United States District Court, D. New Mexico
JOSEPH R. MAESTAS, Plaintiff,
AMY SEIDEL, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S
CORRECTED MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT
MATTER comes before the Court upon Plaintiff Joseph R.
Maestas' Corrected Motion for Leave to File Amended
Complaint (Doc. 27), filed November 10, 2016. Having reviewed
the parties' briefs and the applicable law, the Court
finds that Plaintiff's Motion is not well-taken, and is,
worked as a Project Manager in the Public Works Department
for the Town of Taos, New Mexico (“the Town”).
Plaintiff alleges Defendant Amy Seidel, Human Resource
Director for the Town, violated his procedural due process
and equal protection rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
1988. Plaintiff filed a Corrected Motion for Leave to File
Amended Complaint (Doc. 27) on November 10, 2016, seeking to
add the Town of Taos as a defendant and to add an allegation
against the Town of Taos for supervisory and training
municipal liability pursuant to Monnell v. New York
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978).
Defendant opposed this Motion and filed a Response (Doc. 30)
on November 22, 2016. Plaintiff filed a Reply (Doc. 31) on
December 6, 2016.
Court should freely give leave to amend when justice so
requires. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). “The
purpose of the Rule is to provide litigants the maximum
opportunity for each claim to be decided on the merits rather
than procedural niceties.” Minter v. Prime Equip.
Co., 451 F.3d 1196, 1204 (10th Cir. 2006). That said,
“[a] district court should refuse leave to amend only
upon a showing of undue delay, undue prejudice to the
opposing party, bad faith or dilatory motive, failure to cure
deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, or futility of
amendment.” Wilkerson v. Shinseki, 606 F.3d
1256, 1267 (10th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). “A
court properly may deny a motion for leave to amend as futile
when the proposed amended complaint would be subject to
dismissal for any reason . . . .” Bauchman for
Bauchman v. West High School, 132 F.3d 542, 562 (10th
Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). Determining whether to grant
leave to amend a pleading is an exercise in the Court's
discretion. State Distributor's, Inc. v. Glenmore
Distilleries, Co., 738 F.2d 405, 416 (10th Cir. 1984);
see also Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).
seeks leave to amend his Complaint to include newly
discovered factual allegations, an additional defendant, and
an additional claim for municipal liability. Defendant makes
three principal challenges to Plaintiff's Motion. First,
Plaintiff's proposed amendment would be futile. Second,
Plaintiff's intent to amend his Complaint is made in bad
faith; and third, neither justice nor judicial economy will
be served by Plaintiff's proposed amendment. The Court
considers each argument in turn.
argues the Court should deny Plaintiff's proposed
amendment because his attempt to add the Town is futile. More
specifically, the doctrine of res judicata precludes all of
Plaintiff's claims. Defendant maintains that where it
appears granting leave to amend is unlikely to be productive,
it is not an abuse of discretion to deny leave to amend.
See, e.g., Foman, 371 U.S. at 182. Defendant points
out that Plaintiff seeks to add the Town as a defendant
despite the fact that the Town has already been a defendant
in a recent New Mexico state suit involving the same claims
by the same Plaintiff (Case No. D-820-CV-2015-00050) (the
“State Case”)). A trial on the merits has taken
place, and final judgment has been entered. Therefore,
Defendant argues, any claims by Plaintiff against the Town in
this case are barred under res judicata, rendering the
addition of the Town unproductive and futile. See
Foman, 371 U.S. at 182.
replies that res judicata does not apply here because the
State Court claim did not contain the same causes of action
and Plaintiff did not have a full and fair opportunity to
litigate the Monnell claim in the prior suit.
Plaintiff states he did not discover the meritoriousness of
the federal claim until April 29, 2016 when it was too late
to add the claim to the State Case, thus he had no
opportunity to litigate those claims earlier. In addition,
the Monnell claims would not be re-argued in this
case because the claims are different. Plaintiff cites one
case, Garcia v. Wilson, 731 F.2d 640, 649 (10th Cir.
1984), to support his contention that res judicata does not
preclude § 1983 claims raised after state-court
litigation because “the evidence necessary to support a
Sec. 1983 claim is so often significantly distinct from the
facts at issue in an arguably analogous state cause of
Court finds Garcia is inapposite and does not stand
for what Plaintiff hopes it does.Accordingly, the Court will
analyze the issue under general principles of res judicata.
In doing so, the Court concludes res judicata will preclude
Plaintiff's federal § 1983 cause of action against
the Town, and denies Plaintiff leave to file amend his
Complaint. See Jefferson Cnty. Sch. Dist. No. R-1 v.
Moody's Investor's Servs., Inc., 175 F.3d 848,
859 (10th Cir. 1999) (“A proposed amendment is futile
if the amended complaint would be subject to
judicata generally applies where there is an identity of
parties and of claims and a final judgment on the merits. It
is designed to ensure the finality of judicial decisions.
Under the doctrine of res judicata, a final judgment on the
merits of an action precludes the parties or their privies
from relitigating issues that were or could have been raised
in that action.” Clark v. Haas Grp., Inc., 953
F.2d 1235, 1237-38 (10th Cir. 1992) (internal citations and
quotations omitted); see also Kremer v. Chemical Constr.
Corp., 456 U.S. 461, 467 n.6 (1982). “[A] final
judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties or
their privies from relitigating issues that were or could
have been raised in that action.” Clark,
953 F.2d at 1238 (emphasis added). “‘Stated
alternatively, ' under the doctrine of res judicata, a
final judgment on the merits bars further claims by parties
or their privies based on the same cause of action.
Id. (quoting May v. Parker- Abbott Transfer and
Storage, Inc., 899 F.2d 1007, 1009 (10th Cir. 1990)).
State Case, Plaintiff alleged two counts against the Town.
First, he alleged violations of the Whistleblower Protection
Act, and second breach of the covenant of good faith and fair
dealing. See generally Doc. 30-1. Regarding the
first count in the State Case, Plaintiff alleged that during
his employ, Plaintiff would frequently alert Town officials
to practices, procedures, actions, or failures to act on the
part of Town employees that constituted gross mismanagement,
waste of funds, or unlawful acts. These improper acts
included unnecessary employees and facilities, and excessive
fees paid to consultants. See Id. Plaintiff alleged
he was fired for reporting these perceived irregularities,
which constituted a violation of the Act. See NMSA
1978, § 1-16C-3(A). Regarding the second count in the
State Case, Plaintiff alleged the Town violated a personnel
policy that governed Town employees such as himself.
Specifically, the Town failed to act in accordance with the
policy by failing to appoint a hearing officer to hear
termination appeals or to schedule his appeal in a timely
fashion. See generally Doc. 30-1.
present action, Plaintiff seeks to add the Town as a
defendant and purports to add a count for municipal liability
against the Town. Plaintiff hopes to amend the Complaint to
include allegations that the Town had immediate supervisory
responsibility over the actions of the employees of the Town
of Taos, including Defendant Seidel. The Town had a duty to
screen, train, and supervise employees and agents of the Town
of Taos to ensure that they did not act ...