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HAUF v. IRS

June 28, 1997

JOHN N. HAUF, Plaintiff,
v.
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE (I.R.S.), Defendant and Counterclaim Plaintiff, -v- NORMAN T. PINKARD, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCAVOY

 Before the Court are two post-trial motions in the above-captioned matter. Plaintiff John N. Hauf moves for judgment as a matter of law, or, in the alternative, for a new trial pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50 and 59. Defendant/Counterclaim Plaintiff I.R.S. (hereinafter "defendant" or "Government") moves to amend the judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e).

 I. BACKGROUND

 This action arises out of plaintiff's alleged failure, as a "responsible person," to pay withholding taxes to the Government for the employees of HBP, Inc. for the first, second, third and fourth quarters of 1985 and the first quarter of 1986. Plaintiff filed his Complaint on July 3, 1995 seeking a refund of amounts collected from him and an abatement of the remaining balance assessed against him. The Government counterclaimed for the remaining balance due on the assessment in the amount of 4 71,943.54 plus interest from the date of the assessment.

 The action proceeded to a jury trial on February 4, 1997. On February 6, 1997, the jury returned a verdict for the Government on plaintiff's claim, and the Clerk entered judgment accordingly.

 Plaintiff now moves, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50 and 59, for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative for a new trial. Defendant moves, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), to amend the judgment; specifically, defendant requests that this Court direct the Clerk to enter judgment for the Government on its counterclaim.

 A. Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law:

 1. The Standard for Judgment as a Matter of Law:

 The Second Circuit has established the standard for granting a judgment as a matter of law. The court in Mattivi v. South African Marine Corp., "Huguenot", 618 F.2d 163 (2d Cir. 1980), stated that:

 
the trial court cannot assess the weight of conflicting evidence, pass on t he credibility of the witnesses, or substitute its judgment for that of the jury. Rather, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-moving party (giving the non-movant the benefit of all reasonable inferences), the trial court should grant a judgment n. o. v. only when (1) there is such a complete absence of evidence supporting the verdict that the jury's findings could only have been the result of sheer surmise and conjecture, or (2) there is such an overwhelming amount of evidence in favor of the movant that reasonable and fair minded men could not arrive at a verdict against him.

 Id. at 167-68; see Samuels v. Air Transport Local 504, 992 F.2d 12, 14 (2d Cir. 1993); Mallis v. Bankers Trust Co., 717 F.2d 683, 688-89 (2d Cir. 1983). *fn1" Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs the procedure for granting judgment as a matter of law by motion made before the jury retires pursuant to Rule 50(a), or motion after the jury has spoken pursuant to Rule 50(b). Fed.R.Civ.P. 50; see Samuels, 992 F.2d at 14.

 Plaintiff's counsel apparently do not understand this standard, or choose to ignore it. Rather, plaintiff's counsel spend most of their time pointing out alleged defects and misstatements of the law in the Government' opposition brief to plaintiff's motion. Moreover, plaintiff's motion is based in large part on alleged conversations between the Government's counsel and the jury after the verdict was returned, and the alleged threat of sanctions by the Government against plaintiff's counsel Mr. Vecchio. these matters are entirely irrelevant on the present motion and will be neither considered nor addressed. Suffice it to say that plaintiff would have been better served on this motion had his counsel limited their discussion to the sufficiency of the evidence adduced at trial.

 Moreover, while plaintiff's motion ostensibly is styled, in the alternative, for a new trial, plaintiff's counsel fail even to acknowledge that a motion for a new trial is analyzed under a different standard. *fn2" Since, however, plaintiff is not ...


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