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Matson v. Hrabe

United States District Court, D. Kansas

May 1, 2014

MIKE D. MATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
JOEL HRABE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

RICHARD D. ROGERS, District Judge.

Plaintiff is a state system inmate who has brought a pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging illegal retaliation. A significant portion of plaintiff's claims concern plaintiff's transfer from a cell in A-Unit of the Norton Correctional Facility (NCF) to cell C-3003 in C-Unit at NCF. Plaintiff alleges that the transfer was done for retaliatory reasons. On January 23, 2014, this court issued an order granting summary judgment against plaintiff's claims. Doc. No. 224. The order also denied plaintiff's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint and ruled upon some of plaintiff's objections to orders issued by the Magistrate Judge in this case.

This case is now before the court upon plaintiff's motion to alter or amend judgment pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 59(e). Doc. No. 226. Plaintiff's motion raises several arguments seeking modification of the court's rulings in the January 23, 2014 order. After careful review, the motion shall be denied for the reasons which follow.[1]

I. RULE 59(e) STANDARDS AND REPLY BRIEF STANDARDS

Grounds warranting relief under Rule 59(e) include: 1) an intervening change in the controlling law; 2) new evidence previously unavailable, and 3) the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice. Servants of Paraclete v. Does , 204 F.3d 1005, 1012 (10th Cir. 2000). Such a motion "is appropriate where the court has misapprehended the facts, a party's position, or the controlling law, " but it should not attempt to "revisit issues already addressed or advance arguments that could have been raised in prior briefing." Id . It is not intended to provide a second chance for a party to put forth a better case. Mellon v. Cessna Aircraft Co. , 64 F.Supp.2d 1061, 1063 (D.Kan. 1999).

Relief shall be denied to plaintiff because he does not satisfy the standards of Rule 59(e). In addition, a few of plaintiff's many arguments are presented for the first time in his reply brief. This provides an additional reason to reject some of plaintiff's arguments. See Niles v. American Airlines, Inc. , 563 F.Supp.2d 1208, 1213 (D.Kan. 2008).

II. PLAINTIFF'S MOTION IS TIMELY AS TO THE COURT'S ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT, BUT NOT AS TO THE COURT'S ORDERS RULING ON NONDISPOSTIVE MOTIONS.

Defendant has made two timeliness arguments. First, defendant contends that plaintiff's amended memorandum in support of his Rule 59(e) motion was untimely and that additional arguments made in that memorandum should not be considered. Given that the court's order which plaintiff seeks to alter or amend was mailed by regular mail to plaintiff on January 23, 2014, plaintiff had 31 days to file his Rule 59(e) motion. Plaintiff filed his amended memorandum before that deadline. So, the court rejects defendant's first timeliness argument.

Defendant's second timeliness argument concerns plaintiff's challenge to the court's rulings on nondispositive motions. As already stated, the court's order granting summary judgment also ruled upon some nondispositive motions. Plaintiff's motion to alter or amend objects to or asks for reconsideration of the court's rulings on some of the nondispositive motions. Defendant asserts that plaintiff's arguments as to the nondispositive matters are untimely because Local Rule 7.3(b) requires that motions for reconsideration of nondispositive orders be filed within 14 days of the order. Plaintiff argues that since the nondispositive rulings were made in the same order that granted summary judgment, the 28-day time limit for filing a Rule 59(e) motion should apply to the nondispositive rulings.

Support for defendant's argument may be found in Welch v. Centex Home Equity Co. , 224 F.R.D. 490, 493 (D.Kan. 2004). In that case, the court had denied a motion for leave to amend and granted a motion to dismiss in the same order. The plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration within 30 days. The court held that the motion seeking reconsideration of the nondispositive motion to amend had to be filed within the time period set forth in Local Rule 7.3 (which at that time was 10 days). As for the dispositive ruling, the motion for reconsideration was untimely under Rule 59 (at that time Rule 59 motions also had to be filed within 10 days of judgment), but the motion was considered under Rule 60.

The court agrees with defendant that plaintiff's request for reconsideration of the court's rulings upon nondispositive motions is untimely. Nevertheless, the court shall proceed to discuss plaintiff's arguments for reconsideration of those rulings.

III. THE COURT APPLIED THE CORRECT STANDARD OF REVIEW FOR THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S ORDERS.

