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Lebaron v. Massachusetts Partnership For Correctional Health

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

August 31, 2017

NATHAN MARQUIS LEBARON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MASSACHUSETTS PARTNERSHIP FOR CORRECTIONAL HEALTH, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PATTI B. SARIS, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Stephen Jones, proceeding pro se, has filed a Motion for Court to Reinstate Plaintiff's Complaint, which the Court has construed as a motion under Rule 60(b) for relief from this Court's order of June 14, 2017 dismissing this action for failure to prosecute under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 41(b). For reasons that follow, the case will be reopened.

         BACKGROUND

         Stephen Jones, an inmate in custody at MCI Norfolk, initiated this civil rights action with another inmate [Nathan LeBaron] and a non-profit corporation [Church of the Firstborn Kahal Hab'Cor] against various prison medical and administrative staff, and others, alleging the denial of adequate drinking water. See Docket No. 1. It is alleged that consumption of contaminated water conflicts with plaintiffs' access to a religious diet as prescribed by their Church and that the water treatment methods present a health risk to Jones, who received a transplanted liver. Id.

         Lebaron's motion to proceed in forma pauperis was denied pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) and the Church was granted additional time for counsel to enter an appearance. See Docket No. 8. Notwithstanding the fact that he did not file a copy of his prison account statement, Jones' motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted and the Court deferred the assessment of the filing fee until the Court received a copy of Jones' certified prison account statement. Id. At that time, plaintiffs' emergency motion was denied and the Court requested a Status Report regarding Jones' medications, bunk assignment and access to distilled drinking water. Id.

         Summons were issued for service of the four defendants identified in the complaint. See Docket No. 9. Jones was advised that that he may elect to have the United States Marshals Service complete service on his behalf. See Docket Nos. 8, 9-1.

         A timely status report was filed by DOC counsel, who entered a limited appearance. See Docket Nos. 13, 14. The Court denied Jones' subsequent motion for reconsideration of the denial of the emergency motion. See Docket No. 16. At that time, Jones was directed to submit a copy of his prison account statement. Id.

         On May 5, 2017, the Clerk terminated Nathan LeBaron and CFB as parties to this action. See Docket No. 16. Jones was granted until May 31, 2017, to submit a certified copy of his prison account statement, see 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(b)(1)-(2), for assessment and collection of filing fee payments when funds exist. Id.

         In the affidavit accompanying the motion to reopen, Jones avers, among other things, that he became “very sick” during the months of February and March and, on April 2, 2017, was transported by ambulance to Norwood Hospital. See Docket No. 19-1. A week later, Jones was transferred to UMass Medical Center for surgery on his right lung. Id. Before returning to MCI Norfolk on May 18, 2017, he remained hospitalized at various placements including the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital and the prison infirmary at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center. Id. After bring brought to UMass Medical Center on July 5, 2017, Jones was “cleared.” Id. At that time, he received his legal mail, including the Court's May 5, 2017 Order and the April 10, 2017 Status Report. Id. Jones notes that the April 10, 2017 Status Report, see Docket No. 13-11, includes a copy of his prison account statement. See Docket No. 19.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Motion for Court to Reinstate Plaintiff's Complaint

         The Court must liberally construe the motion because Jones is not represented by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Rodi v. Ventetuolo, 941 F.2d 22, 23 (1st Cir. 1991); see also Strahan v. Coxe, 127 F.3d 155, 158 n. 1 (1st Cir. 1997) (noting obligation to construe pro se pleadings liberally) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. at 520)).

         While the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly allow for motions to reinstate, a litigant subject to an adverse judgment, and who seeks reconsideration by the district court of that adverse judgment, may file a motion under either Rule 59(e) (motion to alter or amend judgment) or Rule 60(b) (relief from judgment). A motion to alter or amend the judgment must be filed within twenty-eight days after the judgment is entered. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes a court to grant a party relief from a prior final judgment for certain enumerated reasons.[1] Rule 60(c)(1) provides a one year limitation period “for reasons (1), (2) and (3) [of Rule 60(b) ]” and there is no time limitation for a motion brought under Rule 60(b)(6). Cotto v. United States, 993 F.2d 274, 278 (1st Cir. 1993).

         Jones' motion was signed on July 20, 2017 and filed with the Court on July 26, 2017. Even if the court construed the filing under the prison mailbox rule of Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 276 (1988), the earliest the Court would find the motion filed is July 20, 2017, which is more than a week after the 28 day time limit under Rule 59(e). Twenty-eight days after final judgment entered on June 14, 2017, would be ...


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