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Stebbins v. State

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division

May 9, 2017

DAVID A. STEBBINS PLAINTIFF
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS and BOONE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT CLERK DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TIMOTHY L. BROOKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff David A. Stebbins has filed a Motion for Reconsideration and to Recuse (Doc. 55) and Brief in Support (Doc. 56). Stebbins seeks reconsideration of the Court's April 14, 2017 Order (Doc. 49) and final Judgment (Doc. 50) dismissing his case. He has also asked the undersigned to recuse. Stebbins is pro se and proceeding in forma pauperis. The dismissal of Stebbins' complaint followed this Court's screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Stebbins' Motion raises one point worthy of further discussion.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion for reconsideration of a final judgment or order may be made pursuant to either Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) or 60(b). "Rule 59(e) motions serve the limited function of correcting manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Lowry ex ret. Crow v. Watson Chapel Sen. Dist, 540 F.3d 752, 761 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting United States v. Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer Dist, 440 F.3d 930, 933 (8th Cir. 2006) (internal citations and quotations omitted)). According to Rule 60(b), a party may be relieved from an order of the Court under certain enumerated circumstances, including the existence of "mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect" or "any other reason that justifies relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1) and (6). Rule 60(b) "provides for extraordinary relief which may be granted only upon an adequate showing of exceptional circumstances." United States v. Young, 806 F.2d 805, 806 (8th Cir. 1986).

         A. Pertinent Facts As Alleged In The Complaint

         When Stebbins filed his federal complaint (Doc. 2), he said the Circuit Clerk of Boone County was in the midst of preventing him from perfecting the complete trial record for an appeal he had filed in the Arkansas Court of Appeals. The state appeal stemmed from a 2012 battery and malicious prosecution lawsuit that Stebbins filed against his own father in the Circuit Court of Boone County, Arkansas.[1] According to the federal complaint in this case, Circuit Judge Russell Rogers signed an order on January 23, 2015, dismissing (at least some of) Stebbins' claims.[2] According to Stebbins, the Boone County Circuit Clerk intentionally removed Judge Rogers' January 23rd (partial) dismissal order from the official court file as she was preparing the record on appeal. Stebbins included his own copy of the order with the addendum to his appeal brief, but the Arkansas Court of Appeals refused to consider the order-unless it was contained in the record on appeal, and therefore the Court of Appeals directed the Circuit Clerk to correct the deficiency. According to Stebbins, the Circuit Clerk failed to timely supplement the record-thus making her liable for a violation of Stebbins' federal rights. The State of Arkansas is liable too-Stebbins' theory continues-because as the Circuit Clerk's employer, it failed to enforce the Court of Appeals' order to supplement.[3]

         For background purposes, Stebbins recites numerous federal lawsuits that he has filed in previous years under the American with Disabilities Act. Then-quoting excerpts from orders Judge Rogers entered in June and July 2015 (i.e., six months after the date of the missing dismissal order), [4]-Stebbins surmises that Judge Rogers harbors personal animosity towards Stebbins because of his litigation history.[5] According to Stebbins, Judge Rogers "hates [Stebbins], and was ruling against [him], regardless of the facts or law, just for that reason alone." (Doc. 2, ¶ 21). With this in mind, Stebbins draws the conclusion that the Circuit Clerk and the State of Arkansas are liable to him because "we can reasonably assume that [the defendant's] actions are similarly motivated." Id. at ¶ 23.

         Next, Stebbins explains that the defendants' failure to timely supplement the record has resulted in unnecessary delays in the resolution of his appeal, which in turn has proximately caused him damages in the sum of $11, 000, 000.00 (the value Stebbins assigns to his state court causes of action), [6] plus post-judgment interest (that would have accrued on such an award) in the sum of $3, 013.70 per day, backdated to October 7, 2016. Id. at ¶ 39. Stebbins also seeks an injunction that would require "the State of Arkansas to never again retaliate against [him]." Id. at ¶ 37.

         In an Amended Complaint that Stebbins sought to file (Doc. 41), he provides an update on the missing order. "It has recently surfaced . . . that the [missing order] was never in fact filed in the Circuit Court in the first place." Id. at¶4. (Thus explaining why the Circuit Clerk did not include it as part of the official record on appeal). Now swapping horses, Stebbins contends that Judge Rogers "purposely pretended to issue an order in a civil case when he really didn't." Id. at ¶ 28(a). This was "almost certainly motivated by my litigation history." Id. at ¶ 16. In Stebbins' view, this makes Judge Rogers liable for "First Amendment retaliation, " a claim he specifically seeks to bring pursuant to §1983. Id. at ¶ 23.[7]

         In summary, the logic of Stebbins' allegations goes something like this: (1) he has been the victim of past instances of disability discrimination, (2) for which he has previously filed many federal lawsuits seeking redress under the ADA, (3) the cumulative effect of which has resulted in him being viewed with personal animus and disdain by nearly every state law enforcement official that he has encountered since 2010, and (4) therefore any legal circumstance, ruling, or outcome that Stebbins perceives to be adverse, (5) gives rise to a claim for retaliation under the ADA.

         B. This Court's Screening Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)

         For the reasons explained in greater detail in its Memorandum Opinion and Order (Doc. 49), this Court screened Stebbins' complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2), and dismissed the case with prejudice. Observing that the defendants were immune from such suits, the Court found that the complaint failed to state a cause of action under § 1983, and that the claims were otherwise frivolous and without merit.

         C. Stebbins' Motion for Reconsideration

         Stebbins' Motion for Reconsideration and Brief in Support (Docs. 55 and 56) alleges many superfluous and impertinent bases for reconsideration, which this Court need not address. However, the Court does find one contention in particular to be worthy of greater explanation. Stebbins argues that it was error for the Court to construe his complaint as one seeking relief pursuant to § 1983. Stebbins insists that his claims were not premised on constitutional violations, but rather unlawful retaliation ...


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