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Mpala v. Funaro

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 13, 2017

ZEWEE MPALA
v.
JOSEPH FUNARO, M. PITONIAK, S. KLOSTCHE AND E. RAPUANO

          RULING ON PENDING MOTIONS [DOC. ##95, 96, 104]

          HON. SARAH A. L. MERRIAM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court are two motions by self-represented plaintiff Zewee Mpala (“plaintiff”), the first to reopen the case and file an amended complaint [Doc. #95], and the second for sanctions against defendants Joseph Funaro, Martin Pitoniak and Eric Rapuano (collectively the “defendants”) [Doc. #96]. Defendants have filed timely objections to these motions, [Doc. ##103, 105], to which plaintiff has filed replies [Doc. ##108, 109, 110]. Also pending before the Court is defendants' motion for reconsideration of the Court's order terminating the appearance of plaintiff's former attorney Thomas Lengyel. [Doc. #104]. For the reasons articulated below, the plaintiff's motion for permission to reopen and refile complaint [Doc. #95] is DENIED; plaintiff's motion for sanctions [Doc. #96] is DENIED, as moot; and defendants' motion for reconsideration [Doc. #104] is GRANTED, but upon reconsideration, the Court adheres to its prior order.

         I. Background

         The plaintiff brought this action against defendants asserting claims of malicious prosecution and false arrest.[1]Plaintiff was arrested by the defendants, all officers of the Yale Police Department, in the Yale Law School building on March 6, 2010. See Doc. #57 at 2. Plaintiff was charged with two offenses under Connecticut law: criminal trespass in the second degree, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §53a-108, and interfering with an officer, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §53a-167a. See Doc. #1, Complaint at ¶10. These charges were heard in Connecticut Superior Court on April 6, 2011, together with a separate charge of trespassing arising out of plaintiff's arrest on Yale property in September 2010.[2] See Doc. #58-2.

         At the April 6, 2011, hearing, the State agreed to “enter nolles on both files.” Doc. #58-2, Tr. 2:23-2. Attorney Michael Richards, who was the attorney representing plaintiff, moved for the cases to be dismissed with prejudice rather than nolled. See Id. at Tr. 2:27-3:1. The State agreed, on the condition that plaintiff stipulate to the presence of probable cause for the arrests. See Id. at Tr. 3:2-4. After some discussion amongst counsel and the Court, all parties agreed that such a stipulation could be entered on plaintiff's behalf by his attorney without plaintiff's physical presence. See Id. Tr. 3:5-10. The stipulation was entered, and the cases were dismissed with prejudice. See id.

         On February 25, 2013, plaintiff filed the instant action alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. §§1983 and 1988 for malicious prosecution and false arrest. See generally Doc. #1, Complaint. The defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on May 21, 2015. [Doc. #56]. New counsel, Thomas J. Lengyel, appeared for plaintiff on July 31, 2015, and oral argument on the motion for summary judgment was conducted before the Court on October 30, 2015. [Doc. ##63, 64].

         The Court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on two grounds. First, the Court found that the stipulation of probable cause made by Attorney Richards in the state court criminal case is valid and binding on plaintiff, and because the absence of probable cause is a necessary element of both a false arrest and a malicious prosecution claim, plaintiff could not prevail on either of his claims. See Doc. #74 at 7-16. Second, the Court found that even if there had been no stipulation, there was no genuine issue of material fact as to the presence of probable cause for both arrests, and summary judgment in favor of the defendants would be appropriate on that basis as well. See Id. at 16-19.

         On January 31, 2017, by summary order, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the undersigned's ruling granting defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. See Impala v. Funaro, No. 16-351 (2d Cir. Jan. 31, 2017). The mandate issued on March 2, 2017. [Doc. #102].

         On February 17, 2017, plaintiff filed a pro se appearance, along with a motion for permission to reopen and refile complaint [Doc. #95] and a motion for sanctions [Doc. #96]. Defendants have timely objected to these motions.[3]

         II. Motion to Reopen [Doc. #95]

         Plaintiff has filed a motion to reopen the judgment entered in this matter and for leave to file an amended complaint on the grounds that (1) defendants and plaintiff's prior attorney John Williams entered into a “tacit Conspiracy to Fraudulent Concealed evidence from the Plaintiff & this Court” (sic) and (2) that Yale, a non-party to this action, failed to preserve the surveillance video of his arrest. Doc. #95 at 1. Defendants generally argue in opposition that plaintiff's claims are procedurally barred, and in any event, entirely without merit. See generally Doc. #103 at 22.

         The Court construes plaintiff's motion as being made pursuant to Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which establishes the standards by which a Court considers a motion for relief from final judgment.[4] Rule 60(b) “should be broadly construed to do substantial justice, yet final judgments should not be lightly reopened.” Nemaizer v. Baker, 793 F.2d 58, 61 (2d Cir. 1986) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). “Since 60(b) allows extraordinary judicial relief, it is invoked only upon a showing of exceptional circumstances. A motion seeking such relief is addressed to the sound discretion of the district court with appellate review limited to determining whether that discretion has been abused.” Id. at 61-62 (internal citations omitted).

         A. Rule 60(b)(1)-(3)

         In pertinent part, Rule 60(b) provides for relief from judgment on the following grounds: “(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); [and] (3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1)-(3). A motion seeking relief under these subsections must be made “no more than a year after the entry of the judgment[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(c)(1). The filing of an appeal does not toll this one-year limitation. See King v. First Am. Investigations, Inc.,287 F.3d 91, 94 (2d Cir. 2002) (collecting cases). Here, judgment entered in favor of the defendants on November 20, 2015. [Doc. #76]. Plaintiff did not ...


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