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Murphy v. Feliciano

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 25, 2017

FELICIANO, ET AL., Defendants.



         On February 16, 2017, the plaintiff, Douglas Murphy, filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Warden Jose Feliciano, Warden Allison Black, Deputy Warden Denise Walker, Commissioner of Correction Scott Semple, Deputy Warden Stacy Marmora, Deputy Warden Richard Laffargue, Dr. Kathleen Maurer, Dr. Mark Buchanan, Director Constance Weiskoph, Gail Johnson, Director Michael Nicholson, the Correctional Managed Health Care ("CMHC"), Attorney Julie Costello, Attorney John Longwell, Attorney Carol Goldberg, and Mary Ellen Castro for unconstitutional denial of access to courts, deliberate indifference to medical needs, attorney malpractice and fraud, and denial of effective assistance of counsel.

         On May 31, 2017, this Court issued its Initial Review Order dismissing the plaintiff's claims for denial of access to courts, ineffective assistance of counsel, and attorney malpractice and fraud. The Court permitted the plaintiff's Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical needs claim to proceed but only if the plaintiff could identify the unnamed defendants whom he is suing on that ground. The Court, thus, granted the plaintiff ninety (90) days to identify those unnamed defendants so that the Court could direct service of the complaint. On August 23, 2017, this Court granted the plaintiff an extension until October 2, 2017 to identify those defendants.

         On June 26, 2017, the plaintiff filed two motions for the Court to reconsider its Initial Review Order and/or grant the plaintiff leave to amend his complaint [Doc.#s 21, 22]. He claims that the Court erroneously dismissed his denial of access to courts and attorney malpractice claims. The plaintiff also seeks an order recusing this Court from deciding the instant case [Doc.#24]. For the following reasons, the plaintiff's motions to reconsider the Initial Review Order [Doc.#s 21, 22] are GRANTED but the relief requested therein is DENIED. His motion to recuse this Court from deciding the instant case [Doc.#24] is DENIED.

         I. Motions to Reconsider/Amend Complaint [Poc.#s 21, 22]

         The plaintiff has filed motions for reconsideration under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) and 60(b). "Rules 59(e) and 60(b) provide for different motions directed to similar ends." Helm v. Resolution Trust Corp., 43 F.3d 1163, 1166 (7th Cir. 1995). Rule 59(e) governs motions to "alter or amend" a judgment, and Rule 60(b) governs relief from a judgment for a compelling reason. See id. However, pursuant to District of Connecticut Local Rule 7(c), motions for reconsideration under Rule 59(e) must be filed within seven (7) days of the filing of the Order. See also Solman v. Corl, 15 Civ. 1610 (JCH), 2016 WL 6652443, *1 n.3 (D. Conn. Nov. 10, 2016). Rule 60(b) motions, on the other hand, could be filed within one year of the entry of the judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(c). Because the plaintiff in this case filed his motions one month after the entry of the Initial Review Order, the Court will treat them as a single motion for reconsideration under Rule 60(b).

         A court may grant a motion for reconsideration under Rule 60(b) for any one of the following reasons:

(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); (3) fraud ... misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or (6) any other reason that justifies relief.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). "A motion for reconsideration under Rule 60(b) [is] generally granted only upon the showing of exceptional circumstances." Sonberg v. Niagara Cty. Jail., 08 Civ. 364 (JTC), 2013 WL 2468691, *3 (W.D.N.Y. Jun. 7, 2013) (quoting Mendell v. Gollust, 909 F.2d 724, 731 (2d Cir. 1990)). It "will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked - matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court." id. at *2 (quoting Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995)). "Reconsideration is not appropriate 'when the moving party seeks solely to relitigate an issue already decided.'" Id. at *3 (quoting Shrader, 70 F.3d at 257). "[T]he strict requirements of Rule 60(b) apply even to pro se litigants." Id. at *3.

         A. Denial of Access to Courts Claim

         In this case, the plaintiff takes issue with the Court's analysis and dismissal of his denial of access to courts claim. He does not, however, dispute the Court's recitation of the factual allegations in support thereof. Those factual allegations, as stated in the Court's Initial Review Order, are as follows:

The plaintiff was arrested on August 16, 2014 and held on a bond of $50, 000 cash or surety. The plaintiff posted bond the next day and was released from custody. He later appeared for his arraignment on August 18, 2014, when new charges were added and his bond was increased to $200, 000 cash or surety. The plaintiff could not afford to post the increased bond and, consequently, was held at the New Haven Correctional Center ("NHCC") while awaiting the disposition of his case.
While at NHCC, the plaintiff attempted to gain access to legal materials in order to familiarize himself with state statutes and court rules but was informed that there was no law library or legal materials available to inmates at NHCC. The plaintiff subsequently filed a grievance against NHCC staff for the denial of legal materials to NHCC inmates. In retaliation for his grievance, prison staff transferred the plaintiff to Bridgeport Correctional Center ("BCC"), a much less maintained and supervised facility. BCC also does not provide its inmates with access to legal materials.
On October 15, 2014, the plaintiff posted his $200, 000 bail and was released. Shortly thereafter, however, he was arrested on new charges and bond was set at $100, 000 cash or surety. Prior to his arraignment on the new charges, the court appointed Attorney Julie Costello from the Public Defender's Office to represent the plaintiff for arraignment purposes. Attorney John Longwell from the Public Defender's Office informed the plaintiff that Judge Charles Gill, who was presiding over his case, was known to arbitrarily convert surety bonds to cash only bonds, in violation of Connecticut's bail statutes (Conn. Gen. Stat. ยง 54-64a). At the arraignment, Judge Gill converted the plaintiff's bond from $100, ...

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