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Trujillo v. Williams

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

January 22, 2019

JOE WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants.



         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants' Objections (doc. 173)[1] to the Magistrate Judge's Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition (“PFRD”) (doc. 171). The Magistrate Judge recommended denying Defendants' Motion Pursuant to Rule 60 Fed.R.Civ.P. to Vacate or Modify September 30, 2011 Postage Plan Order (doc. 163). Having conducted an independent, de novo review of the Motion (doc. 163), the attendant briefing (docs. 167, 169), and the Magistrate Judge's PFRD (doc. 171), this Court overrules Defendants' objections and adopts the PFRD.


         The facts of this case have been repeatedly recited, most recently in this Court's Order of February 2, 2018. See doc. 153 at 1-3. The Court here reviews only the facts relevant to the instant Motion.

         Defendants' Motion to Vacate or Modify was filed on October 3, 2018. Doc. 163. However, the postage plan that Defendants seek to vacate or modify dates back to a September 30, 2011 order by this Court. Doc. 129. The Court had previously adopted the Report and Recommendations (doc. 105) of the Magistrate Judge in finding that Plaintiff Jesse Trujillo, a New Mexico prisoner housed in Virginia, was being denied legal access. See doc. 120. The Court consequently ordered Defendants to “file with the Court a plan that will enable Plaintiff to send legal requests and grievances to the NMCD [New Mexico Corrections Department] at no expense to himself.” Id. at 5. Defendants complied, filing a Plan to Allow Postage Free Legal Request by Plaintiff to NMCD. Doc. 121. In it, Defendants proposed that (1) NMCD would initially provide Plaintiff with three standard pre-stamped envelopes and that, thereafter, (2) NMCD would enclose a pre-stamped envelope in any response or reply sent to Plaintiff. See id. at 1. The Court adopted Defendants' proposed plan in the September 30, 2011 Order Adopting Postage Plan (“Postage Plan Order”). See doc. 129. At this juncture, the Court also entered its Final Judgment. Doc. 130.

         Approximately five years later, on August 4, 2016, Plaintiff moved to reopen the case and find Defendants in contempt due to their failure to comply with the Postage Plan Order. Doc. 147. The Court declined to reopen the case, but granted Plaintiff's Motion as it pertained to enforcement of the existing Order:

In this case, Plaintiff Trujillo's Motion and the Court record establish the existence of the Court's September 30, 2011 Order, that Defendants have knowledge of that Order, and that Defendants have ceased to comply with the Order. Defendants do not contend that they have continued to comply with the Order or could not comply but, instead, seek to have the Court relieve them of further obligation to comply. The Court finds that Defendants have not complied with the Court's September 30, 2011 Order and will impose a civil-contempt sanction.

Doc. 153 at 5 (internal citations omitted). This Memorandum Opinion and Order alerted Defendants that if they wished to request modification of the injunction, they would be required to file a motion to that effect.

         Defendants subsequently filed their Motion to Vacate or Modify the Postage Plan. Doc. 163. Plaintiff filed a Response arguing against modification of the Postage Plan Order (doc. 167), and Defendants filed a Reply (doc. 169). Pursuant to the Court's Order of Reference (doc. 15), the Magistrate Judge filed his Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition on November 27, 2018. Doc. 171. Defendants timely filed their Objections to the PFRD on December 11, 2018. Doc. 173.


         I. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)

         This prisoner case was referred to the Magistrate Judge to conduct hearings and perform legal analysis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). See doc. 15. Under that referral provision, the Court's standard of review of a magistrate judge's PFRD is de novo. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). When resolving objections to a magistrate judge's PFRD, “[t]he district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to. The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). “[A] party's objections to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation must be both timely and specific to preserve an issue for de novo review by the district court or for appellate review.” United States v. 2121 E. 30th St., 73 F.3d 1057, 1060 (10th Cir. 1996). Moreover, “[i]ssues raised for the first time in objections to the magistrate judge's recommendation are deemed waived.” Marshall v. Chater, 75 F.3d 1421, 1426 (10th Cir. 1996). See also United States v. Garfinkle, 261 F.3d 1030, 1031 (10th Cir. 2001) (“In this circuit, theories raised for the first time in objections to the magistrate judge's report are deemed waived.”)

         In adopting a PFRD, the district court need not “make any specific findings; the district court must merely conduct a de novo review of the record.” Garcia v. City of Albuquerque, 232 F.3d 760, 766 (10th Cir. 2000). “[T]he district court is presumed to know that de novo review is required. Consequently, a brief order expressly stating the court conducted de novo review is sufficient.” Northington v. Marin, 102 F.3d 1564, 1570 (10th Cir. 1996) (citing In re Griego, 64 F.3d at 583-84). “[E]xpress references to de novo review in its order must be taken to mean it properly considered the pertinent portions of the record, absent some clear indication otherwise.” Bratcher v. Bray-Doyle Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 42, 8 F.3d 722, 724 (10th Cir. 1993). A “terse” order containing one sentence for each of the party's “substantive claims, ” which did “not mention his procedural challenges to the jurisdiction of the magistrate to hear the motion, ” was held sufficient. Garcia, 232 F.3d at 766. The Supreme Court has explained that “in providing for a de novo determination rather than de novo hearing, Congress intended to permit whatever reliance a district judge, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, chose to place on a magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations.” United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)) (citing Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 275 (1976)).

         II. Rule 60

          Defendants move the Court to modify or vacate the Postage Plan Order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). Rule 60(b) permits a court to grant “relief from a final judgment, order, or proceeding” on several enumerated grounds. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). It is an “extraordinary” remedy that “may only be granted in exceptional ...

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