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Jeffery Morton v. William H. Fauver

July 21, 2011

JEFFERY MORTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILLIAM H. FAUVER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kugler, United States District Judge:

NOT FOR PUBLICATION (Doc. No. 1189)

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on the motion by Plaintiff Jeffery Morton ("Morton") for reconsideration of this Court's February 14, 2011 Order. (Doc. No. 1188). That Order denied Morton's motion to reinstate his claim following final judgment and to vacate the Court's Order dated May 17, 1999. (Doc. No. 1120). For the following reasons, Morton's motion is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

Morton's claim arises out of the Bayside Prison Litigation. Morton filed a pro se complaint, Morton v. Faunce, et al., Civil No. 97-5609, alleging that he received injuries during the lockdown of Bayside Prison after the murder of a guard in July 1997. The Court consolidated Morton's action with those of other inmates under the caption In re Bayside Prison Litigation, Civil No. 97-5127, in December 1998 "for case management purposes only." (Doc. No. 1189-3). On May 17, 1999, the Court dismissed Morton's complaint, Civil No. 97-5609, with prejudice for failure to submit a pretrial memorandum within the applicable deadline ("the 1999 Order"). Morton neither moved for reconsideration under Local Rule 7.1(i), nor moved to reinstate his claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4).

Morton's claim subsequently appeared on the Fourth Amended Complaint for In re Bayside, Civil No. 97-5127, in September 1999, a proposed class action. In April 2000, the Court denied class certification in In re Bayside. In April 2001, the Court consolidated all cases related to In re Bayside, including Morton's case, Civil No. 97-5609, under the caption Laverna White, et al. v. William H. Fauver, et al., Civil No. 97-5127. Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint in Civil No. 97-5127. In their brief supporting the motion to dismiss, Defendants noted that Morton's lawsuit under Civil No. 97-5609 was dismissed by the Court with prejudice, and asked the Court to strike Morton's claim from the complaint. In March 2002, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motion to dismiss, but made no mention of Morton's claim ("the 2002 Order").

In March 2010, Morton filed a "Motion to Reinstate Claim" and to vacate the 1999 Order of Dismissal. (Doc. No. 1120). The Court construed Morton's motion to vacate the 1999 Order as a motion for reconsideration of Morton's claim (Civil No. 97-5609), and as a motion to reinstate that claim. On February 14, 2011, the Court denied both Morton's motion to reinstate and motion to vacate the 1999 Order. (Doc. No. 1188). Morton now moves for reconsideration of the Court's February 14, 2011 Order.

II. STANDARD

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly recognize motions for reconsideration. United States v. Compaction Sys. Corp., 88 F. Supp.2d 339, 345 (D.N.J. 1999). Generally, a motion for reconsideration is treated as a motion to alter or amend judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e), or as a motion for relief from judgment or order under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). Id. In the District of New Jersey, Local Civil Rule 7.1(i) governs motions for reconsideration. Bowers v. NCAA, 130 F. Supp. 2d 610, 612 (D.N.J. 2001). Rule 7.1(i) states that a party shall set "forth concisely the matter or controlling decisions which the party believes the Judge or Magistrate Judge has overlooked." "[R]econsideration is an extraordinary remedy, that is granted very sparingly." Brackett v. Ashcroft, No. 03-3988, 2003 WL 22303078, at *2 (D.N.J. Oct. 7, 2003) (internal quotations omitted). 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), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1171 (1986).

There are three grounds upon which a court may grant a motion for reconsideration: "(1) an intervening change in controlling law has occurred; (2) evidence not previously available has become available; or (3) it is necessary to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice." Carmichael v. Everson, No. 03-4787, 2004 WL 1587894, at *1 (D.N.J. May 21, 2004). Mere disagreement with a decision "should be dealt with in the normal appellate process, not on a motion for reargument under [the] Local Rule." Florham Park Chevron, Inc. v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 680 F. Supp. 159, 162 (D.N.J. 1988).

III. DISCUSSION

Morton argues that the Court overlooked the March 2002 Order granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint in Civil No. 97-5127. The 2002 Order makes no mention of Morton's claim in Civil No. 97-5609, even though Defendants argued that Morton's case had been dismissed in 1999 in their brief in support of the motion to dismiss the complaint in Civil No. 97-5127. Morton asserts that he relied on the March 2002 Order for the proposition that his claim was still active and was not stricken from the In re Bayside litigation in Civil No. 97-5127. In addition, Morton admits that he improperly labeled his "Motion to Reinstate Claim" filed on March 3, 2010:

Very unfortunately, [Morton's] Counsel misleadingly identified that motion as a motion to 'reinstate' when it should have been labeled something else, perhaps a motion for clarification. The purpose of the motion was to give the Court the opportunity to determine whether or not Morton's claim . . . had in fact been dismissed. (Pl.'s Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to Recons. at 3). Nonetheless, Morton contends that the Court improperly construed his motion as a motion to reinstate. Specifically, he asserts that the March 2002 Order established that Morton's claim was still viable, and he argues that the law-ofthe-case doctrine precludes the Court from reexamining the 2002 Order. Morton also admits that he failed to argue that the 2002 Order established that his claim remained viable, and that he failed to bring the 2002 Order to the Court's attention when he moved to reinstate his claim and vacate the 1999 Order. Even so, Morton maintains that the Court committed a clear error by overlooking the March 2002 Order.

In response, Defendants contend that the Court dismissed Morton's claim in the 1999 Order with prejudice. Defendants argue that the Court did not overlook the 2002 Order because that Order does not establish that Morton's claim was active. Defendants also assert that the Court properly denied Morton's ...


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