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Elliott v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

April 21, 2008

ALFRED ELLIOTT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration of this Court's November 13, 2007 Memorandum Opinion and Order, which granted Defendant, Federal Bureau of Prisons' ("BOP"), Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to Plaintiff's claim that the BOP violated the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, and also denied Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an Amended and Supplemental Complaint on the grounds that Plaintiff's proposed amendment would be futile. For reasons set forth below, the Court treats Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), and concludes that Plaintiff's motion does not present the type of "extraordinary circumstances" meriting relief under that Rule. Rather, Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration represents an attempt to rehash arguments that Plaintiff has either previously made, or has had ample opportunity to make, during the numerous rounds of briefing on Plaintiff's Privacy Act claim. The Court shall therefore DENY Plaintiff's [91] Motion for Reconsideration.

I. BACKGROUND

The Court assumes familiarity with, and incorporates herein, its October 17, 2006, December 27, 2006, and November 13, 2007 Memorandum Opinions, which set forth in detail the factual background of this case. See generally Elliott v. BOP, Civ. A. No. 04-1702 (CKK), 2006 WL 53217760 (D.D.C. Oct. 17, 2006) ("Oct. 17 Op."); Elliott v. BOP, Civ. A. No. 04-1702 (CKK), 2006 WL 3826930 (D.D.C. Dec. 27, 2006) ("Dec. 27 Op."); and Elliott v. BOP, 521 F. Supp. 2d 41 (D.D.C. 2007 ) ("Nov. 13 Op."). As such, the Court only briefly addresses those facts necessary to resolve Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration and cites, as appropriate, to the portions of the Court's previous Memorandum Opinions that address Plaintiff's recycled arguments. Plaintiff Alfred Elliott*fn1 is a federal prisoner currently serving a 36-month sentence imposed on May 22, 2007.*fn2 Nov. 13 Op., 521 F. Supp. 2d at 43-44 & n.2. Plaintiff alleges that he has suffered and continues to suffer from a number of ailments and diseases, and that he has undergone a number of medical procedures between 2001 and 2004. Id. at 44.*fn3 On October 4, 2004, Plaintiff filed a one-count Complaint with this Court, alleging that the BOP violated the Privacy Act by using a pre-sentence report prepared in 1989 (when Plaintiff was 45 years old and in better health) in determining that Plaintiff should serve a period of incarceration at the Federal Correctional Institution in Forrest City, Arkansas ("FCI-Forrest City"). Id. Plaintiff subsequently filed his First Amended Complaint, in which he maintained his Privacy Act claim as Count I, and added two additional claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") (Count II) and the Rehabilitation Act ("RA") (Count III). Id.

The Court's October 17, 2006 Memorandum Opinion granted Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's Privacy Act claim and dismissed Plaintiff's ADA and RA claims. The Court's grant of summary judgment was based on a finding that Plaintiff had "presented no evidence that the BOP's determination to designate him for service at FCI-Forrest City constituted an intentional or willful violation of the Privacy Act," and that Plaintiff therefore could not prevail on his claim for monetary damages under Section (g)(4) of the Privacy Act as a matter of law. See Oct. 17 Op., 2006 WL 53217760 *9-12. Plaintiff subsequently filed a Motion for Relief from Summary Judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), arguing that he was entitled to take discovery relating to his Privacy Act claim before the Court granted Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Although Plaintiff had not filed an affidavit pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f), the Court nevertheless granted Plaintiff's motion, allowing the parties the opportunity to "complete discovery as to the very discrete issue of whether Defendant willfully or intentionally violated the Privacy Act," and giving Plaintiff the chance to file an augmented opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment setting forth facts relevant to that issue. Dec. 27 Op.,2006 WL 3826930, at * 5.

The Court's November 13, 2007 Memorandum Opinion addressed that augmented opposition, in which Plaintiff generally conceded that the information he obtained during discovery indicated that he could not demonstrate a Privacy Act violation as originally alleged, i.e., based on his initial designation to FCI-Forrest City in June 2004. Nov. 13 Op. at 44-45. Rather than simply accept that concession, however, the Court continued to review the record evidence and conclude that summary judgment on Plaintiff's original Privacy Act claim remained appropriate because Plaintiff proffered no evidence that the BOP was aware of any inaccuracy in his medical records at the time of his initial designation. Id. at 46-48. As the Court had previously dismissed the other claims included in Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, the Court's grant of summary judgment on Plaintiff's Privacy Act claim would ordinarily have necessitated dismissal of this action. However, Plaintiff attempted to avoid that result by filing a motion for leave to file an amended and supplemental complaint including a revised Privacy Act claim and two new claims--one pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), the other pursuant to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"). Id. at 48. The Court therefore considered, and denied, Plaintiff's motion for leave to file, concluding that Plaintiff's proposed amendments would be futile.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Plaintiff purported to file his Motion for Reconsideration pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) by sending the Court a single-page, handwritten document, executed on November 27, 2007. See Docket No. [91]. That document appears intended to function as a placeholder; its sole substantive paragraph states that Plaintiff "moves for reconsideration of the Court's judgment and order of November 13, 2007, on the grounds of newly discovered evidence, legal errors and factual errors. A separate supporting memorandum will be submitted once Plaintiff has access to a typewriter and copying machine." Id. However, in the absence of any support, factual or legal, for Plaintiff's claims of newly discovered evidence, legal error, and factual error, Defendant could not respond to Plaintiff's motion and the Court could not address it. Consideration of Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration was thus necessarily delayed until after Plaintiff filed his Memorandum in Support of his purported Rule 59(e) motion, which was executed on December 20, 2007 and received by the Court on January 11, 2008. See Pl.'s Mot., Docket No. [92].

