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Burks v. Stickney

United States District Court, N.D. New York

November 22, 2017

CHAD STICKNEY, et al., Defendants.


          FOR DEFENDANTS: HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN DENISE P. BUCKLEY, ESQ. New York State Attorney General ADRIENNE J. KERWIN, ESQ. The Capitol Assistant Attorneys General



         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Mattieu Burks, a New York State prison inmate, has commenced this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against various employees of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"). In his complaint, as amended, plaintiff alleges that defendants harassed and assaulted him while he was incarcerated in the Clinton Correctional Facility ("Clinton") in an effort to dissuade him from cooperating with investigations conducted regarding prisoner abuse at Clinton and the introduction of contraband into the facility.

         Discovery in this action, which is nearly complete, has often been contentious. As a result of motion practice prompted by plaintiff's demand for information concerning investigations related to smuggling and/or secreting of contraband and prisoner abuse at Clinton, and defendants' objection to the demand, I issued an order on June 14, 2017 ("June order"), in which I directed, in pertinent part, as follows:

(1) On or before July 1, 2017, defendants shall produce to plaintiff a list of all known investigations conducted of DOCCS employees at the Clinton Correctional Facility and in progress at any time between January 1, 2015 and August 31, 2015, related to the issue of smuggling and/or secreting of contraband, or prisoner abuse, at the facility. Such list shall include the dates on which the investigation began and ended, state the subject of the investigation, and identify any DOCCS employees whose actions were investigated.

Dkt. No. 57 at 2.[1] Currently pending before the court is defendants' request from relief from the above-quoted portion of the June order.

         Defendants' motion is supported, in part, by one of three declarations given in the case by Shawn Mousseau, a Senior Investigator in the Intake and Management Unit of the DOCCS Office of Special Investigations ("OSI"). Dkt. No. 74-3. In general, in his declaration, Mousseau complains that complying with the June order would be overly burdensome. See, e.g., Id. at 3 ("To examine only the files of the 97 cases that were opened during the period in question and determine all of the information set out in the Court's order would require me to spend many hours each day for several weeks. Of course, this work would also interfere with all of my everyday [sic] and emergency responsibilities, and thus I would have to perform these tasks when I can do so along with my other urgent duties."). Defendants argue that the burden, as described by Mousseau, of producing the information specified in the June order outweighs any potential relevance of the information sought. Dkt. No. 74-6 at 15-16. The court has twice heard oral argument concerning defendants' motion for reconsideration and conducted an evidentiary hearing on November 13, 2017, at which Mousseau testified.


         Defendants' motion is brought pursuant to Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides as follows:

(b) Judgment on Multiple Claims or Involving Multiple Parties. When an action presents more than one claim for relief--whether as a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or third-party claim--or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay. Otherwise, any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised 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(b) (emphasis in original). Under that rule, a district court retains the authority "to revise [any of its interlocutory orders] at any time before the entry of final judgement." In re: WTC Disaster Cite, 414 F.3d 352, 381 (2d Cir. 2005) (quotation marks and alterations omitted); accord, Sinoying Logistics Pte Ltd. v. Yi Da Xin Trading Corp., 619 F.3d 207, 212 (2d Cir. 2010) ("There is no question that a district court has the authority to revise any non-final order at any time before the entry of a judgment." (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) (quotation marks and alteration omitted)).

         While the court retains the inherent authority to modify its June order, the standard for doing so is not prescribed by Rule 54(b). In this district, requests for relief from non-final orders are governed in the first instance by case law decided ...

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