United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS' RULE 59(E)
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
and Marcieli Bauersachs (“Plaintiffs”) brought
claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of
their due process rights by Associate Justices of the
Massachusetts Appeals Court Gregory I. Massing, John C.
Englander, and Eric Neyman (“Defendants”). [ECF
No. 1 (“Complaint” or “Compl.”)]. On
May 1, 2019, the Court dismissed the Complaint. [ECF No. 14].
Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion
to alter or amend the Court's judgment pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) and for leave to file
an amended complaint (“Rule 59(e) Motion”). [ECF
No. 17]. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs'
Rule 59(e) Motion [ECF No. 17] is DENIED.
Court summarizes the pertinent facts as alleged in the
Complaint. Plaintiffs were defendants in two no-fault
summary process eviction actions that were consolidated and
resolved through a jury trial held in Massachusetts Housing
Court (“Housing Court”) on October 23, 2017.
[Compl. ¶ 1]. On October 24, 2017, the Housing Court
entered judgment against Plaintiffs. [Id. ¶ 2].
Plaintiffs filed post-trial motions on October 30, 2017 and
filed a notice of appeal on November 2, 2017. [Id.;
ECF No. 12-1 at 3]. On November 16, 2017, the Housing Court
denied Plaintiffs' post-trial motions. [ECF No. 12-1 at
3]. On November 20, 2018, a panel of the Massachusetts
Appeals Court (“Appeals Court”), dismissed the
appeal without a hearing because “the tenants did not
file a timely notice of appeal.” [Compl. ¶ 3; ECF
No. 12-1 at 3]. Defendants were the Associates Justices on
the Appeals Court panel. [Compl. ¶ 3].
February 15, 2019, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint alleging
that the panel's dismissal of their appeal violated their
due process rights and seeking injunctive and declaratory
relief. See [id. ¶¶ 3, 7]. On
April 11, 2019, Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint,
and Plaintiffs opposed dismissal on April 25, 2019. [ECF Nos.
11, 13]. On May 1, 2019, the Court granted the motion to
dismiss. [ECF No. 14]. The Court found that it lacked
jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine,
which provides that “federal district courts lack
jurisdiction over ‘federal complaints . . . [that]
essentially invite federal courts of first instance to
review and reverse unfavorable state-court
judgments.'” See Bauersachs v. Massing,
No. 19-cv-10295-ADB, 2019 WL 1961077, at *2-3 (D. Mass. May
1, 2019). The Court did not reach the question of Eleventh
Amendment immunity, which shields public officials from suits
seeking money damages, because Plaintiffs denied that the
Complaint sought money damages. Id. at *3 n.4. The
Court denied leave to file an amended complaint because
application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine meant
that any amendment to the Complaint would be futile.
Id. at *3-4.
10, 2019, Plaintiffs timely filed the instant Rule 59(e)
Motion. [ECF No. 17]; see Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). On
July 31, 2019, the Court ordered Defendants to respond to the
pending motion, and on August 13, 2019, Defendants filed an
opposition brief. [ECF Nos. 19, 20].
Rule 59(e), “relief is granted sparingly, and only when
‘the original judgment evidenced a manifest error of
law, if there is newly discovered evidence, or in certain
other narrow situations.'” Biltcliffe v.
CitiMortgage, Inc., 772 F.3d 925, 930 (1st Cir. 2014)
(quoting Global Naps, Inc. v. Verizon New England,
Inc., 489 F.3d 13, 25 (1st Cir. 2007)). For instance,
“a motion for reconsideration should be granted if the
court ‘has patently misunderstood a party . . . or has
made an error not of reasoning but apprehension.'”
Ruiz Rivera v. Pfizer Pharm., LLC, 521 F.3d 76, 82
(1st Cir. 2008) (quoting Sandoval Diaz v. Sandoval
Orozco, No. 01-cv-01022, 2005 WL 1501672, at *2 (D.P.R.
