United States District Court, D. Colorado
May 16, 2014
ELIZABETH WOJDACZ, Plaintiffs,
GARY LEE NORMAN, and CLIFF HUDSON Defendants.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL
ROBERT E. BLACKBURN, District Judge.
The matter before me is plaintiff's notice of Fraud Upon the Court by Robert Blackburn, Gary Norman and Cliff Hudson [#315],  filed May 13, 2014, which I construe as a motion for a new trial. Exercising my discretion pursuant to D.C.COLO.LCivR 7.1(d), I rule on this motion without awaiting the benefit of a response. I deny the request for a new trial.
I have jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question).
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
When a case has been tried to a jury, a new trial may be granted "for any of the reasons for which new trial have heretofore been granted in actions at law in the courts of the United States." FED. R. CIV. P. 59(a)(1). A motion for new trial "is not regarded with favor and should only be granted with great caution." United States v. Kelley, 929 F.2d 582, 586 (10th Cir. 1991). The decision whether to grant a new trial is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. Id.
Plaintiff's constitutional and RICO claims were tried to a jury on May 5-7, 2014. After plaintiff rested, each defendant made an oral, mid-trial motion under Rule 50(a) for judgment as a matter of law. After hearing, I granted these motions, finding that plaintiff had failed to offer proof sufficient to meet all essential elements of any of her claims. This motion followed. Plaintiff advances several arguments in support of her motion for new trial, premised largely on my rulings on the evidence presented - and prohibited from being presented - at trial. None has merit.
Plaintiff first complains of my order quashing the subpoena she issued to Dr. Patrick Miller and then refusing to let her testify about Dr. Miller's alleged participation in the events underlying her claims. With respect to the quashal, the procedural and substantive deficiencies in the subpoena served on Dr. Miller are set forth fully in my Order Granting the Motion of Non-Party Patrick A. Miller, M.D. To Quash Subpoena [#302], filed May 1, 2014, and need not be repeated here. As for plaintiff's testimony regarding Dr. Miller's treatment of her following the alleged attack by defendant, Gary Norman, I found that the evidence was hearsay and irrelevant to any claim before the jury for determination and thus struck it. Plaintiff's description in her motion of how this evidence allegedly pertained to her claims buttresses my conclusions in that regard. Plaintiff has presented not a shred of actual evidence to support her insinuations regarding Dr. Miller's actions related to her. Moreover, nothing in Dr. Miller's purported testimony would have shown that either defendant was a state actor for purposes of plaintiff's section 1983 and 1085 claims, nor that either defendant was engaged in an enterprise for purposes of her RICO and COCCA claims. These arguments thus present no basis warranting a new trial.
Plaintiff next complains of the refusal to admit certain exhibits. Exhibit 6 was an unsigned letter from 1976 purporting to be from Ann Craig, who therein represented herself to be Mr. Norman's wife. Plaintiff never established the authenticity of this document, which in addition was rank hearsay. The document thus was properly excluded. Nor could plaintiff possibly show that the exclusion prejudiced her, since Mr. Norman testified that he had been married to Ms. Craig, which is all the letter could possibly be expected to demonstrate.
Exhibit 10 consists of two pages purporting to establish that plaintiff earned income in 2006. The exhibit is hearsay and was excluded on that basis. Here again, plaintiff fails to show how the exhibit overcomes the hearsay objection. Moreover, plaintiff was allowed to testify from her personal knowledge that she earned income in the 2006 tax year, thus proving up the substance of the documents. No prejudice thus could be shown from their exclusion.
Exhibit 42 purports to be a list of exhibits that Mr. Norman's attorney prepared and submitted in the parties' divorce proceeding. Plaintiff now claims that one document listed in the exhibit - referenced therein as "Colorado Indigent Care Program Info" - was an application for indigent care, which Mr. Norman allegedly tried to trick plaintiff into signing in order to facilitate her commitment to a mental health facility. Whatever the nature or relevance of this underlying document, the list which comprises Exhibit 42 itself remains irrelevant and inadmissible. There was and is no evidence that any of the documents described therein actually were admitted in the action for dissolution of marriage. Plaintiff's motion does not show otherwise, and I therefore perceive no basis on which to grant a new trial based on the exclusion of this evidence.
Lastly, plaintiff complains generally that I interposed objections of my own, interrupted her examinations (both of the defendants and while testifying in her own behalf), and deprived her of her right to trial by jury by dismissing the claims at mid-trial. None of these matters suggest that a new trial is warranted in this case. As I apprised the parties at the combined Final Pretrial Conference and Trial Preparation conference, given the unique nature of this case - the first in the court's 12 years on the federal bench in which all parties were pro se - I intended to take my role as arbiter and gatekeeper of the evidence to be presented at trial seriously. I made this pronouncement to ensure that all parties knew that I would take an active role in the marshaling and presentation of the evidence in order to maintain the integrity of the record, protect the jury from unduly prejudicial and irrelevant information, vouchsafe the rights of all parties, and preserve the dignity of the tribunal.
Nevertheless, and contrary to plaintiff's supposition, plaintiff was afforded substantial leeway in the presentation of her case. Despite the fact that almost none of the documentary evidence plaintiff presented at trial was more than tangentially relevant to the issues to be decided by the jury, the court admitted nearly all plaintiff's exhibits. In addition, plaintiff was allowed to testify at length and without undue restriction about matters largely unrelated to the essential elements of her claims. The court intervened only when plaintiff began to wander so far afield from any relevant issue or so far transgress the rules of evidence that some boundary was required to be maintained.
Plaintiff seems to have only the vaguest notion that her claims are comprised of legal elements that must be proven by the presentation of evidence in order for her to recover, let alone what those essential elements are. She offers nothing more than her own, bald ipse dixit to suggest that the testimony and evidence which were excluded or circumscribed would have proven the essential elements I found insufficiently established to warrant submission of her claims to the jury.
Plaintiff appears to believe that the federal courtroom is a bully pulpit for a her to tell her story in whatever manner and by whatever "proof" she alone deems sufficient. In this, she is mistaken. It does not constitute "tampering with the evidence" for the court to demand that the parties follow the Federal Rules of Evidence. In short, there is nothing in plaintiff's motion that warrants granting her a new trial.
THEREFORE IT IS ORDERED that plaintiff's notice of Fraud Upon the Court by Robert Blackburn, Gary Norman and Cliff Hudson [#315], filed May 13, 2014, construed as a motion for new trial, is DENIED.