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Carson v. New Jersey Department of Corrections
United States District Court, D. New Jersey
September 24, 2019
DAVID CARSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.
SUSAN D. WIGENTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
1. On March 13, 2019, Defendant Sherry Yates filed a motion
for summary judgment in this matter. (ECF No. 66). Petitioner
did not timely file a response and this Court received no
letters or requests for extensions from Petitioner between
March 13 and May 16, 2019. (ECF Docket Sheet).
2. On May 16, 2019, this Court entered an order and opinion
granting Defendant’s motion for summary judgment and
entering judgment in favor of Defendant Yates, at that time
the sole remaining Defendant. (ECF Nos. 68-69).
3. On May 28, 2019, Plaintiff David Carson filed with this
Court a motion, brought pursuant to Rule 60 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking to have the final order
granting summary judgment vacated as the Court did not
consider any response from Plaintiff in deciding the motion.
(ECF No. 70). Plaintiff attached to that motion a copy of his
response to the motion for summary judgment, which he had not
previously attempted to file. In his motion, Petitioner
argues that he submitted two requests for an extension of
time to respond to the summary judgment motion which were
never received by this Court, mailed on April 6 and May 3,
2019; that those requests should have been granted had they
been received; and that this Court should therefore vacate
its order granting summary judgment and rehear the motion for
summary judgment and consider his reply, filed nearly two
months after it was originally due. See L. Civ. R.
7.1(d)(2) (response to motion due 14 days before motion day,
in this case by April 1, 2019). Because Petitioner’s
motion seeks relief based on his own failure to ensure he
received an extension before delaying in filing a response,
this Court construes the motion to arise under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 60(b)(1) and (b)(6).
4. Rule 60(b) allows a party to seek relief from a final
judgment, and request reopening of his case, under a limited
set of circumstances including fraud, mistake, and newly
discovered evidence.” Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545
U.S. 524, 529 (2005). “The remedy provided by Rule
60(b) is extraordinary, and special circumstances must
justify granting relief under it.” Jones v.
Citigroup, Inc., Civil Action No. 14-6547, 2015 WL
3385938, at *3 (D.N.J. May 26, 2015) (quoting Moolenaar
v. Gov’t of the Virgin Islands, 822 F.3d 1342,
1346 (3d Cir. 1987). A Rule 60(b) motion “may not be
used as a substitute for appeal, and . . . legal error,
without more cannot justify granting a Rule 60(b)
motion.” Holland v. Holt, 409 Fed.Appx. 494,
497 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Smith v. Evans, 853 F.2d
155, 158 (3d Cir. 1988)). Pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1), a party
may be relieved of a final judgment under circumstances
including “mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or
excusable neglect.” In determining whether a movant
warrants relief under the rule, the Court must consider the
prejudice to the non-moving party, whether the improper
filing resulting from the mistake in question presents a
meritorious claim or defense, the culpability of the moving
party, and the effectiveness of alternative sanctions.
Mathias v. Superintendent Frackville SCI, 876 F.3d
462, 473 (3d Cir. 2017) (citing Emcasco Ins. Co. v.
Sambrick, 834 F.2d 71, 73 (2d Cir. 1987)). Rule 60(b)(6)
instead provides that a party may seek relief from a final
judgment for “any . . . reason that justifies
relief.” “The standard for granting a Rule
60(b)(6) motion is a high one. The movant must show
‘extraordinary circumstances’ to justify
reopening a final judgment.” Michael v.
Wetzel, 570 Fed.Appx. 176, 180 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting
Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 536). “[A] showing of
extraordinary circumstances involves a showing that without
relief from the judgment, ‘an “extreme” and
“unexpected” hardship will result.’”
Budget Blinds, Inc. v. White, 536 F.3d 244, 255 (3d
Cir. 2008) (quoting Mayberry v. Maroney, 558 F.2d
1159, 1163 (3d Cir. 1977)).
