United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
NICHOLAS G. BELEZOS, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
BOARD OF SELECTMEN of Hingham, Massachusetts, in their official capacity, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: PLAINTIFF BELEZOS'
MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION OF MARCH 29, 2019 ORDER (DOCKET
ENTRY # 26)
MARIANNE B. BOWLER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Nicholas G. Belezos, on behalf of himself and all others
similarly situated, (“plaintiff”) seeks
reconsideration of a March 29, 2019 Memorandum and Order
(Docket Entry # 22) “on the basis of manifest errors of
law and manifest injustice.” (Docket Entry # 26). As to
the state law claims, he submits this court
“erroneously overlooked the controlling Massachusetts
law of claim preclusion (res judicata), in particular the law
of ‘appellate disregard' as enunciated in”
Springfield Preservation Trust, Inc. v.
Springfield Library and Museums Ass'n, Inc., 852
N.E.2d 83 (Mass. 2006) (“Springfield
Trust”). (Docket Entry # 26, pp. 1,
4-6). As to the substantive due process claims,
plaintiff argues this court “misapprehended and
erroneously distinguished Limone, Kennie,
and Rose I & II, erroneously overlooked
Sharpe, and erroneously relied upon Zotos I
& II.” (Docket Entry # 26, pp. 1, 7-21).
With respect to the procedural due process claim, plaintiff
asserts this court “erroneously overlooked the
Mathews balancing test.” (Docket Entry # 26,
pp. 1, 21-22). Defendants Board of Selectmen of the Town of
Hingham (“defendants”), sued in their official
capacity, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly
situated, disagree. (Docket Entry # 29).
standard to warrant reconsideration is difficult to meet.
See Mulero-Abreu v. Puerto Rico Police Dep't,
675 F.3d 88, 95 (1st Cir. 2012). One means to succeed is for
a movant to “‘demonstrate . . . that the
rendering court committed a manifest error of
law.'” Id. at 94; see Villanueva v.
United States, 662 F.3d 124, 128 (1st Cir. 2011)
(“[r]econsideration may be proper where the movant
shows a manifest error of law . . . or where the district
court has misunderstood a party or made an error of
apprehension”); Ruiz Rivera v. Pfizer Pharm.,
LLC, 521 F.3d 76, 82 (1st Cir. 2008) (reconsideration
appropriate when “‘movant shows a manifest error
of law'” or “if the court ‘has patently
misunderstood a party or has made an error not of reasoning
but apprehension'”) (internal ellipses omitted);
accord United States v. Allen, 573 F.3d 42, 53 (1st
Cir. 2009) (reconsideration appropriate “if there has
been an intervening change in the law, or if the movant can
demonstrate that the original decision was based on a
manifest error of law or was clearly unjust”);
Ellis v. United States, 313 F.3d 636, 648 (1st Cir.
2002) (reconsideration “warranted if there has been a
material change in controlling law” or “manifest
injustice”). As indicated, the existence of a manifest
injustice also provides a basis for reconsideration.
Ellis v. United States, 313 F.3d at 648; see
Christianson v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 486 U.S.
800, 817 (1988) (“court has the power to revisit prior
decisions . . ., although as a rule courts should be loathe
to do so in the absence of extraordinary circumstances such
as where the initial decision was ‘clearly erroneous
and would work a manifest injustice'”). The
manifest injustice exception “requires a definite and
firm conviction that a prior ruling on a material matter is
unreasonable or obviously wrong, ” Ellis, 313
F.3d at 648, “‘as well as a finding of
prejudice.'” United States v.
Garcia-Ortiz, 792 F.3d 184, 190-91 (1st Cir. 2015)
(quoting United States v. Wallace, 573 F.3d 82, 89
(1st Cir. 2009), in parenthetical), cert. denied,
138 S.Ct. 694 (Jan. 8, 2018).
is not an appropriate means “to advance arguments that
could and should have been presented to the district court
prior to its original ruling.” Villanueva v. United
States, 662 F.3d at 128; accord United States v.
Allen, 573 F.3d at 53. Finally, this court has
considerable discretion in adjudicating a motion for
reconsideration. See Harlow v. Children's Hosp.,
432 F.3d 50, 56 (1st Cir. 2005) (“district court was
not barred from reconsidering the prior decision; at most we
review the decision to reconsider only for a particularly
egregious abuse of discretion”); accord Ray v.
Ropes & Gray LLP, 799 F.3d 99, 109 n.3 (1st Cir.
2015) (even if “law of the case doctrine applied to the
court's interlocutory order, we would ‘review the
decision to reconsider only for a particularly egregious
abuse of discretion'”) (quoting Harlow v.
Children's Hosp., 432 F.3d at 55); Karter v.
Pleasant View Gardens, Inc., 323 F.Supp.3d 179, 181 (D.
Mass. 2018) (court “has substantial discretion to grant
or deny a motion for reconsideration”).
initially seeks reconsideration of the “state
claims” (counts I to III) because this court overlooked
the controlling precedent of Springfield Trust.
(Docket Entry # 26, pp. 1, 4-6). He correctly indicates
(Docket Entry # 26, p. 4) that this court dismissed the
individual state law claims based on claim preclusion (Docket
Entry # 22, § A and p. 41).
decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
(“SJC”) in Springfield Trust, 852 N.E.2d
at 91, sets out a strikingly similar procedural fact pattern
and arrives at a conclusion different from this court on the
third element of claim preclusion in the context of an
appeal. See generally RFF Family P'ship, LP v.
