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Ortolaza ex rel. E. v. City of Hartford

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 18, 2019

THAIS ORTOLAZA ex rel E., A MINOR CHILD, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF HARTFORD, CAPITOL REGION EDUCATION COUNCIL, ROBERT McCAIN, TIMOTHY SULLIVAN, CHRISTOPHER NOLAN, BRIAN GUSTIS, EZEKIAL DONNELLY, MARC DaCRUZ, CARLOS TORRES, JOSEPH BUYAK, IAN POWELL, NICHOLAS TRIGILA, and BENJAMIN LEE, Defendants.

          RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION [DOC. 86]

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

         Plaintiff Thais Ortolaza ex rel E., a minor child, has moved for the Court to reconsider and vacate its Ruling filed May 24, 2019, 388 F.Supp.3d 109 (D. Conn. 2019) (“the May 2019 Ruling”). The May 2019 Ruling dismissed Plaintiff's Amended Complaint against the CREC Defendants. Plaintiff couples the present motion for reconsideration of that Ruling with a stated intention to file a second amended complaint. The CREC Defendants oppose Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The May 2019 Ruling, the subject of the present motion for reconsideration, was preceded by an opinion dismissing the original Complaint and granting Plaintiff leave to file the Amended Complaint. That earlier opinion is reported at 2018 WL 2100280 (D. Conn May 7, 2018) (the “May 2018 Ruling”). For purposes of this Ruling on Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration, familiarity with these two prior opinions is assumed. The prior opinions recite in detail the facts and circumstances of the case, a recitation repeated in this Ruling only to the extent necessary to explain the Court's resolution of Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration.

         The incident in suit occurred during the morning of November 19, 2015, when E., a student at a CREC school, was arrested by Hartford police and briefly detained before being released without charges against him. The police acted in response to communications from school administrators who early that morning had received and considered an anonymous threatening email. Plaintiff's initial complaint asserted claims arising out of E.'s arrest and detention against the school administrators (“the CREC Defendants”) and Hartford police officers (“the Hartford Defendants”).

         The central fact at issue in Plaintiff's § 1983 action against the CREC-Defendant school administrators is the manner in which E. came to be identified to the Hartford police as the suspected author of the threatening e-mail. The gravamen of Plaintiff's federal claims against the CREC Defendants is that those Defendants should be regarded as joint “state actors” with the police with respect to the arrest and detention of E. In the May 2018 Ruling, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's original Complaint against the CREC Defendants because Plaintiff failed to make that showing as a matter of law. Plaintiff was granted leave to file an Amended Complaint in an effort to state a viable federal claim against the CREC Defendants. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint attempting to do so. The May 2019 Ruling dismissed the Amended Complaint on the same ground: Plaintiff's failure to sufficiently allege that the CREC Defendants were “state actors” for § 1983 purposes.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff seeks reconsideration of the May 2019 Ruling on the basis of “newly discovered evidence.” The CREC Defendants seek to preserve the May 2019 Ruling. Their initial contention is that the evidence Plaintiff relies upon is not “newly discovered, ” and consequently cannot support a motion for reconsideration.

         This threshold dispute necessitates the fashioning of a procedural chronology. The following dates are pertinent:

Date of incident: November 19, 2015
Original Complaint filed against CREC and Hartford Defendants: November 9, 2017
Ruling dismissing original Complaint against CREC Defendants filed, with leave to replead: May 7, 2018
Amended Complaint filed: June 15, 2018
Motion by CREC Defendants to dismiss Amended Complaint: August 13, 2018
Briefing completed on CREC motion to dismiss Amended Complaint: October 4, 2018
Ruling dismissing Amended Complaint against CREC Defendants: May 23, 2019
Motion for reconsideration of that Ruling: June 5, 2019
Stipulation dismissing Plaintiff's action against Hartford Defendants: July 25, 2019

         As this litigation progressed, the parties to the action also conducted discovery. Although the CREC Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint against them on August 13, 2018, there was no application to stay discovery during the pendency of that motion. The Hartford Defendants, who had never moved to dismiss the action against them, continued their participation in the case, including pre-trial discovery, until the July 25, 2018 stipulation of dismissal as to them. It is necessary to consider the accomplished discovery in detail because Plaintiff contends the fruits of that discovery constitute “newly discovered evidence” requiring reconsideration and vacatur of the May 2019 Ruling dismissing the Amended Complaint against the CREC Defendants.

         The discovery in question consists of six depositions and the interrogatory responses of two individuals. All the depositions were conducted by Plaintiff's counsel, who also propounded the interrogatories. The details are as follows:

February 4, 2019: deposition of Nicholas Triglia, a Hartford police Defendant.
February 5, 2019: deposition of Brian Gustis, a Hartford police Defendant.
February 8, 2019: interrogatory responses of Robert McCain and Tim Sullivan, CREC Defendants.
February 22, 2019: deposition of Christopher Nolan, a CREC ...

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