United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
Dennis Saylor IV Judge.
1998, plaintiff George Watkins was convicted in the
Massachusetts Superior Court of stalking, assault and
battery, and threats. (Compl. ¶ 22; Def. Ex. 1 at 2-3).
The conviction arose out of an alleged altercation between
Watkins and his former girlfriend, Rose Withers. (Compl.
¶¶ 2, 8(a)). His conviction was later upheld by the
Massachusetts Appeals Court. (Def. Ex. 1 at 1).
1, 2009, Watkins filed a complaint in this Court alleging
various constitutional violations arising out of his arrest
and conviction. (Def. Ex. 3). The Commonwealth of
Massachusetts was the only named defendant, but the complaint
alleged, among other things, that (1) Boston Police Detective
James Farrell omitted information from the application for a
criminal complaint that resulted in Watkins's arrest and
(2) Boston Police Officer Samil Silta presented false
information to the grand jury for the purpose of obtaining an
indictment. (Def. Ex. 3 at 9-14, ¶ 5(a)). On October 13,
2009, the complaint was dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.
August 18, 2016, Watkins filed the complaint in this
action. The complaint again alleges that Detective
Farrell omitted or withheld information from the application
for a criminal complaint and that Officer Silta presented
false information to the grand jury. (Compl. ¶¶ 23,
8(a)). It also alleges that Boston Police Detective Bernard
McCrevan gave perjured testimony at Watkins's trial.
(Compl. ¶ 36). It alleges that the defendants'
conduct violated the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments
by depriving plaintiff of due process of law.
September 20, 2016, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the
complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted. For the reasons stated below, that motion will be
extent that plaintiff's filing is a motion for
reconsideration, that motion will be denied as time-barred.
Motions for reconsideration are generally governed by either
Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) or Rule 60. See Fisher v. Kadant,
Inc., 589 F.3d 505, 511 (1st Cir. 2009). Rule 59(e)
motions to alter or amend a judgment “must be filed no
later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). Rule 60 motions for relief from a
judgment “must be made within a reasonable time.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(c)(1). “What constitutes a reasonable time
depends on the facts of each case, ” including factors
such as “finality, the reason for delay, the practical
ability for the litigant to learn of the grounds relied upon
earlier, and potential prejudice to other parties.”
Johnson v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 626 F. App'x
379, 383 (3d Cir. 2015) (unpublished opinion).
Plaintiff's prior complaint was dismissed on October 13,
2009. Plaintiff filed the motion for reconsideration on
September 20, 2016, nearly seven years later. His motion is
clearly time-barred under Rule 59(e), and, because he has
provided no explanation whatsoever for the seven-year delay,
it was not filed within a reasonable time and is therefore
also time-barred under Rule 60.
extent the filing is a new complaint, it will be dismissed
for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. At a minimum, the claims as to defendants Silta and
Farrell are precluded under the doctrine of claim preclusion,
or res judicata, and all of his claims are barred by
the favorable termination rule set forth in Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).
the doctrine of claim preclusion, “‘a final
judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties [to
that action] or their privies from relitigating issues that
were or could have been raised in that action.'”
Gonzalez v. Banco Cent. Corp., 27 F.3d 751, 755 (1st
Cir. 1994) (quoting Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90,
94 (1980)). The doctrine applies where there is “(1) a
final judgment on the merits in an earlier suit, (2)
sufficient identicality between the causes of action asserted
in the earlier and later suits, and (3) sufficient
identicality between the parties in the two suits.”
first element is satisfied here, as the 2009 complaint was
dismissed on the merits for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. As to the second element, there
is “sufficient identicality” between the causes
of action asserted in both suits, because they arise out of
the same “transaction, or series of connected
transactions” and “derive from a common nucleus
of operative facts.” Id. Both actions arise
out plaintiff's arrest and conviction in 1998. The third
element, identicality between the parties, is satisfied as to
defendants Silta and Farrell, but not defendant McCrevan.
While the caption of the 2009 complaint listed the
Commonwealth as the only defendant, paragraphs five and six
clearly identified Officer Silta and Detective Farrell as
intended defendants. (Def. Ex. 3 at ¶¶ 5-6). As to
McCrevan, who was not named in the 2009 complaint, it is
likely that he is also bound by the Court's prior ruling
under the theory of “adequate representation.”
See Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 900 (2008)
(stating that “[a] party's representation of a
nonparty is ‘adequate' for preclusion purposes only
if, at a minimum: (1) The interests of the nonparty and her
representative are aligned; and (2) either the party
understood herself to be acting in a representative capacity
or the original court took care to protect the interests of
the nonparty.”) (internal citations omitted). However,
there are not sufficient facts in the record to determine
whether the Commonwealth understood itself to be acting as a
representative for other officers and detectives involved in
plaintiff's arrest and conviction, nor did the Court
specifically take action to protect the interests of
nonparties. Therefore, the doctrine of claim preclusion
applies to bar plaintiff's claims against defendants
Silta and Farrell, but it is unclear whether his claims
against defendant McCrevan should also be barred.
event, all of plaintiff's claims are barred by the
favorable termination rule of Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In Heck, the
Supreme Court held that
in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional
conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by
actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or
sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the
conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal,
expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state
tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called
into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of
at 486-87. Here, plaintiff asserts that he was
unconstitutionally arrested and convicted as a result of
defendants' false statements and omissions. He has not,
however, established that his conviction was reversed,
expunged, declared invalid, or called into question. In fact,
his conviction was upheld by the Massachusetts Appeals Court.
See Watkins, 2003 WL 940801 at *5. Plaintiff is
therefore precluded from seeking damages based on the alleged
unconstitutionality of his arrest and