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Johnson v. Maurer

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 7, 2019

CARVAUGHN JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. KATHLEEN MAURER, JOHN STREET, CONNIE WEIKOPF, MARY ELLEN CASTRO, RIKEL LIGHTNER, MONICA FARINELLA, ALEXIS GENDALL, COLLEEN GALLAGHER, LT. COLLINS, SYED JOHAR NAQVI, CAPTAIN OGANDO & TIM BOMBARD, Defendants.

          RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

          CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On December 6, 2018, this Court issued an Initial Review Order ("IRO"), dismissing a number of the claims made in Plaintiff Carvaughn Johnson's Amended Complaint, [Doc. 6, the "Am. Compl."]. Johnson v. Maurer, No. 3:18-cv-694 (CSH), 2018 WL 6421059 (D. Conn. Dec. 6, 2018). The Court allowed claims against Defendants Captain Ogando and Syed Johar Naqvi in their personal capacities to proceed. Id. at *18-19. Claims against all other defendants were dismissed. Id. at *18.

         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, now moves for the Court to reconsider the IRO, asking to reinstate Tim Bombard and Rikel Lightner as defendants and to add a claim of cruel and unusual punishment against Defendant Naqvi. Doc. 10 ("Reconsideration Mtn.") ¶ 6. This motion was not timely filed. However, given the special solicitude for pro se litigants, the Court has nonetheless examined Plaintiff's motion. The Court's conclusions in the IRO remain unchanged upon a review of the information in the motion and a revisitation of Plaintiff's operative complaint.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW FOR PRO SE LITIGANTS

         With respect to pro se litigants, it is well-established that "[p]ro se submissions are reviewed with special solicitude, and 'must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" Matheson v. Deutsche Bank Nat'l Tr. Co., 706 Fed.Appx. 24, 26 (2d Cir. 2017) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (per curiam)). See also Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (same); Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants). The federal courts' special solicitude towards pro se litigants "also embraces relaxation of the limitations on the amendment of pleadings, leniency in the enforcement of other procedural rules, and deliberate, continuing efforts to ensure that a pro se litigant understands what is required of him." Tracy, 623 F.3d at 101 (2d Cir. 2010) (citations omitted) (collecting cases).

         II. DISCUSSION

         Regarding motions for reconsideration, this District's Local Rules state that:

Such motions will generally be denied unless the movant can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked in the initial decision or order. In circumstances where such motions are appropriate, they shall be filed and served within seven (7) days of the filing of the decision or order from which such relief is sought, and shall be accompanied by a memorandum setting forth concisely the controlling decisions or data the movant believes the Court overlooked.

D. Conn. L. Civ. R. 7(c). The Second Circuit has explained that "[t]he major grounds justifying reconsideration are 'an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.'" Virgin Atl. Airways, Ltd. v. Nat'l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255 (2d Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). This standard is "strict," and reconsideration should be granted only if "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." Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995). If "the moving party [is] seek[ing] solely to relitigate an issue already decided," the court should deny the motion for reconsideration and adhere to its prior decision. Id.

         Plaintiff certified that his motion for reconsideration was electronically filed on February 1, 2019. Reconsideration Mtn. at 18. Given that the IRO was issued on December 6, 2018, Plaintiff has undoubtedly missed the seven-day period to move for reconsideration as set forth by the Local Rules. However, the Court will nonetheless examine the arguments put forth in his motion due to his status as a pro se litigant. See also Palmer v. Sena, 474 F.Supp.2d 353, 354 (D. Conn. 2007) ("A failure to timely file a motion for reconsideration may constitute sufficient grounds for denying the motion; however, courts have exercised their discretion to address even untimely motions.").

         A. Deliberate Indifference Claims Against Bombard and Lightner

         Plaintiff asks that Tim Bombard and Rikel Lightner be reinstated as defendants, alleging claims of deliberate indifference to his medical needs.[1] Reconsideration Mtn. ¶¶ 1-2. He offers a recitation of events not detailed in the Amended Complaint and attaches evidence "to give the Court a better understanding of events" and "to enable the Court to fully view Plaintiff's complaint(s)[.]" Reconsideration Mtn. at 1. Case law bars consideration of these events because they are not "new evidence," but, in any case, they do not persuade the Court that it should modify the conclusions in the IRO.

         One of the limited bases upon which a motion for reconsideration may be granted is the "availability of new evidence." Virgin Atl. Airways, 956 F.2d at 1255. Evidence is "new" if it is "truly newly discovered or could not have been found by due diligence." Space Hunters, Inc. v. United States, 500 Fed.Appx. 76, 81 (2d Cir. 2012) (citing United States v. Potamkin Cadillac Corp., 697 F.2d 491, 493 (2d Cir. 1983)). Plaintiff filed his Complaint on April 23, 2018, [Doc. 1], and then an Amended Complaint on October 9, 2018, [Am. Compl.]. The Court's IRO was based upon the Amended Complaint. Johnson v. Maurer, No. 3:18-cv-694 (CSH), 2018 WL 6421059, at *1 (D. Conn. Dec. 6, 2018). Plaintiff's motion discusses events that occurred in 2017 and early 2018, so it is unclear why neither the original nor amended complaint mentioned the incidents that Plaintiff raises in the instant motion. Reconsideration Mtn. ¶¶ 1-2. In addition, while it could be the case that Plaintiff did not have access to the supporting exhibits until after the Court issued the IRO, they are still not new because he could have discussed their contents in the complaints regardless. The Amended Complaint detailed Plaintiff's numerous attempts to obtain medical care without supporting documentation, and the Court had treated these allegations as true for the purposes of the IRO. Because the Motion for Reconsideration does not contain "new evidence," case law prevents the Court from considering the "new" accusations against Bombard and Lightner on this basis.

         Be that as it may, the Court may grant reconsideration if there is clear error or manifest injustice. Virgin Atl. Airways, 956 F.2d at 1255. Plaintiff has not pointed to any possible clear errors in the IRO. The Court will thus examine whether the events as described in Plaintiff's instant motion, coupled with those in his Amended Complaint, ...


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