Bernstein et al v. Appellate Division First Department Departmental Disciplinary Committee et al, No. 1:2007cv11196 - Document 128 (S.D.N.Y. 2010)
Court Description: MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER, for the reasons stated in this Order, Lamont's Motion to Re-Open is denied. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close the Motion to Re-Open (Document # 117). (Signed by Judge Shira A. Scheindlin on 12/15/10) (pl) Modified on 12/15/2010 (pl).
Bernstein et al v. Appellate Division First Department Departmental Disciplinary Committee et al Doc. 128 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK )( ELIOT I. BERNSTEIN, et aI., MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER Plaintiffs, 07 Civ. 11196 (SAS) - againstAPPELLATE DIVISION FIRST DEPARTMENT DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE, et aI., . ::==========:::::::::-:-! H I· i t 1 : Defendants. )( SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, U.S.D.J.: Pro se plaintiffP. Stephen Lamont has moved to reopen the above captioned case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) ("Rule 60(b ), ) based upon alleged exceptional circumstances. I Lamont is coplaintiff with Eliot Bernstein, who has not moved for such relief. Lamont brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("section 1983"), and the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization Act ("RICO"), 2 alleging that Defendants conspired to deprive him of groundbreaking video technologies of his invention. Lamont alleges that the See Plaintiffs Motion to ReOpen Docket No: 07CIV11196 (SAS) (the "Motion to ReOpen") (Doc. # 117). 2 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq. Dockets.Justia.com conspiracy includes, inter alia, members of the judiciary, state government employees, various attorneys, and law firms. On August 8, 2008, this Court dismissed this case on several grounds including: plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue their claims against the State Defendants;3 claims against members of the judiciary were barred by absolute and quasi judicial immunity, sovereign immunity and qualified immunity; several claims, including the RICO claims, were timebarred; the Complaint violated Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a); and certain claims were barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. 4 Plaintiffs then filed a motion for reconsideration, which this Court denied. 5 Plaintiffs then filed an appeal, which on February 5, 2010 the Second Circuit dismissed. 6 Lamont now seeks to reopen his case pursuant to Rule 60(b)( ) 6 based on exceptional circumstances. For the following reasons, his motion is The State Defendants include the attorney disciplinary committees of the First and Second Judicial Departments, various current and former officials of the Appellate Divisions and their disciplinary committees, the Lawyers Fund for Client Protection, and many other officers and agencies of New York State. 3 4 See Bernstein v. New York, 591 F. Supp. 2d 448 (S.D.N.Y. 2008). 5 See Order dated August 19,2008 in 07 Civ. 11196 (Doc. # 108). See Mandate dated January 27,2010 (Doc. # 115) (dismissing appeal because it lacked any basis in law or fact and was therefore frivolous). 6 2 denied. II. LEGAL STANDARD "Rule 60(b) was intended to preserve the delicate balance between the sanctity of final judgments and the incessant command of the court's conscience that justice be done in light of all the facts."7 Rule 60(b) does not provide a party with the opportunity to relitigate the merits of a case in an attempt to win a point already "carefully analyzed and justifiably disposed.,,8 Accordingly, motions for relief from judgment under Rule 60(b) are generally disfavored in the Second Circuit. 9 Smalls v. United States, 471 F.3d 186, 191 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quotation marks, ellipses, and citation omitted). Accord Nemaizer v. Baker, 793 F 2d 58, 61 (2d Cir. 1986) ("Properly applied, Rule 60(b) strikes a balance . between serving the ends ofjustice and preserving the finality ofjudgments. In other words, it should be broadly construed to do substantial justice, yet final judgments should not be lightly reopened.") (quotation marks and citations omitted). 7 In re Bulk Oil (USA) Inc., No. 89B13380, 2007 WL 1121739, at *10 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 11, 2007) (stating that a court should not "reconsider issues already examined simply because [a party] is dissatisfied with the outcome of his case. To do otherwise would be a waste ofjudicial resources.") (quotation marks and citation omitted). 8 See Empresa Cubana Del Tabaco v. General Cigar Co. Inc., No. 085878cv, 2010 WL 2759416, at *1 (2d Cir. July 14,2010) ("We have cautioned, however, that Rule 60(b) motions are disfavored ....") (citing Pichardo v. Ashcroft, 374 F.3d 46,55 (2d Cir. 2004»; Simone v. Prudential Ins. Co. ofAmerica, No. 053202CV, 2006 WL 166490, at * 1 (2d Cir. Jan. 24, 2006); 9 3 Rule 60(b) provides that a district court may relieve a party from a final judgment or order in five enumerated circumstances and, according to a sixth subparagraph, for "any other reason that justifies relief."