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Lewis v. Clarkstown Police Department

United States District Court, S.D. New York

December 8, 2014



EDGARDO RAMOS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Raymond Lewis ("Plaintiff" or "Lewis") moves, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) and Rule 6.3 of the Local Civil Rules for this District to provide for partial reconsideration of this Court's March 31, 2014 Opinion and Order ("March 31 Order"), Doc. 52. See Pl.'s Mem. L. Supp. Mot. Partial Reconsideration, Doc. 106 ("Pl. Mot. Reconsideration"). Plaintiff does not seek reconsideration of the ultimate result of the March 31 Order, rather, he seeks to correct the legal standards applied to his excessive force and failure to provide medical care claims. Id. at 1. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion for partial reconsideration is GRANTED. Upon reconsideration, the Court grants Plaintiff's request to apply a different standard and adheres to its prior decision in this case.

I. Background

Familiarity with the March 31 Order is assumed. There, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Doc. 52 at 2. In particular, the Court dismissed the Clarkstown Police Department from the case and upheld Plaintiff's claims against Sergeant Brian Gorsky ("Defendant" or "Gorsky"), while limiting the lack of medical care claim to Plaintiff's alleged asthma attack. At the time the Court rendered its opinion, Plaintiff was incarcerated and appearing pro se. Id. at 1. Pro bono counsel entered a notice of appearance on the Plaintiff's behalf on June 30, 2014. Doc. 58. On October 8, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant motion in anticipation of trial. Doc. 106.

In seeking reconsideration, Plaintiff argues that in the March 31 Order, the Court mistakenly applied the Fourteenth Amendment, which is applicable to pretrial detainees. Doc. 106 at 5. Plaintiff posits that the Court should have applied the Fourth Amendment, which is applicable to pre-arraignment arrestees. Id. at 6.

II. Discussion

A. Legal Standard on Motion for Reconsideration

Under Rule 54(b), a court may revise "any order... that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties" "at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities." Fed.R.Civ.P. 54. However, the underlying decision "may not usually be changed unless there is an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent a manifest injustice.'" Official Comm. of Unsecured Creditors of Color Tile, Inc. v. Coopers & Lybrand, LLP, 322 F.3d 147, 167 (2d Cir. 2003) (quoting Virgin Atl. Airways, Ltd. v. Nat'l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255 (2d Cir. 1992)). This is because the original order or decision is considered to be the "law of the case, " which "will be disregarded only when the court has a clear conviction of error' with respect to a point of law on which its previous decision was predicated[.]" Cohen v. UBS Fin. Servs., Inc., No. 12 Civ. 02147 (LGS), 2014 WL 240324, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 22, 2014) (quoting Fogel v. Chestnutt, 668 F.2d 100, 109 (2d Cir. 1981)). Nonetheless, a court retains "discretion to revisit earlier rulings in the same case, subject to the caveat that where litigants have once battled for the court's decision, they should neither be required, nor without good reason permitted, to battle for it again.'" Official Comm. of Unsecured Creditors of Color Tile, Inc., 322 F.3d at 167 (quoting Zdanok v. Glidden Co., Durkee Famous Foods Div., 327 F.2d 944, 953 (2d Cir. 1964)).

Rule 6.3 of the Local Civil Rules for this District provides for reconsideration or reargument of a court's order on a motion only where the court has overlooked controlling decisions or factual matters that were "put before it on the underlying motion... and which, had they been considered, might have reasonably altered the result before the court."[1] Mikol v. Barnhart, 554 F.Supp.2d 498, 500 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (quoting Greenwald v. Orb Commc'ns & Mktg., Inc., No. 00 Civ. 1939 (LTS) (HBP), 2003 WL 660844, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 27, 2003)); see also Local R. 6.3. "Reconsideration of a court's previous order is an extraordinary remedy to be employed sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of scarce judicial resources.'" Parrish v. Sollecito, 253 F.Supp.2d 713, 715 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (quoting In re Health Mgmt. Sys. Inc. Sec. Litig., 113 F.Supp.2d 613, 614 (S.D.N.Y. 2000)). Local Rule 6.3 is "narrowly construed and strictly applied so as to avoid repetitive arguments on issues that have been considered fully by the Court." Mikol, 554 F.Supp.2d at 500 (quoting Dellefave v. Access Temps., Inc., No. 99 Civ. 6098 (RWS), 2001 WL 286771, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 22, 2001)) (internal quotation marks omitted). "Where the movant fails to show that any controlling authority or facts have actually been overlooked, and merely offers substantially the same arguments he offered on the original motion or attempts to advance new facts, the motion for reconsideration must be denied." Id. (citing Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995)).

Whether to grant or deny a motion for reconsideration is within the sound discretion of the district court. Premium Sports Inc. v. Connell, No. 10 Civ. 3752 (KBP), 2012 WL 2878085, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. June 11, 2012) (citing Aczel v. Labonia, 584 F.3d 52, 61 (2d Cir. 2009)).

B. Excessive Force Claim

In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) defendants were state actors or were acting under color of state law at the time of the alleged wrongful action; and (2) the action deprived plaintiff of a right secured by the Constitution or federal law. Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999). "Section 1983 is only a grant of a right of action; the substantive right giving rise to the action must come from another source." Singer v. Fulton Cnty. Sheriff, 63 F.3d 110, 119 (2d Cir. 1995) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 150 (1970)). Thus, a civil rights action brought under § 1983 will stand only insofar as a plaintiff can prove an actual violation of his rights under the Constitution or federal law. Id.

"In addressing an excessive force claim brought under § 1983, analysis begins by identifying the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed by the challenged application of force." Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989) (citing Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 140 (1979)). "In most instances, " the right infringed will fall under "either the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable seizures of the person, or the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishments, which are the two primary sources of constitutional protection against physically abusive governmental conduct." Id. Nonetheless, "the right of pretrial detainees to be free from excessive force amounting to punishment is protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." United States v. Walsh, 194 F.3d 37, 47 (2d Cir. 1999) (citations omitted) (quoting Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 392 n.6 (1989)).

The same legal standard applies to both Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment excessive force claims, regardless of the amendment under which they arise. Id. at 48. That standard "has two components - one subjective, focusing on the defendant's motive for his conduct, and the other objective, focusing on the conduct's effect." Sims v. Artuz, 230 F.3d 14, 20 (2d Cir. 2000). The subjective component goes to the defendant's intent, asking "whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6-7 (1992). Alternatively, the objective component focuses on whether the alleged use of force was "sufficiently serious or harmful enough." Walsh, 194 F.3d at 50. This determination is "contextual and responsive to contemporary standards of decency.'" Hudson, 503 U.S. at 8 (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976)). "An excessive force claim may be established even where plaintiff does not suffer a serious or significant injury, provided that it is shown that the amount of force used is more than de minimis or the use of the force is repugnant to the conscience of mankind.'" Gashi v. Cnty. of Westchester, No. 02 Civ. 6934 (GBD), 2007 WL 749684, ...

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