Plaintiff argues that the court erred in denying plaintiff's objections to the Magistrate Judge's rulings upon motions to enforce subpoenas and motions to quash subpoenas. These objections were made in Doc. No. 198. One of plaintiff's arguments is that the court applied the wrong standard of review. Plaintiff contends that the court erred by applying a "clearly erroneous" standard instead of a "de novo" standard. Plaintiff asserts that a "de novo" standard should apply to subpoena enforcement rulings, citing In re Oral Testimony of a Witness Subpoenaed Pursuant to Civil Investigative Demand No. 98-19 , 182 F.R.D. 196 (E.D.Va. 1998). We reject plaintiff's argument.

As the court reads FED.R.CIV.P. 72(a), a "clearly erroneous or is contrary to law" standard applies because the order in question concerned a nondispositive matter.[2] The case cited by plaintiff was initiated as a petition to enforce a civil investigative demand to require a witness to provide testimony. Because that was the sole issue in the case, an order deciding that issue was considered a case dispositive order. Motions to quash are usually nondispositive matters. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., Inc. v. Transgroup Exp., Inc. , 2009 WL 2916832 *1 (N.D.Ill. 9/1/2009). Moreover, the decision of the Magistrate Judge in that case was framed as a report and recommendation to the district court, which is always subject to de novo review. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). So, the case cited by plaintiff is distinguishable.

IV. THE COURT'S ORDERS SUSTAINING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S RULINGS AS TO MOTIONS TO ENFORCE SUBPOENAS SHALL NOT BE MODIFIED.

Plaintiff makes several arguments relating to the court's denial of objections in Doc. No. 198 to the Magistrate Judge's order (Doc. No. 188) concerning the enforcement of two subpoenas - one subpoena issued to Mr. Raymond N. Roberts and one subpoena issued to Mr. Timothy Taylor. As noted previously, plaintiff's motion to alter or amend is untimely as to these motions. The issues plaintiff raises are also moot in light of the court's grant of summary judgment. Nevertheless, the court will attempt to address plaintiff's contentions.

First, plaintiff argues that the court mischaracterized the objections he made in Doc. No. 198. Plaintiff is correct that the court did not accurately characterize the full extent of the rulings in the order to which plaintiff objected. But, plaintiff does not argue why this justifies the relief he requests. The court found and still finds that the Magistrate Judge's rulings were not clearly erroneous or contrary to law.

Under the clearly erroneous standard, the court is required to affirm a magistrate judge's order unless a complete review leaves it "with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Ocelot Oil Corp. v. Sparrow Indus , 847 F.2d 1458, 1464 (10th Cir. 1988). The court conducts an independent review of legal issues to determine whether the ruling is contrary to law. Sprint Comm. Co. v. Vonage Holdings Corp. , 500 F.Supp.2d 1290, 1346 (D.Kan. 2007).

Plaintiff has not shown that the Magistrate Judge's conclusions in quashing plaintiff's subpoena to Mr. Roberts were clearly erroneous or contrary to law. Normally, issues relating to a motion to quash a subpoena are a subject of discretion. Gulley v. Orr , 905 F.2d 1383, 1386 (10th Cir. 1990). This includes the decision whether to quash or to modify a subpoena. Estate of Klieman v. Palestinian Authority, 293 F.R.D. 235, 240 (D.D.C. 2013). The Magistrate Judge quashed the subpoena because it was vague and overly broad. Plaintiff objected on the grounds that the Magistrate Judge should have only modified the subpoena or allowed it to be reserved. But, these objections (and their reference to Doc. Nos. 112, 113, and 127) do not show that the Magistrate Judge's action was clearly erroneous or an abuse of discretion.

As for the subpoena issued to Mr. Taylor, the Magistrate Judge quashed the subpoena on the grounds of relevance or overbreadth. But, plaintiff was granted leave to serve a more narrowly tailored subpoena when discovery, which had been stayed, resumed. Plaintiff's memorandum in support of the motion to alter and amend and his reply brief barely mention the subpoena issued to Mr. Taylor. So, no credible argument can be made for overturning the court's order sustaining the Magistrate Judge's decision as to that subpoena. Even if the court returns to the objections made in Doc. No. 198, it is clear that the Magistrate Judge's order was not clearly mistaken. Like plaintiff's objections to quashing the ...


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