United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Vázquez United States District Judge.
MATTER comes before the Court on pro se Plaintiffs Motion to
Impose Civil Contempt Sanctions [Doc. 154]. The Court, having
considered the motion, briefs, and relevant law, and being
otherwise fully informed, finds that the Motion is well-taken
and will be granted.
facts of this case have been repeatedly recited, most
recently in this Court's Order of January 22, 2018. Doc.
174. The Court here reviews only the facts relevant to the
Memorandum Opinion and Order entered on August 3, 2011, this
Court adopted the Report and Recommendations of the
Magistrate Judge in finding that Plaintiff Jesse Trujillo, a
New Mexico prisoner housed in Virginia, was being denied
legal access. 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 its Plan, 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 its September 30,
2011 Order Adopting Postage Plan ("Postage Plan
Order"). Doc. 129. The Court also entered its Final
Judgment. Doc. 130.
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. In a
Memorandum Opinion and Order entered on February 12, 2018
("Contempt Order"), the Court declined to reopen
the case, but granted Plaintiffs motion as it pertained to
enforcement of the Postage Plan Order, holding as follows:
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
Doc. 153 at 5 (internal citations omitted). The Court held
Defendants in contempt for their failure to comply with the
Postage Plan Order, indicated that Defendants could
"purge the contempt by continuing to comply with the
[Postage Plan Order]," and
"DIRECTED [Defendants] to continue to
comply with the postage plan adopted by this Court's
September 30, 2011 Order." Id. At 5, 6. The
Court further directed that, if Defendants wished "to be
relieved of the obligation to comply with the [Postage Plan
Order], they were required to file a motion made in
compliance with the requirements of Rule 60(b)."
Id. at 6.
25, 2018, Plaintiff filed his instant motion, requesting that
the Court impose civil contempt sanctions on Defendants for
their continued failure to comply with the Postage Plan Order
("Motion for Sanctions"). Doc. 154. In his motion,
Plaintiff states that "nearly 3 months have passed since
this Court issued the [Contempt] Order and the Defendants
have made absolutely no effort to comply, by providing
Plaintiff postage free envelopes for him to file grievances
in New Mexico." Id. Plaintiff requests that
this Court impose civil contempt sanctions against Defendants
and order that Defendants return Plaintiff to New Mexico.
failed to timely respond to Plaintiffs Motion for Sanctions,
and on August 1, 2018, Magistrate Judge Gregory B. Wormuth
entered an Order to Respond, ordering that Defendants respond
to Plaintiffs Motion for Sanctions no later than August 14,
2018. Doc. 155. On August 23, 2018, Defendants filed a motion
for an extension of time in which to respond to Plaintiffs
Motion for Sanctions, stating that they did not have notice
of Plaintiff s Motion for Sanctions or the Order to Respond
until August 23, 2018. Doc. 157. On August 24, 2018, Judge
Wormuth granted Defendants' motion for an extension, and
set a deadline of September 4, 2018 for Defendants'
response. Doc. 158. Defendants filed their response on
September 4, 2018, in which they object to Plaintiffs request
for sanctions. Doc. 160.
on October 3, 2018, Defendants filed a motion to vacate the
Postage Plan Order, pursuant to Rule 60 of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure. 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 this
Court's Order of Reference, Judge Wormuth filed his
Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition
("PFRD") on November 27, 2018, recommending that
Defendants' motion be denied. Doc. 171. Defendants filed
objections to the PFRD on December 11, 2018. Doc. 173. In a
Memorandum Opinion and Order dated January 22, 2019
("Order Denying Motion to Vacate"), this Court
overruled Defendants' objections and adopted the PFRD.
Doc. 174. In the Order Denying Motion to Vacate, the Court
found that Defendants failed to meet the standard under Rule
60(b) for several reasons, including the fact that Defendants
"exhibited an exceptional lack of attempting to comply
with the Postage Plan Order." Id. at 11.
Specifically, "[r]ather than filing their Motion for
relief immediately upon determining that compliance was too
arduous, Defendants elected to ignore and defy the
Court's Order. As a result, Defendants have been
non-compliant since at least 2016." Id.
this background, the Court now must determine the merits of
Plaintiff s request that the Court impose civil contempt
sanctions on Defendants for their failure to comply with the
postage plan adopted in the Postage Plan Order and reaffirmed
in the Contempt Order.
district court may exercise broad discretion in using its
contempt power to assure compliance with its orders."
Rodriguez v. IBP, Inc.,243 F.3d 1221, 1231 (10th
Cir. 2001). Civil contempt "is a sanction to enforce
compliance with an order of the court or to compensate for
losses or damages sustained by reason of noncompliance."
Law v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n ("Law
I"),134 F.3d 1438, 1442 (10th Cir. 1998)
(citations omitted). Accordingly, sanctions may be employed
in civil contempt proceedings "for either or both of two
purposes: to coerce the defendant into compliance with the
court's order, and to compensate the complainant for
losses sustained." Id. (citation omitted). If
the purpose is compensatory, "a fine is imposed, payable
to the complainant." Id. (citation omitted).
"Such fine must of course be based upon evidence of
complainant's actual loss." Id. (citation
omitted). "The offending party is punished, but a
critical feature of civil contempt is that "the
punishment is remedial." Id. at 1443 (citation
omitted). Fines may also be imposed if the purpose of the
sanction is coercive, "as long as the offending party
can avoid them by complying with the court's order."
Id.; In re Lucre Mgm 't Group, LLC, 365
F.3d 874, 876 (10th Cir. 2004) ("In civil contempt, the
contemnor is able to purge the contempt and obtain his
release by committing an affirmative act, and thus carries
the keys of his prison in his own pocket.") (citation
omitted); see also ...