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Bonner v. Justia Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 31, 2019

ANDREW K. BONNER, JR., Plaintiff,
JUSTIA INCORPORATED, et al, Defendants.


          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter comes before the Court on several motions filed by Plaintiff Andrew K. Bonner Jr. ("Plaintiff), including: (i) a motion for "Relief from a Judgment or Order" under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60 (ECF No. 46); (ii) a motion for a "Jury Action to find the defendant Civilly Contempt" (ECF No. 49); and (iii) two motions to seal all documents and orders related to those two motions (ECF Nos. 47, 50). For the reasons stated below, all of Plaintiffs motions are denied and this case remains closed.


         The underlying facts in this matter are set forth at length in the Court's August 19, 2019 Memorandum and Order (the "Order") (ECF No. 45), from which Plaintiff seeks relief. In the interest of judicial economy, the Court will only provide a brief summary of the factual and procedural background of this dispute. The Court refers the parties to the Order for a full recitation of same.

         For context, Plaintiff was a litigant in an underlying New Jersey State court case. Bonner v. Cumberland Reg'l High Sch. Disl, No. A-4133-15T1, 2017 WL 2774081 ( N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. June 27, 2017), cert, denied, 139 S.Ct. 97, 202 L.Ed.2d 62 (2018), reh'g denied, 139 S.Ct. 657, 202 L.Ed.2d 507 (2018). In this action, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Justia Inc.'s ("Justia") publication of a publicly-available legal opinion in connection with that state court action on Justia's website constituted a "theft and embezzlement of [Plaintiffs] property." (See Amended Complaint at 3, ECF No. 23; see also Complaint, ECF No. 1).

         Defendant Justia is a provider of free online legal information. In prior briefings in this matter, Justia indicated that it obtained the legal opinion at issue from the online repository of New Jersey case law maintained by Rutgers University.

         In the Court's prior Order dismissing the Amended Complaint with prejudice, the Court held, as it still believes upon reexamination of this case, that Plaintiff sets forth no cognizable legal harm in connection with Justia's publication of the legal opinion, a public record, on its website. (Order at 7).

         In same, the Court also denied Plaintiff's motion to seal the state court legal opinion at issue. (Id. at 4-5). The Court also pei milled Professor Eugene Volokh ("Intervenor") to intervene to oppose Plaintiff's motion to seal because, inter alia, he is writing a law review article related to the subject matter of this litigation. (Id. at 3). Professor Volokh has opposed at least one of Plaintiff's motions to seal currently pending before the Court.


         Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) permits "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, as well as inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect." Rich v. State, 294 F.Supp.3d 266, 273 (D.N.J. 2018) (citations and quotation marks omitted). "The general purpose of Rule 60 ... is to strike a proper balance between the conflicting principles that litigation must be brought to an end and that justice must be done." Harris v. Greater Erie Cnty. Action Comm., 671 Fed.Appx. 853, 855 (3d Cir. 2016) (quoting Boughner v. Secretary of Health, Education & Welfare, 572 F.2d 976, 977 (3d Cir. 1978)). Nevertheless, "Rule 60(b) is a provision for extraordinary relief and may be raised only upon a showing of exceptional circumstances." Mendez v. Sullivan, 488 Fed.Appx. 566, 569 (3d Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). Because reconsideration of a judgment after its entry is an extraordinary remedy, requests pursuant to these rules are to be granted "sparingly," Maldonado v. Lucca, 636 F.Supp. 621, 630 (D.N.J. 1986); and only when "dispositive factual matters or controlling decisions of law" were brought to the Court's attention but not considered. Pelham v. United States, 661 F.Supp. 1063, 1065 (D.N.J. 1987); see G-69 v. Degnan, 748 F.Supp. 274, 275 (D.N.J. 1990). Rule 60(b) does not provide a vehicle for advancing new arguments that could have been made prior to the entry of a judgment. Red Roof Franchising LLC, Inc. v. AA Hospitality Northshore LLC, 937 F.Supp.2d 537, 543 (D.N.J. 2013). And, "[m]ere 'disagreement with the Court's [prior] decision' does not suffice." ABS Brokerage Servs., LLC v. Penson Fin. Servs., Inc., No. CIV. 09-4590 DRD, 2010 WL 3257992, at *6 (D.N.J. Aug. 16, 2010) (citation omitted).

         Moreover, it is well established that "[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) (citation omitted). In particular, "[a] motion under Rule 60(b) may not be granted where the moving party could have raised the same legal argument by means of direct appeal." Rich, 294 F.Supp.3d at 273.[1]


         i. Motion for Relief from a Judgment or Order

         Plaintiff argues that the Court should grant his Fed.R.Civ.P. 60 motion because the Court "dismissed [his] case with prejudice in an attempt to bar plaintiff from being able to pursue his grievance against [Justia]." (Motion under Rule 60 F.R.C.P. - Relief from a Judgment or Order at 2 of 6, ECF No. 46). In support of his motion, Plaintiff attaches an affidavit arguing that the Court should reconsider its prior Order because the Court allegedly acted with "judicial bias" by virtue of Judge ...

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