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Stoltzfus v. Clover

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

June 6, 2018

John Stoltzfus and John Riehl, Plaintiffs,
v.
Shawn Clover #61-11, Geoffrey Canfield #61-10, Rodney Smith #R-3, and Christopher E. Fisher #R-4, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, United States District Court Chief Judge

         In July 2017, pro se Plaintiffs John Stoltzfus and John Riehl initiated this lawsuit which relates to two traffic stops with which they were involved, and which led to their respective arrests. They asserted violations of seven Amendments to the United States Constitution and more than twelve federal statutes against twenty-seven named individuals and entities and twenty-five individuals identified as “Does.” On January 30, 2018, the Court granted two Motions to Dismiss filed by various Defendants and granted in part and denied in part two other Motions to Dismiss. [Filing No. 46.] Relevant to the pending motion is the Court's dismissal with prejudice of claims against Defendants Judge Samuel A. Swaim and Parke County Prosecutor Steven Cvengros on the grounds of judicial immunity and prosecutorial immunity, respectively. [Filing No. 46 at 13-15.] On March 5, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Reconsider on District Court's Decision to Dismiss State Defendants With Prejudice, [1] [Filing No. 48], and that motion is now ripe for the Court's consideration.

         I.

         Standard of Review

         “Motions to reconsider ‘are not replays of the main event.'” Dominguez v. Lynch, 612 Fed. App'x 388, 390 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting Khan v. Holder, 766 F.3d 689, 696 (7th Cir. 2014)). A motion to reconsider is only appropriate where the Court has misunderstood a party, where the Court has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the Court by the parties, where the Court has made an error of apprehension (not of reasoning), where a significant change in the law has occurred, or where significant new facts have been discovered. Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales, Inc., 906 F.2d 1185, 1191 (7th Cir. 1990). Because such problems “rarely arise, ” a motion to reconsider “should be equally rare.” Id. (citation and quotation omitted).

         II.

         Discussion

         A. Judge Swaim[2]

         In its January 30, 2018 Order, the Court found that Judge Swaim was entitled to judicial immunity, stating:

Plaintiffs' allegations regarding Judge Swaim involve actions for which jurisdiction exists under Indiana law, such as issuing orders and holding Mr. Stoltzfus in contempt of Court. Moreover, Judge Swaim's alleged actions fall squarely within his capacity as a judge…. As such, Judge Swaim is entitled to immunity for actions taken in the state case, even if Plaintiffs believe he acted improperly.

[Filing No. 46 at 14.]

         Plaintiffs argue in their Motion to Reconsider that the Court ignored some of their arguments in opposition to the Motion to Dismiss, that Judge Swaim should have recused himself from the state court proceedings against Plaintiffs, and that judicial immunity does not apply when there is no jurisdiction. [Filing No. 48 at 1-3.]

         Motions to reconsider are only appropriate where the Court has misunderstood a party, the Court has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the Court by the parties, the Court has made an error of apprehension (not of reasoning), or there has been a significant change in the law or facts. Bank of Waunakee, 906 F.2d at 1191. None of these circumstances is present here. First, as to Plaintiffs' argument that the Court ignored some of their arguments, the Court finds otherwise. Plaintiffs' only argument in response to Judge Swaim's Motion to Dismiss was that Judge Swaim was not entitled to judicial immunity because he did not have jurisdiction over the state court proceedings. [Filing No. 26 at 8.] The Court addressed that argument head-on, finding that “absolute judicial immunity is lost only in clear absence of all jurisdiction, ” that “[i]n Indiana, circuit courts have ‘original and concurrent jurisdiction in all civil cases and in all criminal cases, '” and that Plaintiffs' allegations relating to Judge Swaim “involve actions for which jurisdiction exists under Indiana law, such as issuing orders and holding Mr. Stoltzfus in contempt of Court.” [Filing No. 46 at 14.] Based on those findings, the Court concluded that Judge Swaim is entitled to immunity. [Filing No. 46 at 14.] The Court did not ignore any of Plaintiffs' arguments, and Plaintiffs' Motion to Reconsider is DENIED on that basis.

         Second, Plaintiffs' argument that Judge Swaim should have recused himself from the state court proceedings is unavailing. Plaintiffs did not make this argument in their response to Judge Swaim's Motion to Dismiss, and may not now raise a new argument in their Motion to Reconsider. Bally Export Corp. v. Balicar, Ltd.,804 F.2d 398, 404 (7th Cir. 1986) (“[A] motion for reconsideration is an improper vehicle to introduce evidence previously available or to tender new legal theories”); Publishers Resource, Inc. v. Walker-Davis Publications, Inc.,762 F.2d 557, 561 (7th Cir. 1985) (motion to reconsider should not “serve as the occasion to tender new legal theories for the first time”). In any event, ...


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