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Putnam v. Boll

United States District Court, D. Idaho

November 14, 2017

PETE BOLL, in his official and individual capacities, and the CITY OF POCATELLO Defendant.


          B. Lynn Winmill, United States District Court Chief Judge

         The Court enters this Amended Memorandum Decision and Order to correct an error on page 4 of the decision. The earlier decision inadvertently placed the word “not” in the line regarding whether counsel provided the Court with the audio. That word has been removed in this decision. Otherwise, the decision has not been altered.


         The Court has before it Defendants' Motion for Allowance of Attorney Fees (Dkt. 44), Plaintiff's Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment (Reconsideration) (Dkt. 45), and Defendants' Motion to Correct Oversight or Omission Re: Bill of Costs (Dkt. 49).

         1. Motion for Reconsideration Legal Standard

         A motion to reconsider an interlocutory ruling requires an analysis of two important principles: (1) Error must be corrected; and (2) Judicial efficiency demands forward progress. The former principle has led courts to hold that a denial of a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment may be reconsidered at any time before final judgment. Preaseau v. Prudential Insurance Co., 591 F.2d 74, 79-80 (9th Cir. 1979). While even an interlocutory decision becomes the “law of the case, ” it is not necessarily carved in stone. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes concluded that the “law of the case” doctrine “merely expresses the practice of courts generally to refuse to reopen what has been decided, not a limit to their power.” Messinger v. Anderson, 225 U.S. 436, 444 (1912). “The only sensible thing for a trial court to do is to set itself right as soon as possible when convinced that the law of the case is erroneous. There is no need to await reversal.” In re Airport Car Rental Antitrust Litigation, 521 F.Supp. 568, 572 (N.D.Cal. 1981)(Schwartzer, J.).

         The need to be right, however, must co-exist with the need for forward progress. A court's opinions “are not intended as mere first drafts, subject to revision and reconsideration at a litigant's pleasure.” Quaker Alloy Casting Co. v. Gulfco Indus., Inc., 123 F.R.D. 282, 288 (N.D.Ill.1988).

         Reconsideration of a court's prior ruling under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) is appropriate “if (1) the district court is presented with newly discovered evidence, (2) the district court committed clear error or made an initial decision that was manifestly unjust, or (3) there is an intervening change in controlling law.” S.E.C. v. Platforms Wireless Int'l Corp., 617 F.3d 1072, 1100 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). If the motion to reconsider does not fall within one of these three categories, it must be denied.

         A. Claims Against Officer Boll

         Putnam argues that the Court committed clear error. Putnam suggests the Court made four errors: (1) construed facts in favor of Defendants; (2) disregarded material evidence because of a misunderstanding of the record; (3) applied an incorrect standard of law; and (4) misapplied the Supreme Court's decision in Hartman v. Moore, 547 U.S. 250, 262-63 (2006). The Court summarily rejects arguments 1, 3 and 4. The Court did not construe the facts in favor of Defendants, and the Court did not apply an incorrect standard of law or misapply Hartman. The Court understands that Putnam disagrees with the Court's application of the facts to this somewhat complicated area of the law, but the Court explained its reasoning in detail, and the Court will not reconsider it here.

         Regarding the misunderstanding of the record and disregard of material evidence, the Court is somewhat frustrated with how the evidence was presented to the Court. In his affidavit in opposition to the motion for summary judgment, counsel for Putnam stated that “[a]ttached as Exhibit “g” is a true and correct copy of the audio recording of the arrest which was acquired through discovery, in both the criminal and present case.” Rammell Aff., ¶ 9, Dkt. 34-6. In Plaintiff's Statement of Disputed Facts in opposition to the motion for summary judgment, counsel stated that “[t]he audio recording attached as Exhibit “g” to the Affidavti of Bron Rammell supports Putnam's facts and contradicts Defendants' claims.” Plf. Statement of Disputed Facts, p.3, Dkt. 34-1. The Court could not find a reference to the recording in Putnam's brief in opposition to summary judgment, but during oral argument counsel again suggested that the audio recording supported his arguments and contradicted the defendants' arguments. He stated to the Court that “if you listen to the audio recording that shows what happened what really happened was Boll decided that because Putnam wasn't willing to talk to her that night because she called her attorney that that's why he arrested and charged her with stalking.” Dkt. 52, p.2. A few moments later during oral argument, I explained to counsel that I had not yet listened to the recording, and asked counsel how long the recording lasted and what was discussed on it. Mr. Rammell responded that “[f]or the most part, I want to say it was pretty long. I want to say close to an hour is what you've got. You know, certainly between 30 minutes to an hour on the audio.” Dkt. 52, p.5. I then asked what was said, and counsel gave his version of the events. After a bit more back and forth, counsel stated that he had given me the audiotape because he knew I was busy. Dkt. 52, p.8. There is no further reference to the audio as far as the Court can tell.

         Given all of this background information, why would the Court have thought the audio “does not capture significant periods of time where Putnam and Boll had conversations that were not captured by Officer Johnson's recording, ” as counsel now suggests? Plf. Reconsideration Br., p.3, Dkt. 45-1. If the argument now is that the recording does not capture the portions of the recording that support Putnam's allegations, why did Plaintiff's Statement of Disputed Facts state that “[t]he audio recording attached as Exhibit “g” to the Affidavit of Bron Rammell supports Putnam's facts and contradicts Defendants' claims.” Plf. Statement of Disputed Facts, p.3, Dkt. 34-1. The audio recording does not support Putnam's allegations. Counsel's argument that it does misstates the evidence as the Court concluded.

         Now, Putnam wants the Court to consider the audio recording as only a portion of the conversation, and fill in the missing portions with statements from Putnam's affidavit, arguing that the affidavit supports her version of events. The Court has reviewed the audio again, and there are times when nobody can be heard. But the first 10 minutes or so of the audio is a complete recording of the conversation with no breaks. During that time, Officer Boll makes clear to Putnam that he wants to get her side of the story, and that if she doesn't want to give him her side of the story he must act on the information he already has and arrest her for stalking. Putnam refuses to give her side of the story, and Officer Boll tells her she is under arrest. He then discusses options for someone to care for her children in her absence because she will be taken into custody. Putnam disputes the arrest, and threatens a lawsuit, but Officer Boll makes clear several times that she is under arrest, and again tries to discuss options for caring for her children once she is in custody. Audio Recording, Dkt. 34-13.

         Putnam then tells Officer Boll she would like to call her attorney, and invites Officer Boll into her house. Officer Boll asks if the attorney is going to care for her children, and Putnam says she has a right to call her attorney. Officer Boll agrees, but tells Putnam she cannot usurp the process. He once again tries to get Putnam to figure out who will care for her children because she is under arrest. Putnam tries to backtrack a little by restating Officer Boll's earlier statement that she could talk to him or he would have to arrest her for stalking. Officer Boll repeats that she is, in fact, under arrest, and he reads her the Miranda rights. He makes very clear to her that if she is invoking her right to an attorney that is fine, and that is the end of any ...

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