United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
M. MARINKOVIC, Plaintiff,
DAVID K. BATTAGLIA, Defendants.
R. Hornak United States District Judge.
pending before the Court are the following motions filed by
the Plaintiff: (1) First Motion to Alter Judgment Dismissing
and Denying Parties (ECF No. 97); First Motion to Sever
Action (ECF No. 98); First Motion for Recusal (ECF No. 99);
First Motion in Limine to Admit Tape Recordings (ECF No.
100); First Motion to Modify for Findings (ECF No. 104); and
Motion for Leave to File Discovery Requests Directly into
Court (ECF No. 108). Defendants have responded to several of
the motions. (ECF Nos. 101, 102, 105, 109). Also pending
before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Sanctions
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 (ECF No. 66).
For the reasons that follow, each motion is denied.
Amended Complaint (ECF No. 31), Plaintiff alleged that he
made several inquiries to the Armstrong County
Treasurer's Office from 2011 to 2013 about the process
for buying residential property owned by the County through
means other than public auctions. Plaintiff ultimately
attempted to utilize the County's direct private bid
process to obtain several such properties. He contends that
he was initially told by Tax Claim Bureau staff that there
were no competing bids on any of those properties, but that
each submission was ultimately trumped by a last-minute
bidder. Plaintiff maintains that this occurred because the
County was informing other government officials of his bids
in an attempt to prevent him from acquiring the properties.
When Plaintiff wrote a letter to the County Commissioners to
complain about this alleged misdealing, the County
Commissioners ended the private-sale process entirely.
on this alleged wrongdoing, Plaintiff initiated the instant
action against Armstrong County and three Armstrong County
Commissioners (in both their official and individual
capacities). On July 8, 2016, this Court dismissed Plaintiffs
claims against the County (including those against the County
Commissioners in their official capacities) because Plaintiff
had failed to allege that any of the misconduct occurred
pursuant to an official policy or custom. (ECF No. 47).
March 27, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his
complaint (for the second time) to add the Armstrong County
Tax Collector, Jeanne M. Englert, as a defendant. (ECF No.
73). On April 24, 2017, this Court noted during a telephonic
hearing that the two-year statute of limitations appeared to
have run on Plaintiffs claims against Englert and that he had
failed to demonstrate that he could meet the "relation
back" requirements of Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 15(c). The Court
observed that Plaintiff had clearly been aware of the
existence of the Tax Collector when he filed his original
complaint but that he had failed to name her as a defendant,
indicating that he did not wish to bring suit against that
individual. The Court further noted that Plaintiffs request
to add Englert as a defendant in her official capacity
amounted to an end-run attempt to haul Armstrong County back
into the litigation. On April 26, 2017, the Court issued a
Memorandum Order denying Plaintiffs Second Motion to Amend on
this basis. (ECF No. 94).
Motion to Alter Judgment
Motion to Alter Judgment, Plaintiff asks this Court to
reconsider the dismissal of Armstrong County from this action
and the denial of his request to add the Armstrong County Tax
Collector as an additional defendant. Plaintiff contends that
this Court erred by: (1) failing to provide sufficient legal
reasoning in support of those decisions; (2) failing to
address his claims against Englert in her individual
capacity; (3) ruling in favor of Defendants on a
"surprise" issue that they had not raised in their
briefs; (4) ruling in a manner that conflicted with the
Court's pretrial order; and (5) ignoring the legal
authority cited by Plaintiff in support of his Motion to
characterized as a request pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro.
54(b), Plaintiffs request for reconsideration is properly
governed by Rule 59(e). Rule 59(e) requires a party seeking
reconsideration of a final order to show an intervening
change in controlling law, the availability of new evidence
not previously available, or "the need to correct a
clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest
injustice." Max's Seafood Cafe v.
Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999). A motion
for reconsideration is not properly grounded in a request for
a district court to rethink a decision it has already rightly
or wrongly made. Williams v. Pittsburgh, 32
F.Supp.2d 236, 238 (W.D.Pa. 1998). Litigants are cautioned to
'"evaluate whether what may seem to be a clear error
of law is in fact simply a point of disagreement between the
Court and the litigant.'" Wave v. First
Citizen's Nat'l Bank, 846 F.Supp. 310, 314 n.3
(M.D.Pa. 1994) (quoting Atkins v. Marathon LeTourneau
Co., 130 F.R.D. 625, 626 (S.D.Miss. 1990).
the grounds raised by Plaintiff support his request for
reconsideration. First, Plaintiff appears to suggest that the
Court failed to provide adequate grounds for its reasoning
when it dismissed the County from this action and denied
Plaintiffs request to add Englert as a Defendant. With
respect to the former, the Court articulated that the County
was entitled to dismissal because Plaintiff had not
articulated any official policy or custom underlying the
alleged violation, as required for municipal liability.
(See ECF No. 47 at 7-8). As to Englert, the Court
explained, both at the oral hearing and in the subsequent
Memorandum Order, that Plaintiffs claims were time-barred and
that he had failed to satisfy the "relation back"
requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c). (See ECF No. 94 at 1-2).
To the extent that Plaintiff simply disagrees with these
conclusions, a motion for reconsideration is not a vehicle
for a party to reargue points of disagreement with the Court
as to issues that have already been ruled upon. Wave v.
First Citizen's Nat'l Bank, 846 F.Supp. 310, 314
n.3 (M.D.Pa. 1994); Ogden v. Keystone Residence. 226
F.Supp.2d 588, 606 (M.D. Pa. 2002) (explaining that a motion
for reconsideration may not be used to reargue issues already
argued or relitigate points of disagreement between the
litigant and the court).
next contends that the Court failed to address his request to
add Englert as a defendant in her individual capacity.
Contrary to Plaintiffs contention, this is precisely the
issue that the Court addressed in the Memorandum Order issued
on April 26, 2017. As explained in that Opinion, Plaintiffs
claims against Englert are time-barred. (ECF No. 94 at 1-2).
accuses the Court of improperly raising a
"surprise" issue in order to deny his request to
amend his complaint. According to Plaintiff:
[T]he Court raised a different issue that the defendants did
not raise, and then ruled in their favor on it. The Court
said plaintiff could have named ENGLERT in the original
complaint by title alone, and because plaintiff did not, he
is too late now.
The defendants did not argue that issue. The judge did it
himself, to help them.
(ECF No. 97-1 at 5-6).
is simply incorrect. Defendants raised this exact issue in
their response to his Motion to Amend, stating that
"Rule 17(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
provides that Plaintiff could have named Ms. Englert in his
original Complaint by her title as Director of the Tax Claim
Bureau of Armstrong County." (ECF No. 83 at 9). At the
oral hearing on April 24, 2017, the Court directed Plaintiff
to this precise portion of Defendant's brief:
The Court: So Mr. Marinkovic, what do you do about Civil Rule
17(d) that says a public officer sued in official capacity
may be designated by official title rather than by name. So
you never had an obligation to list anyone's name. You
could have always sued them in their official capacity by
title. What do you do with that one?
Plaintiff: Well, I have to look at that, Your Honor, now that
you have raised it. I would have to do the ...