Plaintiff's supporting memorandum asserts that Plaintiff's "motion was deemed filed on November 27" pursuant to the "prisoner mailbox rule," and should therefore be treated pursuant to Rule 59(e) because it was filed within 10 days of the Court's November 13, 2007 Memorandum Opinion and accompanying Order (excluding weekends and holidays, as set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(a)). Id. at 1-2 (citing Anyanwutaku v. Moore, 151 F.3d 1053, 1057 (D.C. Cir. 1998) for the proposition that the prisoner mailbox rule applies to Rule 59(e) filings). Plaintiff is correct that his single-page document was deemed filed on November 27, 2007, i.e., within 10 days of the Court's November 13, 2007 Memorandum Opinion and Order, as counted under Rule 6(a). The problem for Plaintiff, however, is that his single-page placeholder document does not "state with particularity the grounds for" reconsideration because it provides absolutely no support for his claims of newly discovered evidence, legal error, or factual error. See Docket No. [91]. As such, Plaintiff's placeholder document does not meet the requirements for motions contained in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 7(b).

Rather, the grounds for Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration are stated with particularity in his supporting memorandum, which is deemed filed as of December 20, 2007, i.e., well outside the ten-day period provided for in Rule 59(e). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) ("A motion to alter or amend judgment must be filed no later than 10 days after the entry of judgment."). While Plaintiff essentially asks that the Court extend, nunc pro tunc, his time to file under Rule 59(e), D.C. Circuit law is clear that "the District Court simply has no power to extend that time limitation." Ctr. for Nuclear Responsibility, Inc. v. United States Nuclear Regul. Comm'n, 781 F.2d 935, 941 (D.C. Cir. 1986); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b)(2) ("A court must not extend the time to act under Rule[ 59(e)]. . . ."). Because the Court cannot consider Plaintiff's single-page placeholder document a properly filed motion under Rule 7(b), and cannot extend Plaintiff's time to file a Rule 59(e) motion beyond the ten days provided for in that Rule, the Court must treat Plaintiff's motion as filed when perfected by his supporting memorandum on December 20, 2007.*fn4 As that date falls well outside the ten-day period provided for in Rule 59(e), the Court shall considers Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). See United States v. Pollard, 290 F. Supp. 2d 153, 156 (D.D.C. 2003)(generally, a motion for reconsideration is treated as a "[Fed. R. Civ. P.] 59(e) motion if filed within 10 days of entry of the challenged order and as a Rule 60(b) motion if filed thereafter.") (quoting United States v. Clark, 984 F.2d 31, 32 (2d Cir. 1993)).

Rule 60(b) provides that "[o]n motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for . . . (2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been [previously] discovered . . . or (6) any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment." Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). The Rule

was intended to preserve "the delicate balance between the sanctity of final judgments . . . and the incessant command of the court's conscience that justice be done in light of all the facts." Bankers Mortgage Co. v. United States, 423 F.2d 73, 77 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 399 U.S. 927 [](1970) (emphasis in original); accord, Compton v. Alton Steamship Co., 608 F.2d 96, 102 (4th Cir. 1979); Boughner v. Secretary of HEW, 572 F.2d 976, 977 (3d Cir. 1978); Clarke v. Burkle, 570 F.2d 824, 830 (8th Cir. 1978). But as the Supreme Court has said, "There must be an end to litigation someday, and free, calculated, deliberate choices are not to be relieved from." Ackermann v. United States, 340 U.S. 193, 198 [] (1950). Rule 60(b) cannot, therefore, be employed simply to rescue a litigant from strategic choices that later turn out to be improvident. See Marshall v. Board of Educ., 575 F.2d 417, 424 (3d Cir. 1978); Federal's, Inc. v. Edmonton Investment Co., 555 F.2d 577, 583 (6th Cir. 1977); Lubben v. Selective Serv. Sys. Local Bd. No. 27, 453 F.2d 645, 651-52 (1st Cir. 1972).

Good Luck Nursing Home, Inc. v. Harris, 636 F.2d 572, 577 (D.C. Cir. 1980). Rule 60(b) "gives the district judge broad latitude to relieve a party from a judgment," Richardson v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., 49 F.3d 760, 765 (D.C. Cir. 1995), but "should be only sparingly used," Good Luck Nursing Home, 636 F.2d at 577, and relief under Rule 60(b)(6) is granted in only "extraordinary circumstances," Ackerman, 340 U.S. at 199. Such extraordinary circumstances may be present "[w]hen a party presents a previously undisclosed fact so central to the litigation that it shows the initial judgment to have been manifestly unjust . . . even though the original failure to present the information was inexcusable." Good Luck Nursing Home, 636 F.2d at 577. ...


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