5. Plaintiff essentially argues that he tried to mail two
requests for an extension in mid-April and early May, and
that had those requests been received they would have
extended his time to file his response in this matter
sufficiently to make his current opposition papers timely,
and that it is thus unjust that his papers not be considered
because they could have been timely had Plaintiff been
successful in requesting extensions. Initially, the Court
must note that while Plaintiff was entitled to one extension
of the filing period without leave of the Court had the Court
received his April 6 request for an extension, see
L. Civ. R. 7.1(d)(5) (party making timely extension request
can have motion automatically extended to the next motion day
without leave of court), such an extension would have reset
the motion in question for May 6, 2019, resulting in
Plaintiff’s opposition papers being due April 22, 2019,
more than a month before he filed his papers. See L.
Civ. R. 7.1(d)(2). Any extension beyond April 22, 2019 would
have required leave of the Court.
6. Although this Court, in light of Plaintiff’s pro
se status, would not have held Plaintiff to so strict a
time frame had it timely received an extension request, it
does not follow that the Court would have granted both of
Plaintiff’s extension requests in full, and it
certainly doesn’t follow that this Court would have
permitted Plaintiff to file his opposition papers nearly
sixty days after they were originally due. Because this Court
would not have provided Plaintiff with extensions through May
24, 2019, the date on which he purportedly mailed his Rule
60(b) motion, his response would not have been timely even
had this Court received his moving papers on that date, and
Plaintiff’s excusable neglect in failing to confirm
that he had received the requested extensions provides no
basis for relief from this Court’s judgment in any
7. Even had this Court considered Plaintiff’s untimely
opposition, it would not have changed the outcome of
Defendant’s motion, and Plaintiff’s Rule 60(b)
motion must be denied for that reason as well. As this Court
explained in its opinion granting summary judgment, to
succeed on his claims, Plaintiff was required to show that
Defendant Yates acted with “a reckless disregard of a
known risk of harm”, see Stokes v. Lanigan,
No. 12-1478, 2012 WL 4662487, at *3 (D.N.J. Oct. 2, 2012),
which requires more than a showing of mere negligence.
Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999).
As Plaintiff averred at his own deposition, Yates acted with,
at worst, negligence, and the record, including documents
Plaintiff himself provided shows that Yates sought to have
the machines repaired and replaced and kept up to date on the
status of these repairs. (See Document 5 attached to
ECF No. 70 at 12-195). These same documents also show that
Yates and her staff repeatedly purchased repair and
replacement equipment, and sought to repair downed laundry
machines when they received the necessary parts.
(Id.). Although Plaintiff submits certifications in
his moving papers in which he seeks to backtrack,
own testimony at his deposition, when combined with the
supporting documentation he has submitted clearly indicates
that Yates, at worst, acted with negligence, which is
patently insufficient to support liability.
8. Ultimately, this Court would not have provided Plaintiff
with so lengthy an extension to make his current extremely
late filing timely, and Plaintiff failed to ensure he
received an extension before putting off filing his papers
with the Court. For that reason, Plaintiff’s neglect
fails to provide a basis for relief from the order granting
summary judgment. The Court correctly treated the moving
papers as unopposed, and Plaintiff’s current motion
provides no basis for relief. Even so, the Court has fully
reviewed the papers Plaintiff has submitted, and having given
those papers a full consideration, concludes that those
papers would not have impacted the ultimate result of this
case – those papers, combined with Plaintiff’s
own testimony which was noted in this Court’s summary
judgment opinion, clearly contradict Plaintiff’s claims
for relief and indicate that Defendant Yates acted with, at
worst, negligence. Plaintiff’s claims would thus fail
even had he timely filed his opposition papers.
Plaintiff’s motion to vacate this Court’s order
granting summary judgment fails for that reason as well.
9. In conclusion, Plaintiff’s Rule 60 motion seeking
relief from the order granting summary judgment in this
matter is DENIED. An appropriate order follows.
 Plaintiff also attempts to reassert
his claims that certain funds from an inmate welfare fund
were improperly used in repairing laundry machines. Plaintiff
has presented no new information or documents which would
support this allegation, and his own testimony was that it
would be “impossible” for Defendant to have done
so. In light of his statement that it was impossible for this
to occur, ...
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