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Harper v. Mont. Co. Cpl. Stephanokos

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 29, 2016

MARION ORNESTUS HARPER, III, Plaintiff,
v.
MONT. CO. CPL. STEPHANOKOS, and MONT. CO. LT. TALLEY, Defendants.

ORDER

KRISTEN L. MIX MAGISTRATE JUDGE

This matter is before the Court[1] on the Motion for Reconsideration of County Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss [#45][2] (the “Motion”) filed by former Defendants Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office and Montezuma County Board of Commissioners and Defendants Stefanakos (incorrectly spelled in the Second Amended Complaint) and Talley (collectively “Movants”).[3] In the Motion, Movants ask the Court to reconsider its August 10, 2015 Order [#43] in which the Court granted in part and denied in part Movants’ motion to dismiss [#17] (the “Motion to Dismiss”). Plaintiff did not file a response and his deadline to do so has elapsed. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion [#45] is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. Standard

The Court has broad discretion to reconsider its interlocutory orders prior to entry of judgment. Rimbert v. Eli Lilly & Co., 647 F.3d 1247, 1251 (10th Cir. 2011) (“[D]istrict courts generally remain free to reconsider their earlier interlocutory orders.”); Price v. Philpot, 420 F.3d 1158, 1167 n.9 (10th Cir. 2005); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) (“[A]ny order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties’ rights and liabilities.”). The Court’s discretion to revise its interlocutory orders is not limited by the standards for reviewing a post-judgment motion filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) or 60(b). See Raytheon Constructors Inc. v. ASARCO, Inc., 368 F.3d 1214, 1217 (10th Cir. 2003) (“[D]istrict court was incorrect to treat [the plaintiff’s] motion for reconsideration [of an interlocutory order] under Rule 60(b), which only applies to final orders or judgments.”). “Notwithstanding the district court’s broad discretion to alter its interlocutory orders, the motion to reconsider ‘is not at the disposal of parties who want to rehash old arguments.’” Nat’l Bus. Brokers, Ltd. v. Jim Williamson Prods., Inc., 115 F.Supp.2d 1250, 1256 (D. Colo. 2000) (quoting Young v. Murphy, 161 F.R.D. 61, 62 (N.D. Ill. 1995)). “Rather, as a practical matter, to succeed in a motion to reconsider, a party must set forth facts or law of a strongly convincing nature to induce the court to reverse its prior decision.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Even under this lower standard, “[a] motion to reconsider should be denied unless it clearly demonstrates manifest error of law or fact or presents newly discovered evidence.” Id. (quotation marks and citation omitted). Mindful of these principles, the Court will not alter the August 10, 2015 Order unless the Court has misapprehended the facts, a party’s position, or the controlling law. Servants of the Paraclete v. Does, 204 F.3d 1005, 1012 (10th Cir. 2000) (explaining that “a motion for reconsideration is appropriate where the court has misapprehended the facts, a party’s position, or the controlling law. It is not appropriate to revisit issues already addressed or advance arguments that could have been raised in prior briefing.”); see Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. v. Universal Am. Mortgage Co., LLC, No. 13-cv-00090-PAB-MJW, 2014 WL 5069409, at *1 (D. Colo. Oct. 9, 2014).

II. Analysis

In the Motion, Movants argue that the Court misapprehended the facts. Motion [#45] at 3 (“the procedural morass created by Plaintiff’s many duplicative filings resulted in the Court misapprehending the relevant procedural history.”). As Movants explain, in addition to the two state court cases discussed in the Court’s August 10, 2015 Order, Plaintiff also filed a third case in state court that was not discussed in the Court’s Order. Movants assert that consideration of the third case results in the conclusion that Plaintiff’s remaining claims against Defendants are barred and should be dismissed and that Plaintiff’s claims relating to the 2014 Incident[4] against former defendants Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office and Montezuma County Board of Commissioners should be dismissed with prejudice.[5]

The Court incorporates the factual background and analysis included in its August 10, 2015 Order [#43] by reference and only discusses the additional state court case herein.

In 2014, Plaintiff filed a case in the District Court of Montezuma County which was assigned index number 2014cv5 (the “Second State Court Case”)[6]. See Amended Complaint filed in Second State Court Case [#17-1] at 2. The complaint was dismissed with leave to refile on October 7, 2014. See Order re: Order for Dismissal [#17-1] at 5. As a result, Plaintiff filed his amended complaint in the Second State Court Case against the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Department in which he alleged that the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Department “illegally entered [his] apartment” twice in 2012. See Amended Complaint filed in Second State Court Case [#17-1] at 2. He alleged that employees of the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Department “removed ten boxes of personal belongings including $3, 000.00 in cash.” Id. Plaintiff averred that his rights protected by the United States Constitution and the Colorado Constitution were violated and that he and his family became homeless and suffered “severe emotional distress” and “humiliation” and that “preexisting health issues” were “exacerbat[ed].” Id. Plaintiff further alleged that on

October 6th 2014 while in custody at Montezuma Co. Detention Center [he] was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by Deputy [Stefanakos] by forcing [him] to enter the backseat of an occupied Cortez Police Dept. K-9 Unit, where [he] was subsequently biten [sic] by the K-9, suffered severe allergic reaction and had to be transported for emergency care at Southwest Memorial Hospital.

Id. As explained in the Court’s August 10, 2015 Order, these allegations relate to the same incidents raised in Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint in the instant action. Order [#43] at 2-4, 11-18.

The Court incorporates its analysis of res judicata in its August 10, 2015 Order by reference, Order [#43] at 11-18, but briefly reiterates the elements and applies them to the Second State Court Case.

“[A] federal court must give to a state-court judgment the same preclusive effect as would be given that judgment under the law of the State in which the judgment was rendered.” Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Ed., 465 U.S. 75, 81 (1984). Therefore, the Court must determine what preclusive effect Colorado would give to the Second State Court Case. See Xiangyuan Zhu v. St. Francis Health Ctr., 215 F. App’x 717, 719 (10th Cir. 2007) (looking to state law to determine if district court properly applied res judicata to bar claim).

Under Colorado law, “[f]or a claim in a second judicial proceeding to be precluded by a previous judgment, there must exist: (1) finality of the first judgment, (2) identity of subject matter, (3) identity of claims for relief, and (4) identity or privity between parties to the actions.” Id. at 608; see also Loveland Essential Grp., LLC v. Grommon Farms, Inc., 318 P.3d 6, 10 (Colo. 2012). Further, “Defendants have the burden of setting forth facts sufficient to satisfy the elements of res judicata.” Edmond v. Clements, No. 11-cv-00248-RBJ-KLM, 2012 WL 2523077, at *11 (D. Colo. Jan. 19, 2012) (citations omitted). Here, as discussed below, all four elements are met with regard to the Second State Court Case as to the claims at issue except as to any potential individual capacity claim asserted against Defendant Talley and any claim asserted against Movant Montezuma County Board of Commissioners. See Argues Real Estate, 109 P.3d at 608-610 (affirming lower court decision applying res judicata when ‚Äúthere was a final judgment in the first case; this case involved the same parcel of land; the claims in this case involved the same assertion of legal right to the parcel as the ...


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