United States District Court, S.D. New York
August 18, 2005.
NADJARI D. REID, Plaintiff,
DETECTIVE BRIAN RAFFERTY, SHIELD # 2145, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD CASEY, District Judge
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
On June 22, 2005, a jury rendered a verdict in favor of
Detective Rafferty ("Defendant") at the conclusion of the trial
in this malicious-prosecution action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Nadjari D. Reid ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, has submitted a
motion for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59 of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure, which provides in relevant part that "[a] new
trial may be granted to all or any of the parties and on all or
part of the issues . . . in an action in which there has been a
trial by jury, for any of the reasons for which new trials have
heretofore been granted in actions at law in the courts of the
United States." Fed.R.Civ.P. 59. Plaintiff bases his motion
for a new trial on two main grounds. First, Plaintiff contends
that the jury verdict in Defendant's favor is against the weight
of the evidence. Second, Plaintiff asserts that his trial
"counsel" was ineffective. The Court does not believe that the
jury in this case reached a seriously erroneous result or that
allowing the verdict to stand would work a miscarriage of
justice. See Smith v. Lightning Bolt Prods., Inc.,
861 F.2d 363, 370 (2d Cir. 1988) (holding that a district court "should
not grant a new trial unless it is convinced that the jury has
reached a seriously erroneous result or that the verdict is a
miscarriage of justice"). Plaintiff's motion for a new trial is
First, the jury's verdict was not against the clear weight of
the evidence. The evidence against Plaintiff in the underlying criminal proceeding against
him was presented to a grand jury, which returned an indictment
against Plaintiff for murder in the second degree. This created a
presumption, as a matter of law, that there was probable cause to
believe that Plaintiff was guilty of that charge and to prosecute
him accordingly. See Robinson v. Cattaraugus County,
147 F.3d 153, 163 (2d Cir. 1998). The jury in this matter specifically
found that Plaintiff had failed to overcome this presumption by
establishing, by a preponderance of the credible evidence, that
the indictment against him was obtained by fraud, perjury, the
suppression of evidence, or other police misconduct undertaken in
bad faith. See id. (noting that, to counter the presumption of
probable cause created by an indictment, "the plaintiff must
establish that defendant did not make a full and complete
statement of fact to either the Grand Jury or the District
Attorney, that defendant misrepresented or falsified evidence or
else kept back evidence that would have affected the result of
the investigation"). Because the lack of probable cause for the
criminal proceeding was a necessary element to Plaintiff's claim
of malicious prosecution under § 1983, see Mejia v. City of
New York, 119 F. Supp. 2d 232, 253 (E.D.N.Y. 2000), the jury
found in favor of Defendant. This result was in accord with the
lack of evidence presented by Plaintiff at trial to rebut the
presumption in Defendant's favor the only evidence that
Plaintiff presented concerning any impropriety with the
indictment against him was his own testimony to that effect. The
Second Circuit has cautioned that "the jury is empowered and
capable of evaluating a witness's credibility, and this
evaluation should rarely be disturbed." Dunlap-McCuller v. Riese
Org., 980 F.2d 153, 158 (2d Cir. 1992); see also Ricciuti v.
New York City Transit Auth., 70 F. Supp. 2d 300, 305 (S.D.N.Y.
1999) ("A court considering a Rule 59 motion for a new trial must
bear in mind . . . that the court should only grant such a motion
when the jury's verdict is egregious. Accordingly, a court should
rarely disturb a jury's evaluation of a witness's credibility."). Plaintiff's
motion for a new trial on the ground that the jury's verdict was
against the weight of the evidence is therefore denied.
Second, Plaintiff, who has appeared pro se throughout this
litigation, up to and including the trial and this post-trial
motion, cannot successfully argue that his "counsel" was
ineffective. Plaintiff argues that his misunderstanding of law
and procedure caused him in his capacity as his own counsel
to fail to raise certain issues at trial and subpoena witnesses
for trial. The primary flaw with this argument is that a
plaintiff's ineffective-assistance allegations simply cannot
support the grant of a new § 1983 trial under Rule 59. Hemphill
v. Schott, No. 93 Civ. 8778 (RJW), 1999 WL 587801, at *2 n. 4
(S.D.N.Y. Aug. 5, 1999). Because the Sixth Amendment right to
effective assistance of counsel does not extend to civil cases,
"there is no constitutional or statutory right to effective
assistance of counsel in a civil case." Watson v. Moss,
619 F.2d 775, 776 (8th Cir. 1980); see also United States v.
Coven, 662 F.2d 162, 176 (2d Cir. 1981). Beyond this fundamental
flaw, Plaintiff's argument simply lacks merit. Plaintiff was
provided ample guidance on how to subpoena witnesses for trial.
Well before trial in this matter began, the Court had a manual
sent to Plaintiff that was designed to help pro se litigants like
himself prepare for trial. At trial, Plaintiff admitted to having
been in possession of the manual "for some time" before trial.
(See Tr. June 20, 2005 at 108.) Plaintiff was aware that the
manual contained "a section in that book that explains all about
issuing subpoenas" (see id. at 108-09), and the manual
explicitly sets out the procedures for subpoenaing witnesses and
even provides a sample subpoena form for pro se litigants to use,
see Deanna H. Arden & I. Alexei Martinez, Trial Ready: A Manual
for Pro Se Litigants Appearing in the United States District
Court for the Southern District of New York 47-54 (S.D.N.Y.
District Executive's Office 1997). Because Plaintiff simply
failed to avail himself of the manual's guidance before trial, he has no basis to argue that his misunderstanding
of the procedures for subpoenaing witnesses warrants a new trial.
Plaintiff's motion for a new trial on the ground of "ineffective
assistance of counsel" is therefore denied.
Because the jury in this case did not reach a seriously
erroneous result and because allowing the jury's verdict to stand
does not result in a miscarriage of justice, Plaintiff's motion
for a new trial is DENIED.
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