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Davis v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 12, 2017

ALTON DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO RECONSIDER ORDER GRANTING JURY TRIAL

          William J. Martinez United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Alton Davis, appearing pro se, asserts a single claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA, ” 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb et seq.) against Defendant Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”), arguing that BOP has imposed a substantial burden on the exercise of his religion. In an earlier Order Regarding Pending Motions (ECF No. 199 (“Order”)), the Court construed Plaintiff's Motion for Clarification (ECF No. 162) as a Motion Requesting A Jury Trial pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 39(b) (“Motion for Jury Trial”) and granted it. BOP filed its Motion to Reconsider Order Granting Jury Trial on October 30, 2017. (ECF No. 205 (“Motion to Reconsider”).) Plaintiff filed an opposition Motion in Response to Defendant's Motion to Reconsider on November 28, 2017. (ECF No. 211 (“Response”).) For the reasons set forth below, BOP's Motion to Reconsider is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of Defendant BOP and is currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum (“ADX”). (ECF No. 90 at 3.) On August 24, 2010, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Plaintiff was convicted on eight criminal counts, including conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robberies of suspected drug dealers, using and discharging a firearm during a robbery, murder, and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. See United States v. Davis, 689 F.3d 179, 181 (2d Cir. 2012) (upholding judgment and detailing facts). In September 2010, Plaintiff was notified that a Special Administrative Measure (“SAM”) was being implemented regarding his confinement. (ECF No. 90 at 3.) BOP asserts that the SAM was implemented “because [Plaintiff] demonstrates a ‘proclivity for violence, ' as evidenced by his conviction on eight criminal counts . . . [and] his attempt, while incarcerated, to order the murders of two federal law enforcement officials.” (ECF No. 98 at 2 (citing ECF No. 98-1).) Plaintiff's SAM restrictions expired on August 31, 2014. (ECF No. 98-2.) However, on September 8, 2014, Plaintiff was placed on Correspondence Restrictions (“CRs”) pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 540.15 “for a period of six months to transition [Plaintiff] into a general population setting.” (ECF No. 98 at 2 (citing ECF No. 98-2 ¶ 4).) And, in March 2015, those CRs were reviewed and removed. (ECF No. 98-2 ¶¶ 13-14.)

         Based on this course of events, Plaintiff filed this action on April 27, 2015, asserting the following claims: (1) violation of his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, freedom of association, and free exercise of religion (including violation of RFRA), (2) violation of his Fifth Amendment right to procedural due process, and (3) violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment stemming from his conditions of confinement and deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. (ECF No. 90.)

         On August 29, 2016, BOP filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 98), which was granted in part on April 7, 2017 (ECF No. 144). The Court stated in that Order that “[m]oving forward, Plaintiff shall have one remaining claim under [RFRA] against Defendant [BOP].” (Id. at 27.) Following this, on May 25, 2017, United States Magistrate Judge Michael J. Watanabe held a scheduling conference (ECF Nos. 157, 159), and on that same day entered an order appointing pro bono counsel (ECF No. 158).

         Plaintiff then filed a notice to the Court (see ECF No. 165), multiple motions for clarification (see ECF Nos. 143, 162, ), motions for appointment of counsel (see ECF Nos. 181, 189, 192), Rule 72(a) objections to Judge Watanabe's orders (see ECF Nos. 168, 186, 188), and two motions for consolidation and reconsideration (see ECF Nos. 179, 180). At this point, it became apparent to the Court that Plaintiff's main assertion in all of these motions was that he is entitled to a jury trial. (ECF No. 199 at 3-4.) The Court accordingly construed his Motion for Clarification as a Motion for a Jury Trial and granted the motion under Rule 39(b). (Id. at 8.)

         BOP then filed a Motion for Reconsideration, arguing that “[b]ecause there is no right to a jury trial for Plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief against the federal government, the Court should reconsider its Order granting a jury trial in this case.” (ECF No. 205 at 1.) Plaintiff Responded to BOP's Motion, arguing that because his Constitutional rights were violated, the Court should call a jury in an advisory capacity. (ECF No. 211 at 2.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not specifically provide for motions for reconsideration. Ebonie S. ex rel. Mary S. v. Pueblo Sch. Dist. 60, 2011 WL1882829, at *1 (D. Colo. May 17, 2011); Hatfield v. Bd of Cnty. Comm'rs for Converse Cnty., 52 F.3d 858, 861 (10th Cir. 1995). Where, after judgment has entered in a case, a party files a motion for reconsideration, courts generally construe such a motion as invoking Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b). Ebonie S., 2011 WL 1882829, at *1. On the other hand, where a party files a motion for reconsideration, prior to the entry of judgment, Rules 59(e) and 60(b) do not apply. Id.; Houston Fearless Corp. v. Teter, 313 F.2d 91, 92 (10th Cir. 1962). Instead, the motion falls within a court's plenary power to revisit and amend interlocutory orders as justice requires. Ebonie S., 2011 WL 1882829, at *1; Paramount Pictures Corp. v. Thompson Theatres, Inc., 621 F.2d 1088, 1090 (10th Cir. 1980) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b); see also Houston Fearless Corp., 313 F.2d at 92.

         A motion for reconsideration is appropriate where there is “(1) an intervening change in the controlling law, (2) new evidence previously unavailable, [or] (3) the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” Servants of the Paraclete v. Does, 204 F.3d 1005, 1012 (10th Cir. 2000). A motion for reconsideration is not appropriate “to revisit issues already addressed or advance arguments that could have been raised in prior briefing.” Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Rule 39(b) provides that “the court may, on motion, order a jury trial on any issue for which a jury trial might have been demanded, ” i.e. in cases where “there is a right to a jury trial in the first instance.” (ECF No. 205 at 3-4 (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 39(b).) BOP argues that there is no right to a jury trial in this case for two reasons. First, BOP claims, “it is a long-standing principle that there is no constitutional right to a jury trial in a case for injunctive relief like this one.” (Id. at 4.) Second, BOP states, “it is also a long-standing principle that there is no constitutional right to a jury trial in an action against the United States, like this one, unless Congress has explicitly allowed for it.” (Id. at 5.)

         In his Response, Plaintiff contends, at “issue is the fact that defendant violated and is still violating plaintiff's legal rights to free exercise of religion. A legal right preserved by the U.S. Constitution [in] the First Amendment, which is arguabl[y] a legal right of the law and not equitable.” (ECF No. 211 at 2.) Plaintiff argues in the alternative that even if his claim is purely equitable, the Court can still call a jury in an advisory capacity and ...


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