United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
November 28, 2005.
TROI MAYER, Plaintiff,
LOUIS SEWELL, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SYLVIA RAMBO, Senior District Judge
Before the court is Plaintiff's Motion for a Mistrial/New Trial
or Eventual Reconsideration of Judgments of Decisions of the
Court and Jury on 7/18/05 and 8/2/05 (Doc. 284). Plaintiff filed
the motion, pro se, on August 23, 2005. The parties have
briefed the issues and the matter is ripe for disposition. For
the following reasons, the court will deny Plaintiff's motion.
The facts of this case are well-known to both parties. Thus,
the court will not recite them here. Plaintiff, who is
incarcerated at SCI-Greene in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, commenced
this action on September 13, 2001. Following a jury trial, the
jury returned a verdict for Defendants on August 2, 2005. On
August 2, 2005, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Mistrial/New Trial
(Doc. 272). On August 11, 2005 Plaintiff requested an enlargement
of time in which to file a brief in support of his motion in
order to develop additional arguments for why a new trial should
be granted. In an August 12, 2005 order (Doc. 275), the court
denied Plaintiff's request for an extension as premature because the
allotted time for filing a brief in support of Plaintiff's motion
would not expire until August 22, 2005. The court also indicated
that if Plaintiff filed a new motion and comprehensive supporting
brief containing all of his arguments by August 22, 2005, his
first motion would be deemed to be withdrawn and the court would
rule only on the all-inclusive motion. On August 31, 2005, the
court granted an extension of time in which Plaintiff could file
an amended motion and supporting all-inclusive brief (Doc. 281).
Plaintiff subsequently filed the instant motion (Doc. 284) with
supporting brief on September 2, 2005. Accordingly, the court
will deem Plaintiff's first Motion for Mistrial/New Trial to be
withdrawn and consider only the instant all-inclusive motion.
II. Legal Standard
A. Motion for New Trial
A motion for a new trial is governed by Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 59. Under this rule, in the case of a jury trial, "[a]
new trial may be granted to all or any of the parties and on all
or part of the issues . . . for any of the reasons for which new
trials have heretofore been granted in actions at law in the
courts of the United States." Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1). In the
Third Circuit, a new trial is warranted "when the verdict is
against the great weight of the evidence or errors at trial
produce a result inconsistent with substantial justice." Sandrow
v. United States, 832 F. Supp. 918, 918 (E.D. Pa. 1993) (citing
Roebuck v. Drexel Univ., 852 F.2d 715, 735-36 (3d Cir. 1988));
see also Bullen v. Chaffinch, 336 F. Supp. 2d 342, 346 (D. Del. 2004) (noting that excessive damages or improper use of
peremptory challenges to exclude potential jurors on the basis of
race are other grounds for a new trial).
When a motion for a new trial is based on a prejudicial error
of law, the court has broad discretion to order a new trial.
Klein v. Hollings, 992 F.2d 1285, 1289-90 (3d Cir. 1993). If,
however, a motion for a new trial is premised on a verdict that
is allegedly against the weight of the evidence, the court's
discretion is more limited. Williamson v. Consol. Rail Corp.,
926 F.2d 1344, 1353 (3d Cir. 1991). Under these circumstances, a
new trial should only be granted when the verdict "cries out to
be overturned or shocks the conscience." Id. Nonetheless, in
reviewing a motion for a new trial, the court must draw all
reasonable inferences in favor of the verdict winner. Marino v.
Ballestas, 749 F.2d 162, 167 (3d Cir. 1984); see also 12 James
Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 59.13.
B. Motion for Reconsideration
A motion for reconsideration is governed by Federal Rule 59(e),
which allows a party to move to alter or amend a judgment within
ten days of its entry.*fn1 McDowell Oil Serv., Inc. v.
Interstate Fire & Cas. Co., 817 F. Supp. 538, 541 (M.D. Pa.
1993). The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct
manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered
evidence. Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir.
1985). Accordingly, a judgment may be altered or amended if the
party seeking reconsideration shows at least one of the following grounds: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2)
the availability of new evidence that was not available when the
court granted the motion for summary judgment; or (3) the need to
correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest
injustice. Max's Seafood Café by Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros,
176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing North River Ins. Co. v.
CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995)). "`A
motion for reconsideration is not to be used as a means to
reargue matters already argued and disposed of or as an attempt
to relitigate a point of disagreement between the Court and the
litigant.'" Ogden v. Keystone Residence, 226 F. Supp. 2d 588,
606 (M.D. Pa. 2002) (quoting Abu-Jamal v. Horn, No. CIV. A.
99-5089, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20813, 2001 WL 1609761, at *9
(E.D. Pa. Dec. 18, 2001) (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted)). Likewise, reconsideration motions may not be used to
raise new arguments or present evidence that could have been
raised prior to the entry of judgment. McDowell Oil Serv. Inc.,
817 F. Supp. at 541. Finally, reconsideration of judgment is an
extraordinary remedy, and such motions should be granted
sparingly. D'Angio v. Borough of Nescopeck, 56 F. Supp. 2d 502,
504 (M.D. Pa. 1999).