June 24, 2005)). In “rare” circumstances,
district courts in this Circuit have recognized that a Rule
59(e) motion may be granted “to prevent manifest
injustice.” Trinidad v. City of Bos., No.
07-cv-11679-DPW, 2011 WL 915338, at *3 (D. Mass. Mar. 15,
2011) (quoting Rodriguez-García w.
Miranda-Marín, 610 F.3d 736, 774 (1st Cir.
2010)). The situations in which courts allow reconsideration
are “narrowly configured and seldom invoked, ”
United States v. Connell, 6 F.3d 27, 31 (1st Cir.
1993), because reconsideration is “an extraordinary
remedy which should be used sparingly, ” Palmer v.
Champion Mortg., 465 F.3d 24, 30 (1st Cir. 2006)
(quoting 11 Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and
Procedure § 2810 (2d ed. 1995)). Ultimately,
“[t]he Court has ‘substantial discretion and
broad authority to grant or deny' a motion for
reconsideration” made pursuant to Rule 59(e).
Provanzano v. Parker View Farm, Inc., 827 F.Supp.2d
53, 57 (D. Mass. 2011) (quoting Ruiz Rivera, 521
F.3d at 81).
first argue that there has been “an extraordinary
development” meriting reconsideration because Rule 11
of the Massachusetts Uniform Rules of Summary Process was
formally amended by the Supreme Judicial Court in its April
10, 2019 decision in Adjartey v. Central Division of the
Housing Court Department, 120 N.E.3d 297, 323 (Mass.
2019). [ECF No. 18 at 3, 5-6]. Adjartey clarifies
that Rule 11 “incorrectly states that the running of
time for appeal in summary process actions is not affected by
the filing of a motion under Rule 60” and observes that
a tenant reading the commentary to Rule 11 could incorrectly
believe that a Rule 60 motion would not affect the timeline
for an appeal. 120 N.E.3d at 323 n.20 (internal quotation
marks omitted). Defendants respond that a state court
decision and commentary to the Uniform Rules of Summary
Process is not “newly discovered evidence” under
Rule 59(e). [ECF No. 20 at 2]. Defendants further assert that
this “evidence” was available to Plaintiffs
before the Court entered judgment on May 1, 2019 and does not
warrant altering or amending the judgment. [Id.].
The Court agrees that the case law Plaintiffs present was
available prior to the filing of their opposition brief and
the Court's entry of judgment and does not constitute
“newly discovered evidence” meriting
reconsideration under Rule 59.
Plaintiffs contend that the alleged constitutional violation
they seek redress from is “independent from any and all
state court judgments to date and so the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not apply.” [ECF
No. 17 at 1]; see also [ECF No. 18 at 9 (“The
question of law in Claim #1 alleges a constitutional
violation entirely independent of any prior state court
decision.”), 14 (stating that only a narrow portion of
the Complaint “ran afoul of
Rooker-Feldman”)]. As Defendants ably
articulate in response,
According to Plaintiffs, the issue before this Court is
whether the Defendants violated their constitutional rights
by failing to expressly address if Mass. R. App. P. 4(a)
superseded Mass. G. L. c. 239, § 5, in making their
determination that Plaintiffs' notice of appeal from the
[H]ousing [C]ourt to the Appeals Court was untimely. But,
contrary to Plaintiffs' assertions, this Court cannot
find that the Defendants violated Plaintiffs'
constitutional rights . . . without also concluding that the
Appeals Court erred in finding that the Plaintiffs'
notice of appeal was untimely. . . . Plaintiffs' federal
suit is therefore necessarily aimed at undoing the final
state-court decision, which is barred by
[ECF No. 20 at 2-3 (citations omitted)]. Because Plaintiffs
seek reversal of the Appeals Court's order dismissing
their appeal as untimely, it was neither a manifest error of
law nor manifestly unjust for the Court to dismiss the
Complaint and deny any amendment as futile because any such
claim is ...