from the United States District Court for the District of New
Mexico (D.C. No. 1:10-CV-00553-JB-DJS)
J. Villa, The Law Office of Ryan J. Villa, Albuquerque, New
Mexico, for the Plaintiff-Appellant.
A. Roman, Robles, Rael & Anaya, P.C., Albuquerque, New
Mexico, for the Defendants-Appellees.
BRISCOE, MATHESON, and BACHARACH, Circuit Judges.
BACHARACH, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
appeal grew out of a dilemma for the district court: How was
it to resolve the tension between the desire to correct what
it saw as a prior error and constraints on the court's
power to rule on repetitive motions? The dilemma arose from a
second motion to alter or amend a civil judgment under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e).
defendants ultimately filed two motions based on this rule,
but they were decided by different judges. After the first
judge denied the first motion, he retired and the court
reassigned the case to another judge. The defendants then
filed their second motion, reurging or elaborating on what
they had argued in their prior motion. This time, the second
judge granted the motion. But the motion as presented was an
improper Rule 59(e) motion because it had simply rehashed
arguments from the first motion. Because the motion was
improper, the district court erred in granting it. We
The district court denies the defendants' first motion
under Rule 59(e).
case involved excessive force claims brought by Mr. Tony
Nelson. The case went to trial, and the jury returned a
verdict for the defendants. Mr. Nelson then moved for
judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(b). The district
court granted this motion, concluding that no reasonable jury
could find for the defendants.
defendants responded with a motion to alter or amend the
judgment under Rule 59(e), arguing that (1) the trial
evidence supported a defense verdict and (2) the officers
were entitled to qualified immunity. The district court
rejected both arguments, concluding that the defendants were
not entitled to relief under Rule 59(e). So the court entered
judgment for Mr. Nelson.
the entry of this judgment, the defendants moved for judgment
as a matter of law under Rule 50(b), seeking reinstatement of
the verdict. The defendants again argued that (1) the verdict
was supported by sufficient evidence and (2) the officers
were entitled to qualified immunity.
The case is reassigned, and the newly assigned judge grants
the defendants' second motion under Rule 59(e).
the district court issued a decision, the case was reassigned
to another judge. This judge denied the defendants' Rule
50(b) motion based on two conclusions:
1. Rule 50(b) did not allow the court to undo the grant of
judgment to Mr. Nelson.
2. The officers had failed to preserve their arguments for