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Trujillo v. Williams

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

January 7, 2020

JESSE TRUJILLO, Plaintiff,
v.
JOE WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Martha Vázquez United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion Pursuant to Rule 60 Fed.R.Civ.P. to Modify April 18, 2019 Opinion and Order [Doc. 182]. 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.

         BACKGROUND

         In a 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.

         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. In a Memorandum Opinion and Order entered on February 12, 2018 (“Contempt Order”), the Court declined to reopen the case, but granted Plaintiff's 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 civil-contempt sanction.

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.

         On May 25, 2018, Plaintiff filed a 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 stated that “nearly 3 months [had] passed since this Court issued the [Contempt] Order and the Defendants [had] made absolutely no effort to comply, by providing Plaintiff postage free envelopes for him to file grievances in New Mexico.” Id. Plaintiff requested that this Court impose civil contempt sanctions against Defendants and order that Defendants return Plaintiff to New Mexico. Id.

         Defendants failed to timely respond to Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions, and on August 1, 2018, Magistrate Judge Gregory B. Wormuth entered an Order to Respond, ordering that Defendants respond to Plaintiff's 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 Plaintiff's 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 objected to Plaintiff's request for sanctions. Doc. 160.

         Thereafter, 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 opposed the request. 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. Defendants appealed the Order Denying Motion to Vacate, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed, finding “that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendants' Rule 60(b) motion.” Trujillo v. Lucero, __ Fed.Appx. __, 2019 WL 4879802, at *2 (10th Cir. Oct. 3, 2019).

         On April 18, 2019, the Court entered a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions (“Second Contempt Order”). Doc. 182. In the Second Contempt Order, the Court noted that Plaintiff represented, and Defendants did not contest, that, despite the Contempt Order specifically directing them to comply with the Postage Plan Order, Defendants had failed to provide him with postage-free envelopes in accordance with the Postage Plan Order. Id. at 5. Because Defendants had not complied with its orders, the Court found that it had discretion to use its contempt power to coerce Defendants' compliance with the Contempt Order and Postage Plan Order and to compensate Plaintiff for any losses that he sustained by reason of Defendants' noncompliance with those orders. Id. at 7. The Court ordered Defendants to provide Plaintiff with 200 forever stamps and 200 blank envelopes no later than May 13, 2019. Id. at 9. The Court further ordered that, if Defendants failed to comply with this directive, they would be required not only to provide Plaintiff with 200 forever stamps and 200 blank envelopes, but also to pay a fine of $1, 000 to Plaintiff. Id.

         Thereafter, on April 23, 2019, Defendants filed the instant motion to modify the Second Contempt Order (“Motion to Modify”). Doc. 183. In the Motion to Modify, Defendants do not ask the Court to alter its award of sanctions, but rather ask the Court only to modify the language in the Second Contempt Order “to acknowledge the Defendants' efforts since 2018 to comply with the Postage Plan Order.” Id. at 9. Plaintiff opposes the Motion to Modify. Doc. 185.

         DISCUSSION

         In their Motion to Modify, Defendants contend that the Court “overlooked that Defendants have been regularly supplying Plaintiff with postage-paid envelopes since August 2018, ” and that as a result, “the Court should exercise its authority to amend the [Second Contempt Order] to accurate reflect the record of Defendants' compliance efforts.” Id. at 1, 9. Defendants characterize their ...


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