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Cox v. Massachusetts Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 10, 2019

WILLIAM COX, Plaintiff,
v.
MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO RECONSIDER

          F. Dennis Saylor, IV United States District Judge.

         This is an action brought by a mentally-disabled state prisoner asserting claims under the Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. Plaintiff William Cox brought this action against defendant the Massachusetts Department of Corrections (“DOC”) contending that he was the victim of discrimination on the basis of disability. Among other things, Cox contended that he was denied adequate access to (1) procedures to obtain medical care, (2) procedures to report and resolve grievances, (3) procedures to report physical or sexual assaults, and (4) use of telephones. After a trial, a jury found in his favor on those claims, and awarded him money damages.[1] The jury also awarded pre-judgment interest.

         Cox then moved for an order awarding attorneys' fees, litigation costs, and other expenses pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12205. On May 10, 2019, that motion was granted in part and denied in part.

         On May 16, 2019, the Court entered judgment in favor of Cox against the DOC in the amount of $201, 000, plus attorneys' fees in the amount of $405, 077.50 and $5, 039.37 in costs. The Court furthered ordered that post-judgment interest would accrue at the rate of 2.32% per annum. The Court, however, neglected to include the award of pre-judgment interest.

         On June 11, 2019, Cox moved pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(a) to correct the judgment to reflect the jury's award of pre-judgment interest. On June 12, 2019, the Court granted the motion, and entered an amended judgment with the additional award of pre-judgment interest, calculated from the date of filing of the complaint until the date of the judgment, at an interest rate of 2.32%.

         On July 19, 2019, 64 days after the entry of judgment, and 37 days after the entry of amended judgment, the DOC filed a motion to correct the amended judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(a). As ground for that motion, it contended that the Commonwealth is immune from post-judgment interest under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The Court, however, erroneously understood the DOC's contention to be that the Commonwealth was immune from pre-judgment interest. On July 26, 2019, based in part on that misunderstanding, the Court denied the DOC's motion.

         On July 31, 2019, the DOC filed the present motion to reconsider pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(a). Rule 60(a) provides, in relevant part, that “[t]he court may correct a clerical mistake or a mistake arising from oversight or omission whenever one is found in a judgment, order, or other part of the record. The court may do so on motion or on its own, with or without notice.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(a).

         The DOC contends that “[u]nlike pre-judgment interest awarded by the jury, post-judgment interest was never the subject of discussion in this litigation, and required no legal analysis or judicial rulings, ” and that post-judgment interest was automatically included in the judgment “as a matter of course, as it is in all civil actions, ” pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1961.[2] And it further contends that because the inclusion of post-judgment interest was “by federal statute automatic, ” or an “unconditional statutory right, ” it was therefore a ministerial, not a discretionary, act, and thus correctable under Rule 60(a). See Scola v. Boat Frances R., Inc., 618 F.2d 147, 153 (1st Cir. 1980); Paddington Partners v. Bouchard, 34 F.3d 1132, 1141 (2d Cir. 1994).

         In the alternative, the DOC has moved for relief from the amended judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). Rule 60(b) provides, in relevant part, that

[o]n motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons:
(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; [or]
. . .
(4) the judgment is void . . ...

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