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Bowie v. Maddox

January 6, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth Chief Judge United States District Court


Plaintiff David M. Bowie moves under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60 for relief from this Court's order of March 31, 2008 denying plaintiff's motion for judgment as a matter of law and motion for a new trial. Plaintiff also moves for post-judgment discovery. Upon consideration of the motions [150, 159], the oppositions [155, 160], the replies [158, 161], the entire record of the case, and the applicable law, the Court concludes that the motions should be denied.

I. Background

In August 2002, plaintiff was terminated from his position in the District of Columbia Office of the Inspector General ("DCOIG"). (Mem. Op. [146] at 1.) Plaintiff filed suit, alleging wrongful termination and violation of other federal and District of Columbia employment and civil rights laws. (Complaint [1] at 50--51.) On May 25, 2007, the jury returned a verdict for defendants on each claim. (Verdict Form [120] at 1-- 5.) Plaintiff moved for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial. (Mot. for J. as a Matter of Law [124] at 1.) This Court denied the motion on March 31, 2008. (Order [147] at 1.) On March 31, 2009 at 10:57 PM, plaintiff filed a motion for relief from that order. (Pl.'s Mot. for Relief [150-2] Ex. R.)

Plaintiff alleges that the verdict and judgment in his case were procured through fraud when a fraud perpetrated in a separate case entered the proceedings. (Pl.'s Mot. for Relief [150] at 2.) In that separate case, Johnson v. Maddox, 270 F. Supp. 2d 38 (D.D.C. 2003), aff'd sub nom. Johnson v. Williams, 117 F. App'x. 769 (D.C. Cir. 2004), Johnson sued his former DCOIG supervisor for wrongful termination and retaliation. An affidavit was submitted on behalf of plaintiff, who worked at the DCOIG at the time of Johnson's dismissal. (Pl.'s Mot. for Relief [150] Exs. K, M.) Plaintiff asserts that he did not sign or otherwise approve the affidavit, which discussed plaintiff's relationship with Johnson and the events leading to Johnson's termination. (Id. Exs. H, M.) Plaintiff contends that the affidavit was a forgery and that defendants and their attorneys lied about its authenticity. (Id. at 6--10.) Because this Court "relied upon the fraudulent assertions of defendants in Johnson v. Maddox," plaintiff contends that he was denied a "fair and impartial trial" and "the ability to fairly and fully present his case." (Id. at 3.) He also claims defendants and their attorneys perpetrated various other acts of fraud, which are discussed below.

II. Legal Standard

Plaintiff proceeds pro se in this matter, therefore the Court will construe his filings liberally. See Richardson v. United States, 193 F.3d 545, 548 (D.C. Cir. 1999).

Plaintiff's fraud claims arise under the Court's statutory and equitable powers. First, Rule 60(b)(3) permits a court to relieve a party from a "final judgment, order, or proceeding" for "fraud . . . misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party."

(Pl.'s Mot. for Relief [150] at 1.) Second, the Court's equitable power permits it to set aside judgments based on "fraud on the court."*fn1 (Id. at 2.) Accordingly, plaintiff seeks relief from judgment, an order to schedule discovery, and leave to file independent actions for fraud upon other courts. (Id. at 28; Pl.'s Mot. for Disc. [159] at 1.)

A motion for relief from judgment under Rule 60(b)(3) must be filed "within a reasonable time" and "no more than a year after the entry of the judgment or order . . . ." FED. R. CIV. P. 60(c)(1). "What constitutes a 'reasonable time' depends upon the facts of each case, taking into consideration the interest in finality, the reason for the delay, the practical ability of the litigant to learn earlier of the grounds relied upon, and prejudice to other parties." Osborne v. Homeside Lending, Inc., 379 F.3d 277, 283 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting Ashford v. Steuart, 657 F.2d 1053, 1055 (9th Cir. 1981)).

