United States District Court, W.D. New York
WILLIAM J. MURRAY, Plaintiff,
GARY COLEMAN, et al., Defendants.
DECISION AND ORDER
G. LARIMER United States District Judge
William A. Murray brought this action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against the State of New York, the New York State
Department of Correctional Services (“DOCS”), and
a number of individual defendants, most of whom are or were
employed by DOCS at the time of the relevant events, alleging
that the defendants violated his constitutional rights to
free speech and due process.
much of the time this action was pending, plaintiff
represented himself. The case was duly scheduled for a jury
trial to begin on May 16, 2016.
6, 2016, ten days before the trial was set to begin, attorney
Terrance J. Hoffmann entered his appearance on behalf of
plaintiff, pursuant to a retainer agreement entered into by
plaintiff and Hoffmann on or about that same date.
trial began as scheduled on May 16. By that date, the Court
had dismissed plaintiff's claims against the State of New
York and DOCS, and his claims against several of the
individual defendants. The Court had also dismissed in its
entirety plaintiff's due process claim. (Dkt. #180.) That
left plaintiff's First Amendment free-speech claim
against the remaining individual defendants.
close of plaintiff's proof at trial, the Court granted
defendants' Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of
law as to five of the remaining defendants. Plaintiff's
First Amendment claim for damages proceeded against the nine
other individual defendants. (Dkt. #243.)
jury returned a verdict finding no cause of action against
seven of those defendants, but also found that plaintiff had
established his claims against two defendants, John Lempke
and Thomas Poole. The jury awarded $6500 in economic damages,
and no punitive damages. (Dkt. #241.)
Court entered judgment based on the jury's verdict. (Dkt.
#242.) Afterwards, defendants Lempke and Poole renewed their
motion for judgment as a matter of law. (Dkt. #251.)
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 50; Stoma v. Miller Marine
Servs., 271 F.Supp.2d 429, 430 (E.D.N.Y. 2003). That
motion is now pending before the Court, as is plaintiff's
motion for attorney's fees. (Dkt. #249.) For the reasons
that follow, defendants' Rule 50 motion is denied, and
plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees is granted, in
Defendants' Rule 50 Motion
and Poole have filed a “renewed” Rule 50 motion
seeking judgment as a matter of law (“JMOL”). The
standard for deciding such a motion is well established:
“Where a jury has rendered a verdict for the
non-movant, a court may grant JMOL ‘only if the court,
viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
non-movant, concludes that a reasonable juror would have been
compelled to accept the view of the moving party.'”
MacDermid Printing Solutions LLC v. Cortron
Corp., 833 F.3d 172, 180 (2d Cir. 2016) (quoting
Cash v. City of Erie, 654 F.3d 324, 333 (2d Cir.
2011), cert. denied, 565 U.S. 1259 (2012)). In
applying that standard, the court may not “assess the
weight of conflicting evidence, pass on the credibility of
the witnesses, or substitute its judgment for that of the
jury.” Gatti v. Community Action Agency of
Greene Cty., Inc., 263 F.Supp.2d 496, 503 (N.D.N.Y.
2003) (quoting Mattivi v. South African Marine
Corp., “Huguenot”, 618 F.2d 163, 167-68 (2d
from one block quote from an unrelated case, defendants'
motion papers comprise all of two sentences. Given its
brevity, the Court quotes defendants' motion (minus the
aforementioned block quote) in its entirety:
The plaintiff's proof failed to show that Superintendents
Poole and Lempke were each aware of his allegedly protected
speech at the time of his notices of discipline. ... [T]he
record failed to show that neither [sic] Superintendent Poole
nor Lempke had knowledge of the plaintiff's letter to the
Governor's Office and responded to by [sic] the
Department's Commissioner-let alone its content.
(Dkt. #251 at 1.)
stated, at the close of the plaintiff's proof at trial,
the Court allowed the case to go forward as to nine
defendants, including Lempke and Poole. Lempke was the
superintendent of Five Points Correctional Facility, ...