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Croons v. New York State Office of Mental Health

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 14, 2015

CHARLES M. CROONS, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF MENTAL HEALTH, CENTRAL NEW YORK PSYCHIATRIC CENTER; DONALD SAWYER, Executive Director; DEBBIE COLLVER; SHARON M. SCHOEN; JOHN DOES; JANE DOES; PATRICIA L. BARDO; and COREY CONLEY, Defendants

For Plaintiff: BOSMAN LAW OFFICE, OF AJ BOSMAN, ESQ., DANIEL W. FLYNN, ESQ., Rome, NY.

For Defendants: HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, Attorney General for the State of New York, Attorney for Defendants, OF MICHAEL G. MCCARTIN, ESQ., Ass't Attorney General, Albany, NY.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

DAVID N. HURD, United States District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

In October 2010, plaintiff Charles M. Croons (" Croons" or " plaintiff") filed this discrimination lawsuit against the New York State Office of Mental Health's Central New York Psychiatric Center (" CNYPC") and several of its current and former employees. Plaintiff's operative complaint enumerated fourteen causes of action for alleged violations of federal and state law. Following extensive discovery, defendants moved pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (" Rule") 56 seeking summary judgment on all of plaintiff's various claims. That motion was fully briefed and oral argument was heard on September 27, 2013 in Utica, New York.

On May 12, 2014, a Memorandum-Decision and Order (the " May 12 Decision" or the " Decision") granted defendants' motion for summary judgment in its entirety. Croons v. N.Y.S. Office of Mental Health, 18 F.Supp.3d 193 (N.D.N.Y. 2014). Croons now moves pursuant to Rule 59(e) and Rule 60(b) for " relief from the court's summary judgment order" because he purports to have identified a number of errors in that Decision. Pl.'s Mem., ECF No. 57-1, 2.[1] The motion has been fully briefed and will be considered on its submissions without oral argument.

II. DISCUSSION

Croons argues vacatur of the May 12 Decision is warranted because: (1) it misapplied the legal standard governing a motion for summary judgment; (2) defendants committed discovery violations; and (3) plaintiff has come into possession of newly discovered evidence. Pl.'s Mem. 2.

A Rule 59(e) motion requires a plaintiff to satisfy " the heavy burden of demonstrating 'an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.'" Hollander v. Bd. of Regents, 524 F.App'x 727, 729 (2d Cir. 2013) (summary order) (quoting Virgin A. Airways, Ltd. v. Nat'l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255 (2d Cir. 1992)), cert. denied, 134 S.Ct. 197, 187 L.Ed.2d 45 (2013).

In a similar vein, " [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." Cortez Byrd v. Corporacion Forestal y Indus. de Olancho, S.A., 974 F.Supp.2d 264, 267 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (quoting Mendell ex rel. Viacom, Inc. v. Gollust, 909 F.2d 724, 731 (2d Cir. 1990)).

Specifically, Rule 60(b) empowers a district court with discretion to relieve a party from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for six, enumerated reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged; or (6) for " any other reason that justifies relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1)-(6).

Because these six provisions are " 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 . . .., motions for relief from judgment under Rule 60(b) are generally disfavored in the Second Circuit." Bernstein v. Appellate Div. First Dep't Disciplinary Comm., No. 07 Civ. 1196(SAS), 2010 WL 5129069, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 15, 2010) (citations and explanatory parentheticals omitted).

1. Summary Judgment[2]

Croons first argues that the May 12 Decision " failed to interpret the evidence in light [sic] most favorable to the plaintiff" because " it credited [ ] defendants' reply submissions which asserted there was a change in policy prohibiting plaintiff from working light duty in the supervisor's office." Pl.'s Mem. 3.

At the outset, an appreciation of the relevance (or irrelevance) of the claimed policy change about which Croons now complains turns on a working understanding of one of plaintiff's theories of discrimination. So while the May 12 Decision recounts the relevant factual background in this matter in some detail, see Croons, 18 F.Supp.3d at 196-99, and while the parties' familiarity with that background is presumed for purposes of this motion, the recitation of a few pertinent details is necessary to properly disabuse plaintiff of his mistaken understanding of the Decision's analysis.

Croons, an African-American male employed as a Security Hospital Treatment Assistant (" SHTA") at CNYPC, suffered an on-duty injury on June 1, 2007 and was promptly placed on administrative leave. Croons, 18 F.Supp.3d at 196. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff was medically cleared for " light duty" and allegedly made repeated requests for such an assignment. Id. at 196-97. However, supervisory personnel at CNYPC never furnished plaintiff with light duty and, on July 13, 2008, terminated him pursuant to New York Civil Service Law § 71. Id. at 197-98. Later, after plaintiff obtained a full medical ...


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