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Robert Cappiello v. Icd Publications

June 7, 2012

ROBERT CAPPIELLO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ICD PUBLICATIONS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spatt, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

This case arises from a contract dispute between Robert Cappiello, ("Cappiello" or "the Plaintiff") and his former employers, ICD Publications ("ICD") and David Palcek. The instant dispute between the parties relates to whether post-judgment interest on the Court's August 20, 2010 judgment entered in favor of the Plaintiff as against ICD ("the Defendant") is calculated at the federal interest rate set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1961 or the New York interest rate set forth in New York Civil Practice Law and Rules ("CPLR") § 5004.

This issue comes before the Court by way of three motions by the Defendant. The first is a motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) ("Rule 60(b)(5)") to relieve the Defendant from the final judgment on the ground that its tender of the judgment-which was rejected by the Plaintiff based on the dispute over the applicable post-judgment interest rate- satisfied the judgment entered by this Court and the subsequent costs associated with the appeal. The second is a motion by the Defendant pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 62(b)(4) ("Rule 62(b)(4)") to extend the stay of the execution of the judgment pending resolution of the Rule 60(b)(5) motion. Finally, the Defendant moves for injunctive relief based on the two prior motions.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court construes the Defendant's motion pursuant to Rule 60(b)(5) as a motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(a) ("Rule 60(a)") to clarify that the Plaintiff is entitled to post-judgment interest at the federal interest rate, and grants the Defendant's motion. Because the Court grants the Defendant's motion pursuant to Rule 60(a), the Court denies both the Defendant's motion for a stay pursuant to Rule 62(b)(4), as well as the Defendant's motion for injunctive relief as moot.

I. BACKGROUND

On April 28, 2008, the Plaintiff commenced this action in Nassau County Supreme Court (Index No. 8385/08) alleging breach of contract and tortious interference in an employment dispute. The defendants removed the action to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). On August 19, 2010, following a six day bench trial, the Court ruled in the Plaintiff's favor on his breach of contract claim as against ICD and ordered that a judgment be entered in favor of the Plaintiff and against ICD in the amount $532,587.06 plus costs and pre-judgment interest. On August 20, 2010, judgment was entered against ICD in favor of the Plaintiff in the amount of $600,510.15, which included: (1) $532,587.06 in damages and (2) $67,923.09 in pre-judgment interest.

On September 16, 2010, ICD filed a Notice of Appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Shortly thereafter, the Plaintiff sought to enforce the judgment by filing the Transcript of Judgment from the Clerk of this Court with the Suffolk County Supreme Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1962 and CPLR § 5018(b).

On November 10, 2010, after the Plaintiff docketed the judgment in state court, but before the Second Circuit ruled on its appeal, ICD made a motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 62(d) for entry of an order approving a supersedeas bond and staying the execution of the judgment pending the appeal. The Court granted ICD's motion on December 2, 2010.

On January 23, 2012, the Second Circuit affirmed this Court's judgment in its entirety. Following the decision by the Second Circuit, ICD attempted to tender payment in the amount of $612,587.66. In addition to the judgment, this tender included: (1) $8,912 awarded in costs; (2) $809.23 awarded in appellate costs; and (3) $2,356.79 in post-judgment interest at a federal interest rate of 0.25%. The Plaintiff rejected ICD's tender on the ground that ICD was required to pay the New York State post-judgment interest rate of 9% set forth in CPLR § 5004, which would make the total amount owed $696,035.55 as of March 18, 2012.

Subsequently, the Plaintiff has allegedly sought to execute on the judgment in the amount of $696,035.55 by contacting the bonding company and ICD's bank. As a result, ICD filed the instant motions seeking an order pursuant to Rule 60(b)(5) that its tender satisfied the judgment, and a stay of execution pending the Court's ruling on the motion for satisfaction pursuant to Rule 62(b)(4). While these motions were pending, ICD filed an additional motion seeking expedited injunctive relief. The Plaintiff opposes ICD's motions on a number of grounds. First, the Plaintiff argues that, because ICD has only tendered payment, but not actually paid the judgment, a motion for an order of satisfaction pursuant to Rule 60(b)(5) is procedurally improper. Next, the Plaintiff contends that the New York interest rate applies because this case was initially filed in state court and removed to federal court. Finally, the Plaintiff asserts that, where, as here, a party avails itself of the requisite state procedures for enforcing a judgment as permitted by 28 U.S.C. § 1962 and CPLR § 5018(b): (1) this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to decide collateral issues related to the judgment; and (2) the enforcement state's interest rate governs the calculation of post-judgment interest. The Court addresses each of these contentions below.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Whether the Defendant's Motion is Procedurally Proper

The Defendant moves this Court pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) for an order stating that its tender of $612,587.66-which neither party disputes constituted the amount owed if the federal interest rate applied to the post-judgment interest-satisfied the judgment. Although brought as a motion for relief from the judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b)(5), the Court finds that the Defendant's motion is more properly construed as a motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(a).

Rule 60(a) provides that a court "may correct a clerical mistake or a mistake arising from oversight or omission whenever one is found in a judgment, order, or other part of the record". Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(a). "In recognition of this accommodation between the goal of finality and that of accurate reflection of the adjudication of rights" the Second Circuit has held that a Rule 60(a) motion may be granted "where the judgment has failed to include an amount of interest that the governing law requires to be automatically included in the judgment." In re Frigitemp Corp., 781 F.2d 324, 327 (2d Cir. 1986) (citing Lee v. Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc., 592 F.2d 39, 41--42 (2d Cir. 1979); Goodman v. Heublein, Inc., 682 F.2d 44, 46 (2d Cir. 1982)). Although not explicitly stated in the judgment, neither party disputes that the Plaintiff was statutorily entitled to an award of post-judgment interest pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1961.

Furthermore, where, as here, a judgment includes an award of post-judgment interest, "but the rate is not specified, the court may specify, in response to a Rule 60(a) motion, the appropriate rate at any time". McNickle v. Bankers Life & Cas. Co., 888 F.2d 678, 682 (10th Cir. 1989). This is because the applicable post-judgment interest rate is an issue that is "wholly collateral to the judgment in the main cause of action" insofar as the "[a]ssessment of [the applicable post-judgment interest rate] does not involve reconsideration of any aspect of the decision on the merits". Buchanan v. Stanships, Inc., 485 U.S. 265, 268--69, 108 S. Ct. 1130, 99 L. Ed. 2d 289 (1988); cf. Southern Indus. of Clover, Ltd. v. Hardick, No. 92-CV-5750, 1999 WL 76891, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 8, 1999) ("As distinguished from postjudgment interest, prejudgment interest is normally considered to be an element of the judgment itself, viz., relief on the ...


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