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Boyd v. Graves

March 27, 2009

EDDIE BOYD
v.
OFFICER ROBERT GRAVES



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. Rueter Chief United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

Presently before the court is defendant's Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment or, in the Alternative to Strike the Judgment, with a memorandum of law in support of its motion (Doc. No. 51) (the "Motion"). Plaintiff filed a response to defendant's Motion (Doc. No. 55). The matter is now before the court for decision. For the reasons stated herein, defendant's Motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Eddie Boyd ("plaintiff") filed the instant action against Officer Robert Graves ("defendant"), alleging that defendant, in his capacity as a police officer in the City of Chester, Pennsylvania, falsely arrested plaintiff and maliciously initiated criminal proceedings against him, in violation of plaintiff's rights under the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The case was tried before a jury for five days, from November 19, 2008 through November 25, 2008.

The jury returned a verdict in plaintiff's favor, but did not award plaintiff damages. See Jury Interrogatory Form (Doc. No. 48). Because the parties chose not to submit the issue of nominal damages to the jury, the court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff and against defendant, and awarded plaintiff nominal damages in the total amount of $1.00 (Doc. No. 49).

In his present Motion, defendant argues that the court properly instructed the jury on the elements of plaintiff's claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, but the jury determined that plaintiff failed to establish one of the necessary elements of the claim, i.e., harm, and judgment was improperly entered in favor of plaintiff. (Mot. at 3-5.) Defendant further argues that the award of nominal damages was improper. Id. at 5-8. Defendant asks the court, alternatively, to enter an order altering the judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) or to strike the judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Motion to Amend Judgment

Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) permits the filing of a motion to alter or amend a judgment. A motion under Rule 59(e) is a "device to relitigate the original issue" decided by the court, and used to allege legal error. United States v. Fiorelli, 337 F.3d 282, 288 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing Smith v. Evans, 853 F.2d 155, 158-59 (3d Cir.1988)). 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 previously; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice. Max's Seafood Cafe ex rel. 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)).

Because of the interest of the courts in the finality of judgments, motions for reconsideration should be granted sparingly. United States v. Bullock, 2005 WL 352854, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 24, 2005). "Mere dissatisfaction with the Court's ruling is not a proper basis for reconsideration." Id. (citing Glendon Energy Co. v. Borough of Glendon, 836 F. Supp. 1109, 1122 (E.D. Pa. 1993)). "A litigant that fails in its first attempt to persuade a court to adopt its position may not use a motion for reconsideration either to attempt a new approach or correct mistakes it made in its previous one." Kennedy Indus., Inc. v. Aparo, 2006 WL 1892685, at *1 (E.D. Pa. July 6, 2006). It "is improper . . . to ask the court to rethink what it had already thought through -- rightly or wrongly." Glendon Energy Co. v. Borough of Glendon, 836 F. Supp. 1109, 1122 (E.D. Pa. 1993) (internal quotations and citation omitted).

B. Motion to Strike Judgment

Defendant also has moved to strike the judgment as an alternative to its motion to alter judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) sets forth the grounds on which the court may strike a judgment. The rule provides in pertinent part:

On motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or ...


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