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Martin v. City of Fort Wayne

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

April 18, 2017



          William C. Lee, Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court on the Plaintiff's Rule 54(b) Motion to Reconsider and Amend Judgment (DE 59). The Defendants, the City of Fort Wayne and six of its police officers, filed a response in opposition to the motion (DE 60) and Martin filed a reply (DE 61). For the reasons discussed below, the motion is GRANTED as to the Plaintiff's claims for excessive force and battery against Defendant Barry Pruser and Martin may proceed on those claims. The motion is DENIED as to the Plaintiff's claim for illegal search and seizure of his vehicle and that claim remains pending.


         The underlying facts of this case were recounted in great detail in this Court's Opinion and Order entered on January 12, 2017 (DE 58) and in the parties' briefs that were the subjects of that Order.[1] In that opinion, which addressed several issues raised by the parties' previous cross motions for summary judgment, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendant officers on Martin's Fourth Amendment claims against them for excessive force, and denied Martin's motion for partial summary judgment and the Defendants' motion for summary judgment on his Fourth Amendment illegal search and seizure claim. Martin is asking the Court to revisit both of those conclusions.[2] More specifically, Martin presents the following arguments: 1) The Court should “reconsider and amend its Order . . . concerning his excessive force and battery claims against Defendant Officer Barry Pruser. . . . [T]he Court erred in concluding that the primary events underlying these particular claims were captured on video and, hence, appropriate for summary disposition. Rather, these events were not captured on video and evidence presented concerning these claims creates genuinely disputed issues of material fact that necessitate trial by jury.” Plaintiff's motion to reconsider, p. 1; 2) The Court should reconsider its conclusion denying Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment on his illegal search and seizure claim because “while the Court properly determined that United States v. Duguay, 93 F.3d 346 (7th Cir. 1996) is the law, the Court wrongly determined that there were genuine issues of material fact that foreclosed the full application of Duguay.” Id., p. 5.

         The Defendants respond by arguing that “the fact that this Court considered and rejected Martin's evidence and arguments does not provide a basis for this Court to use its limited discretionary power to reconsider its prior determination[]” on this issue. Defendants' Response, p. 2. They argue that Martin is relying solely on “his self-serving affidavit [to] show[] that the force used was unreasonable under the circumstances[, ]” and that that is an insufficient reason to seek reconsideration. Id. As to Martin's search and seizure claims, the Defendants argue that “[t]his Court thoroughly addressed the summary judgment evidence in the context of Duguay and held that it is for a jury to determine if the vehicle seizure was reasonable under the circumstances . . . . Martin provides no sound basis for the Court to change its reasoning.” Id.


         Under Rule 54(b), an order adjudicating “fewer than all the claims or rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties . . . may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). As a sister court explained recently:

Courts have the inherent power to reconsider non-final orders, as justice requires, before entry of judgment. See Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 12, 103 S.Ct. 927, 74 L.Ed.2d 765 (1983); Sims v. EGA Prods., Inc., 475 F.3d 865, 870 (7th Cir. 2007). Motions to reconsider interlocutory orders “serve a limited function: to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.” Caisse Nationale de Credit Agricole v. CBI Indus., Inc., 90 F.3d 1264, 1269 (7th Cir. 1996). “A manifest error is not demonstrated by the disappointment of the losing party. It is the wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.” Oto v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000) (internal citations omitted). Because the standards for reconsideration are exacting, the Seventh Circuit has stressed that appropriate issues for reconsideration “rarely arise and the motion to reconsider should be equally rare.” Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales, Inc., 906 F.2d 1185, 1191 (7th Cir. 1990).

Bd. of Trustees of Univ. of Illinois v. Micron Tech., Inc., -F.Supp.3d-, 2017 WL 1164483, at *5 (C.D.Ill. Mar. 28, 2017). Motions to reconsider are disfavored since “‘the court's orders are not mere first drafts, subject to revision and reconsideration at a litigant's pleasure.'” Lock Realty Corp. IX v. U.S. Health LP, 2010 WL 148296, at *1 (N.D.Ind. Jan. 13, 2010) (quoting United States Securities and Exch. Comm'n v. National Presto Indus., Inc., 2004 WL 1093390, at *2 (N.D.Ill. Apr.28, 2004)). “A party seeking reconsideration can't introduce new evidence or legal theories that could have been presented earlier or simply rehash previously rejected arguments.” Id.; see also, Katz-Crank v. Haskett, 2014 WL 3507298, at *2 (S.D.Ind. July 14, 2014) (“A court may grant a motion to reconsider where a movant demonstrates a manifest error of law or fact; however, a motion to reconsider is not an occasion to make new arguments.). The Defendants oppose Martin's motion because they claim he is merely trying to get a second bite at the apple, and that's partly correct. But Martin also argues, correctly the Court concludes, that a credibility issue exists regarding his claims against Pruser and the Court should vacate its previous order and permit him to go forward with those claims.


         I. Excessive force and battery claims against Officer Pruser.

         In his Second Amended Complaint (DE 22) Martin asserted Fourth Amendment excessive force claims and state law battery claims against the Defendant officers, alleging that they used unreasonable physical force when they arrested him on June 27, 2014. The Court dismissed all of those claims in its previous order. Martin challenges this ruling only as to Officer Barry Pruser, the officer who handcuffed him and who, according to Martin, used excessive force when doing so. In his Second Amended Complaint, Martin describes the incident this way:

As Plaintiff was on his knees and handcuffed, Officer Pruser then stuck his foot onto Plaintiff's right calf muscle and pressed it down into the gravel/rocks for no reason. Plaintiff protested as to Officer Pruser's use of excessive force and asked why he was pressing his foot onto his leg. Officer Pruser became more angry, and grabbed Plaintiff by the neck in a bear hug grip and began choking the Plaintiff, even though he was handcuffed and on his knees. Plaintiff protested again and asked why Pruser was choking him when he did nothing wrong. Officer Pruser told Plaintiff to shut up again.

         Second Amended Complaint, p. 3. Martin contends that these actions by Pruser were sufficiently severe to constitute a violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force. The Court concluded differently the first time around, determining that none of the officers' actions were objectively unreasonable under the circumstances. Opinion and Order, pp. 11-12. The Court, after recounting the circumstances of Martin's arrest in great detail, concluded that “[g]iven the totality of the circumstances that existed during Martin's encounter with the Defendant officers, virtually off of which is captured on the video and audio recordings in evidence in this case, and even drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor, no reasonable juror could find that the use of force to effectuate Martin's arrest was unconstitutionally excessive.” Id., p. 19. This is where Martin claims the Court got it wrong-and he has a point, especially in the context of summary judgment. While it is true that almost all of the encounter between Martin and the Defendant officers was captured on videotape ...

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