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Hanson v. Blaine County

United States District Court, D. Idaho

September 19, 2019



          B. Lynn Winmill U.S. District Court Judge


         Before the Court is Defendants William Shubert and Jesus Gonzalez's Motion for Reconsideration (Dkt. 146). The Defendants ask the Court to reconsider its prior decision denying Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 82) on the basis of qualified immunity. The motion is fully briefed and at issue. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny Defendants' motion.


         A motion to reconsider an interlocutory ruling, such as the denial of a motion for summary judgment, requires an analysis of two important principles: (1) An error must be corrected; and (2) Judicial efficiency demands forward progress. The former principal 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, 32 S.Ct. 739, 56 L.Ed. 1152 (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). Courts have distilled various grounds for reconsideration of prior rulings into four major grounds for justifying reconsideration: (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. See Louen v. Twedt, 2007 WL 915226 (E.D.Cal. March 26, 2007). See also Turner v. Burlington North. Santa Fe R.R. Co., 338 F.3d 1058, 1063 (9th Cir. 2003) (applying the same standard in the context of a Rule 59(e) motion). If the motion to reconsider does not fall within one of these categories, it must be denied.


         Defendants ask the Court to reconsider its earlier denial of their motion for summary judgment in order to prevent manifest injustice. Dkt. 146-1 at 3. Mr. Shubert and Mr. Gonzalez then argue this Court should consider intervening Supreme Court precedent when determining whether Defendants William Shubert and Jesus Gonzalez are protected by qualified immunity, and therefore entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims.

         1. No Intervening Change in the Law

         First, The Defendants point the Court to the Supreme Court's recent decision in City of Escondido, Cal. v. Emmons, 139 S.Ct. 500 (2019) as justification for their motion to reconsider. While, Defendants do not directly argue that Escondido is a change of controlling law, they do intimate that Escondido sufficiently altered the landscape to warrant reconsideration. Defendants argue this Court applied an overly-generalized standard in its denial of their summary judgment motion, and should re-consider its ruling “to ensure conformity with the standards set for judgments on qualified immunity.” Dkt. 146-1 at 3. Defendants stress that Escondido reiterated that for purposes of qualified immunity, “the clearly established right must be defined with specificity” and “repeat[ed] its holding from Kisela [v. Hughes, U.S., 138 S.Ct. 1148 (2018)].” Dkt. 146-1 at 5. As Defendants themselves point out, Escondido did not change the standard a district court should apply when considering a question of qualified immunity. Therefore, the Court will determine if reconsideration is warranted “to prevent manifest injustice.”

         2. Qualified Immunity

         Defendants Shubert and Gonzalez ask the Court to reconsider its July 9, 2018 decision denying their motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 82). The Court denied Defendants' motion because there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether Defendants violated a constitutional right that was clearly established at the time of the challenged conduct. In its decision the Court fully addressed whether these defendants were protected by the doctrine of qualified immunity. Id. at 17-19.

         First, the Court found a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether Defendants Shubert and Gonzalez were “deliberately indifferent” to Plaintiff's “serious medical needs” while he was in their custody, thus constituting a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and making them subject to a claim under 42 USC § 1983. Dkt. 82 at 9-13. Specifically, the Court found that:

[g]iven Mr. Hanson's version of the events described above, a reasonable juror could find that Defendants Shubert and Gonzalez was deliberately indifferent in delaying or failing to provide Mr. Hanson with access to medical care. Determining whether they are entitled to qualified ...

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