!O If any other subparagraph of Rule 60(b) is applicable, Rule 60(b)(6) will not apply.!! The Second Circuit has held that "[m]otions under rule 60(b) are addressed to the sound discretion of the district court and are generally granted only upon a showing of exceptional circumstances."12 The Second Circuit has set forth a threeprong test in order for a Rule 60(b) motion to succeed: (1) there must be "highly convincing" evidence in support of the motion; (2) the moving party must show good cause for failing to act sooner; and (3) the moving party must show that granting the motion will not impose an undue hardship on any party.!3 Finally, "pro se litigants are not ... excused from the requirement that they United States v. International Bhd. of Teamsters, 247 F.3d 370, 391 (2d Cir. 2001). 10 Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(l) (6). 11 See Nemaizer, 793 F.2d at 63. Mendell in behalfof Viacom, Inc. v. Gollust, 909 F.2d 724, 731 (2d Cir. 1990) (citing Nemaizer, 793 F .2d at 61). Accord Paddington Partners v. Bouchard, 34 F.3d 1132, 1142 (2d Cir. 1994). 12 13 See Kotlicky v. United States Fid. Guar. Co., 817 F.2d 6,9 (2d Cir. 1987). 4 produce 'highly convincing' evidence to support a Rule 60(b) motion.,,14 "The heavy burden for securing relief from final judgments applies to pro se litigants as well as those represented by counsel.,,!5 III. DISCUSSION Lamont has filed a Motion to ReOpen pursuant to Rule 60(b)( ) 6 based on the ground of exceptional circumstances. The alleged exceptional circumstance is that Lamont filed additional attorney grievances with the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department in 2009, which were subsequently dismissed by the Departmental Disciplinary Committee and the Appellate Division, First Department. 16 The panel that dismissed the grievances included Justices Richard T. Andrias and David B. Saxe, who were respondents in the Second Circuit appeal and were also defendants in this case. 17 Lamont alleges that this presents a conflict of interest. When dismissing plaintiffs claims in 2008, this Court specifically held that, "there is no clearly established right to have complaints investigated or 14 Gil v. Vagi/ana, 131 F. Supp. 2d 486,494 (S.D.N.Y. 2001). Broadway v. City ofNew York, No. 96 Civ. 2798, 2003 WL 21209635, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. May 21,2003). 15 16 See Motion to ReOpen at 45. 17 See id. 5 pursued," and "no cognizable interest in attorney disciplinary procedures or in having certain claims investigated.,,18 Nothing presented in Lamont's present motion changes this fundamental conclusion. Although the dismissals of his most recent grievances may seem "incomprehensible" to Lamont, that does not change this Court's conclusion that he has no standing to challenge the state court system's actions regarding attorney discipline. 19 Additionally, Lamont's claims remain barred by absolute judicial, quasijudicial, and qualified immunity.20 In sum, the Motion to ReOpen fails to present the "extraordinary circumstances" needed for relief under Rule 60(b)( ). 6 IV. CONCLUSION For the reasons stated above, Lamont's Motion to ReOpen is denied. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close the Motion to ReOpen (Document # 117). 18 Bernstein, 591 F. Supp. 2d at 466468. See, e.g., Morrow v. Cahill, 278 A.D.2d 123, 123 (1st Dep't 2000) (holding that a complainant lacked standing to compel a disciplinary committee's investigation of his former counsel as he suffered "no direct and harmful effect" from the committee's decision not to institute proceedings). 19 See Rodriguez v. Weprin, 116 F.3d 62, 66 (2d Cif. 1997); Oliva v. Heller, 839 F.2d 37,39 (2d Cif. 1988). 20 6 SO ORDERED: Dated: New York, New York December 15, 2010 7 Appearances Plaintiffs (Pro Se): P. Stephen Lamont 35 Locust Avenue Rye, NY 10580 Eliot L. Bernstein 39 Little Avenue Red Bluff, CA 96080 For State Defendants: For City Defendants: Monica Anne Connell Assistant Attorney General 120 Broadway, 24th Floor New York, NY 10271 (212) 4168965 Craig Andrew Hanlon Philip Sebastian Frank Assistant Corporation Counsel 100 Church Street New York, NY 10007 (212) 7881580/0893 For Proskauer Defendants: For Defendant Lewis S. Meltzer: Joanna Frances Sandol0, Esq. Proskauer Rose LLP (New York) 1585 Broadway New York, NY 10036 (212) 9693437 Richard M. Howard, Esq. Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone LLP 190 Willis Avenue Mineola, NY 11501 (516) 7470300 For Defendant Raymond A. Joao: For Foley Lardner Defendants: John Walter Fried, Esq. Fried and Epstein 350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 7612 New York, NY 10118 (212) 2687111 Kent Kari Anker, Esq. Lili Zandpour, Esq. Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman 1633 Broadway New York, NY 10019 (212) 8331244 8 For Florida Defendants: For Virginia Defendants: Glenn Thomas Burhans, Jr., Esq. Greenberg Traurig 101 East College A venue Tallahassee, FL 10022 (850) 5218570 Stephen M. Hall Assistant Attorney General Office of Attorney General 900 E. Main Street Richmond, VA 23219 (804) 7862071 9