"Fraud on the court" is a claim that exists to protect the integrity of the judicial process, and therefore a claim for fraud on the court cannot be time-barred. See 12 JAMES WM. MOORE ET AL., MOORE'S FEDERAL PRACTICE § 60.21[4][g] & n.52 (3d ed. 2009) (citing Lockwood v. Bowles, 46 F.R.D. 625, 634 (D.D.C. 1969)). Although the requirements for a successful claim of fraud on the court elude precise definition, several guiding principles emerge from the case law. First, the fraud must be egregious.*fn2

"'Fraud upon the court' . . . embrace[s] only that species of fraud which does or attempts to[] subvert the integrity of the court itself, or is a fraud perpetrated by officers of the court so that the judicial machinery cannot perform in the usual manner its impartial task of adjudging cases that are presented for adjudication, and relief should be denied in the absence of such conduct." Synanon Church v. United States, 579 F. Supp. 967, 974 (D.D.C. 1984) (quoting 7 MOORE ET AL., FEDERAL PRACTICE ¶ 60.33 (1995)); see also England v. Doyle, 281 F.2d 304, 309 (9th Cir. 1960) (fraud on the court requires "an unconscionable plan or scheme which is designed to improperly influence the court in its decision") (citing Hazel-Atlas, 322 U.S. 238). An "indispensable" element is that the fraud "prevented a party from presenting his case." Reintjes,71 F.3d at 48 (citing Chicago, R.I. & P. Ry. v. Callicotte, 267 F. 799, 810 (8th Cir. 1920)). Second, the perpetrator of the fraud must possess a sufficient mental state. One list of essential elements requires the fraudulent conduct to be "intentionally false, wilfully blind to the truth, or [] in reckless disregard for the truth . . . ." Demjanjuk v. Petrovsky, 10 F.3d 338, 348 (6th Cir. 1993); cf. Sununu v. Philippine Airlines, Inc., 638 F. Supp. 2d 35, 41 (D.D.C. 2009) (listing knowledge of falsity and intent to deceive as elements of common law fraud). Third, the extraordinary step of setting aside a judgment requires "clear and convincing" evidence of fraud on the court. Shepherd v. Am. Broad. Cos., 62 F.3d 1469, 1476--77 (D.C. Cir. 1995).

III. Discussion

A. Timeliness of Plaintiff's Rule 60(b)(3) Motion

The order from which plaintiff seeks relief was entered on March 31, 2008.

Plaintiff asserts that he filed his motion for relief from that judgment exactly one year later on March 31, 2009. Defendants argue that the motion was not actually filed until April 6, 2009, and not docketed until April 28.*fn3 (Defs.' Mem. of P. & A. [155] at 1--2.) If the motion was filed later than March 31, 2009, it would have to be denied as untimely because Rule 60(b)'s one-year time limit is inflexible. See Carr v. District of Columbia, 543 F.2d 917, 925--26 (D.C. Cir. 1976). The Court need not resolve this dispute because plaintiff's motion was not filed "within a reasonable time," as required by Rule 60(c)(1).

A movant must offer sufficient justification for delaying a Rule 60(b) motion almost until the one-year deadline. See White v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 915 F.2d 1414, 1425 (10th Cir. 1990). Plaintiff argues that four grounds justify his delay. First, he argues that much of the information he needed to establish fraud upon the court came from the Johnson litigation, to which he was not a party. (Pl.'s Reply [158] at 2.) Johnson appealed his case upon judgment by the District Court, and thus "the precise contours of the fraud upon the court that serves as the basis for Plaintiff's [R]ule 60 motion were unknown to him" until that appeal. (Id.) Second, plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, has experienced "significant confusion" regarding the correct procedures to follow because the alleged fraud was visited upon multiple courts. (Id. at 2--3.) Third, because the order from the Court of Appeals granting him leave to file a Rule 60 motion was issued on March 19, 2009, he argues the dispositive question of timeliness is whether the twelve-day period from March 19 to the ...

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