Ross, 814 F.3d 520, 531-32 (1st Cir. 2016) (setting out
the three required elements of claim preclusion under
Massachusetts law, including third element, i.e., existence
of “‘prior final judgment on the
merits'”) (internal citation omitted).
reasons largely expressed by plaintiff (Docket Entry # 26,
pp. 5-6), this court has a firm conviction that its decision
finding that claim preclusion applied as to the third
element, notwithstanding a decision by the Massachusetts
Appeals Court (“MAC”) affirming the lower court
in plaintiff's state court proceeding,  constitutes a
manifest error of law as well as a manifest injustice
sufficient to warrant reconsideration. The MAC affirmed the
lower court's ruling on a procedural basis and found it
“unnecessary to reach the merits of Belezos's
claims.” (Docket Entry # 8-8, p. 4). Whereas the lower
court decided the claims on the merits and entered a final
judgment (Docket Entry # 8-7), the MAC decided the matter on
a procedural ground based on a waiver without reaching the
merits (Docket Entry # 8-8). The Springfield Trust
decision, which this court regretfully overlooked, is
controlling, involves similar procedural facts, and is
dispositive of the judgment-on-the-merits element of claim
preclusion regarding appellate disregard in Massachusetts.
See, e.g., Poirier v. Mass. Dep't
of Corr., 186 F.Supp.3d 66, 68-69 (D. Mass. 2016)
(reconsidering and reversing prior statute of limitations
ruling because “DOC brings my attention to a First
Circuit decision . . . which is dispositive of the timeliness
issue with regard to Plaintiff's federal claim”)
(citation omitted), aff'd, No. 16-1587 (1st Cir.
Feb. 22, 2018), cert. denied, No. 18-5401 (Nov. 19,
specifically, the SJC in Springfield Trust addressed
claim preclusion in the context of a prior case in which a
lower court found an ordinance valid, followed by the appeals
court affirming the judgment “on procedural
grounds.” Springfield Trust, 852
N.E.2d at 91. The procedural grounds consisted of a failure
to join a necessary party and a failure to “notify the
Attorney General of the suit, as required” under a
state statute. Id. at 417, n.11. On appeal in the
prior case, the MAC “specifically stated that it did
‘not reach the other questions raised.'”
Id. at 417 (internal citation omitted). Based on
these procedural facts, the SJC refused to apply claim
preclusion to the lower court's initial decision on the
merits because the MAC decided the matter on procedural
grounds. Id. at 91.
While the lower court had addressed the merits of the
trust's claim, the case was ultimately decided on other
grounds having nothing to do with the merits (see note 11,
supra). “It is settled . . . that no
[preclusive] effect can be attributed to a decree dismissing
a bill or petition in equity, for want of jurisdiction or any
other cause not involving the essential merits of the
controversy.” Curley v. Curley, 311 Mass. 61,
66, 40 N.E.2d 272 (1942).
Springfield Trust, 852 N.E.2d at 91; see In re
Sonus Networks, Inc., 499 F.3d 47, 59 (1st Cir.
2007) (quoting above language in Springfield Trust
quoting Curley v. Curley, 40 N.E.2d 272, 274 (Mass.
presented the appellate disregard argument in his initial
brief by quoting Sonus Networks' quotation of
Springfield Trust. (Docket Entry # 15, p. 20). This
court entirely overlooked the Springfield Trust
decision and focused on In re Baylis, 217 F.3d 66,
71 (1st Cir. 2000), another decision cited in plaintiff's
brief, as well as the lower court's merits-based decision
in plaintiff's state court proceeding, Belezos v.
Board of Selectmen of the Town of Hingham, Civil Action
No. PLCV2014-01018B. (Docket Entry # 22, pp. 26-29). Further,
whereas this court cited to a case involving issue
preclusion that addressed the preclusive effect of an
appellate court's decision affirming on a procedural
ground a lower court's merits-based decision (Docket
Entry # 22, pp. 28-29), this court did not address or cite a
Massachusetts case involving claim preclusion with a
similar procedural fact pattern involving an appeal of a
lower court's decision resting on a singular ground
rather than alternative grounds. The SJC's decision in
Springfield Trust, however, addresses this fact
pattern and finds no preclusive effect. Refusing to
reconsider the unreasonable ruling, which overlooked
Springfield and reached a diametrically opposite
result, will work a manifest injustice result on plaintiff.
See Ellis v. United States, 313 F.3d at 648 &
n.5 (recognizing “a meaningful difference between an
arguably erroneous ruling . . . and an unreasonable ruling
that paves the way for a manifestly unjust result”).
Accordingly, in this court's discretion and based on a
manifest error of law or, alternatively, the existence of
manifest injustice, see United States v. Carta, 690
F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2012) (“‘manifest injustice
requires a definite and firm conviction that a prior ruling
is unreasonable or obviously wrong and a finding of
prejudice'”) (internal brackets, citation, and
ellipses omitted); Ellis v. United States, 313 F.3d
at 648 (manifest injustice “requires a definite and
firm conviction that a prior ruling on a material matter is
unreasonable or obviously wrong” and prejudice),
reconsideration is appropriate and the motion to reconsider
(Docket Entry # 26) is allowed as to the state law claims.
See Poirier v. Mass. Dep't of Corr., 186
F.Supp.3d at 68-69; see also DeGrandis v. Children's
Hosp. Boston, Civil Action No. 14-10416-FDS, 2015 WL
1959433, at *4, *6 (D. Mass. Apr. 30, 2015) (allowing motion
to reconsider because court previously and erroneously
concluded memorandum of agreement was “a repudiation,
” First Circuit law does not consider such
“last-chance agreements . . . to be a form of
repudiation, ” and court incorrectly determined claim
was “straight breach-of-contract claim rather than a
‘hybrid' claim under the LMRA”). The
reconsideration of the state law claims (counts I to III)
leads to their inclusion as claims in this case and no longer