59 motion). “A Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend the
judgment should be granted only to correct manifest errors of law or to present newly discovered
evidence.” Phelps v. Hamilton, 122 F.3d 1309, 1324 (10th Cir. 1997).
The Court denies Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration because he has not shown any
manifest errors of law or presented any newly discovered evidence. Plaintiff has not cited any
legal authority for his proposition that Defendants cannot have immunity because they were
grossly negligent. Furthermore, his proposition is contrary to established case law. See Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356–57 (1978) (articulating broad immunity rule that a “judge will not be
deprived of immunity because the action he took was in error, was done maliciously, or was in
excess of his authority”); Sawyer v. Gorman, 317 Fed.Appx. 725, 728 (10th Cir. 2008) (“Absolute
judicial immunity has thus been extended to non-judicial officers, like clerks of court, where their
duties had an integral relationship with the judicial process”). The Court understands Plaintiff’s
frustration over not timely receiving a copy of the state judge’ decision in order to file an appeal,
but the Doctrine of Judicial Immunity, as articulated by the appellate courts cited above, precludes
Plaintiff from proceeding with this lawsuit because the Defendants are immune from suit.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion to Reconsider, Doc. 6, filed
February 2, 2017, is DENIED.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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