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Thomason v. Moeller

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 9, 2018

GREGORY W. MOELLER, et al., Defendants.


          B. Lynn Winmill, Chief U.S. District Court Judge


         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Recusal (Dkt. 104) and Plaintiff's “Motions and Objections” (Dkt. 107). Also pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Attorneys' Fees (Dkt. 106). For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny the motions.


         Plaintiff filed her Complaint on April 5, 2016 alleging that Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to deprive her of equal protection and due process after judgment was entered against her in a series of state court lawsuits. In January of 2017, the Court dismissed plaintiff's complaint in its entirety. See Jan. 19, 2017 Mem. Decision & Order, Dkt. 83. The Court allowed plaintiff a chance to amend some of her claims, but stated that if Plaintiff failed to file an amended complaint within 30 days, her complaint would be dismissed with prejudice. Id. at 47.

         Plaintiff did not file an amended complaint. Instead, she filed a motion asking the Court to set aside the January 2017 decision in its entirety. See Motion, Dkt. 84. Within that motion, Plaintiff also asked the undersigned judge to recuse himself “based upon bias and errors in facts, errors in law and fabrication of facts within the [the January 19, 2017 decision], under 28 USC 455(a) and (b)(1).” Id. at 3. The Court construed the motion as one for reconsideration, and denied it on the grounds that the Plaintiff had simply restated arguments addressed in its January 2017 decision. See August 29, 2017 Mem. Decision and Order, Dkt. 100. The Court also denied Plaintiff's motion to disqualify the undersigned judge on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the standards governing recusal in 28 U.S.C. § 455(a) and (b)(1) had been met. Id.

         After the Court entered judgment in the case, Plaintiff filed a second Motion for Recusal of the undersigned judge. (Dkt. 104). Defendants filed a motion for attorneys' fees on September 12, 2017. On September 25, 2017, Plaintiff filed “Motions and Objections, ” seeking to renew all motions filed during the proceedings in this case, objecting to Defendants' motion for fees, and seeking Rule 11 sanctions. (Dkt. 107).


         1. Motion for Reconsideration

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 is not intended to provide litigants with a “second bite at the apple.” Weeks v. Bayer, 246 F.3d 1231, 1236 (9th Cir. 2001). Instead, reconsideration of a final judgment under Rule 59(e) is an “extraordinary remedy, to be used sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of judicial resources.” Carroll v. Nakatani, 342 F.3d 934, 945 (9th Cir. 2003). A losing party cannot use a post-judgment motion to reconsider as a means of litigating old matters or presenting arguments that could have been raised before the entry of judgment. School Dist. No. 1J, Multnomah County, Or. v. ACandS, Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1263 (9th Cir. 1993).

         As a result, there are four limited grounds upon which a motion to alter or amend judgment may be granted: (1) the motion is necessary to correct manifest errors of law or fact; (2) the moving party presents newly discovered or previously unavailable evidence; (3) the motion is necessary to prevent manifest injustice; or (4) there is an intervening change in the law. Turner v. Burlington North. Santa Fe R.R. Co., 338 F.3d 1058, 1063 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) provides that the Court may reconsider a final judgment or order based on: “(1) mistake, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) fraud; (4) a void judgment; (5) a satisfied or discharged judgment; or (6) extraordinary circumstances which would justify relief.” School Dist. No. 1J, Multnomah Cnty, Or., 5 F.3d at 1263. This Rule must be used sparingly as an equitable remedy to prevent manifest injustice and is to be utilized only where extraordinary circumstances prevented a party from taking timely action to prevent or correct an erroneous judgment. See Lal v. California, 610 F.3d 518, 524 (9th Cir. 2010). The moving party bears the burden of providing the existence of fraud, misconduct, or any other ground for relief. Atchison, T & S.F. Ry. Co. v. Barrett, 246 F.2d 846, 849 (9th Cir. 1957).

         2. Motion for Fees

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C § 1988, a “prevailing plaintiff should ordinarily recover an attorney's fee unless special circumstances would render such an award unjust.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 429 (1983). Courts do not ordinarily award attorney's fees to prevailing defendants, since routine awards would have an overly deterrent effect on civil rights plaintiffs and would discourage the vigorous private enforcement of the civil rights laws. Christiansburg Garment Co. v. Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n,434 U.S. 412, 422 (1978). However, “a district court may, in its discretion, award attorney's fees to a prevailing defendant . . . upon a finding that the plaintiff's action was frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation.” Id. at 421. ...

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