Plaintiff asks the court to reconsider his claims or grant a
new trial for reasons primarily related to the alleged conduct of
opposing counsel at trial, including the Attorney General's
Office and the Law Offices of Alan Gold, as well as the conduct
of Plaintiff's attorneys, Walter T. Grabowski and Barry H.
Dyller. Plaintiff makes numerous factual allegations that can be
summarized as claims of ethics violations and attorney
misconduct, discovery violations, ineffective assistance of counsel, and a denial of access to the courts. The
court will address each argument in turn.
A. Ethics Violations and Attorney Misconduct
Plaintiff argues that all of the attorneys involved, including
his own, violated professional ethics and conduct rules and
requests that the court conduct an investigation into his
allegations and refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney for formal
proceedings. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Alan Gold lied
about having a broken hip at some point during the proceedings
and that attorneys in the Office of the Attorney General lied and
allowed Defendants to lie under oath. In addition, Plaintiff
alleges that his attorneys and Defendants' counsel set him up and
made deals then forced him to drop Defendants Kelly Gallagher,
Robert Smith, and John Flaherty from the litigation.
With respect to Plaintiff's request that the court investigate
the allegations of attorney misconduct, the court's role is
neither to conduct such investigations nor to interfere with the
prosecutorial decisions of the U.S. Attorney. Moreover, the court
has already disposed of Plaintiff's allegations as unsupported
and meritless. Plaintiff acknowledges in his motion that he "told
this court, over and over that the Attorney General was lying and
even explained what he had been given and what he had not been
given." (Pl.'s Mot. for Mistrial/New Trial at 8.) In addition, as
the court noted in its Order of September 29, 2005 (Doc. 296),
the court has already determined that Plaintiff made a knowing,
willing, and counseled decision to drop Ms. Gallagher from the
litigation. Plaintiff's decision to drop Defendants Smith and
Flaherty from the litigation was similarly knowing, willing, and
counseled. Therefore, Plaintiff's allegations of ethics
violations and attorney misconduct fail to provide a basis for the court to grant a new
trial or amend its judgment.
B. Discovery Violations
Plaintiff makes numerous references to alleged discovery
violations by the Law Offices of Alan Gold on behalf of Defendant
Kelly Gallagher, as well as the Attorney General's Office's
failure to provide certain documents. None of these arguments
present any new evidence or otherwise suggest any grounds for
granting a new trial or amending the judgment. As the court
stated in its September 29, 2005 Order, the record of this case
is replete with discovery issues, all of which have been
addressed. Accordingly, Plaintiff's allegations of discovery
violations also fail to provide a basis for the court to grant a
new trial or amend its judgment.
C. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Plaintiff also lists a litany of allegations regarding the
conduct of his attorneys, Mr. Grabowski and Mr. Dyller, including
their failure to adequately represent him, prepare, investigate,
pursue various strategies Plaintiff advocated or call witnesses
suggested by Plaintiff, and to object at various times during
trial. These allegations essentially amount to an ineffective
assistance of counsel claim, which is not a basis to overturn a
verdict in a civil suit. See Ponce-Leiva v. Ashcroft,
331 F.3d 369, 381-82 (3d Cir. 2003) ("there is no right of effective
assistance of counsel in a civil case") (quoting Friedman v.
Arizona, 912 F.2d 328, 333 (9th Cir. 1990)). Plaintiff's
recourse with respect to such claims is through a separate suit
in state court. D. Denial of Access to the Court
Finally, Plaintiff argues that many of the above violations
constituted a denial of his access to the courts because they
prevented him from fully developing his claims. In addition,
Plaintiff also claims that prison guards intentionally destroyed
his legal materials and continue to interfere with his ability to
perfect his appeal. The court has previously disposed of
Plaintiff's arguments as they related to claims of discovery
violations. The court also previously considered Plaintiff's
arguments regarding destruction of his legal materials and found
them to be without merit. Moreover, as a general matter, the
record, which includes over three hundred docket entries,
provides ample evidence of Plaintiff's access to the court.
Therefore, Plaintiff's allegations of denial of access to the
court fail to provide a basis for the court to grant a new trial
or amend the judgment.
In sum, Plaintiff fails to identify any errors at trial, see
Sandrow, 832 F. Supp. at 918, or errors or law, see Klein,
992 F.2d at 1289-90, or adduce any newly discovered evidence or
changes in the controlling law, see Max's Seafoood Café,
176 F.3d at 677, that would warrant a new trial or reconsideration of
the judgment. Plaintiff's allegations amount to nothing more than
an attempt to reargue matters already argued and disposed of.
See Ogden, 226 F. Supp. 2d at 606. Therefore, the court will
deny Plaintiff's motion. IV. Conclusion
For the foregoing reasons, the court will deny Plaintiff's
Motion for a Mistrial/New Trial or Eventual Reconsideration of
Judgments of Decisions of the Court and Jury on 7/18/05 and
8/2/05. An appropriate order will issue. ORDER
In accordance with the court's accompanying Memorandum of Law,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
1) Plaintiff's Motion for Mistrial/New Trial and Permission to
Amend (Doc. 272) is deemed WITHDRAWN; and
2) Plaintiff's Motion for Mistrial/New Trial or Eventual
Reconsideration of Judgments of Decisions of the Court and Jury
on 7/18/05 and 8/2/05 (Doc. 284) is DENIED.
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