This appeal concerns the district court's dismissal of and subsequent refusal to reconsider plaintiffs-appellants' 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against two law enforcement officials of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
On March 25, 1993, appellees Sonia Otero-Martinez, Assistant District Attorney of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and Diana Crispin-Reyes, a Commonwealth of Puerto Rico police officer, filed criminal charges against appellant Carlos Yamil Aybar for the commission of sexual misconduct, based on the allegations of a witness named Emily Rivera. On April 29, 1993, officer Crispin-Reyes visited Aybar's place of employment, Wometco of Puerto Rico, and informed Aybar's superiors of the charges against him. Wometco subsequently terminated Aybar's employment. According to Aybar, his termination resulted from Crispin-Reyes' visit to Wometco. On July 13, 1993, appellant Maria I. Morales-Laboy, Aybar's then girlfriend and future wife who also was a Wometco employee, resigned from her position at Wometco citing as the cause of her resignation harassment from co-workers concerning the charges against Aybar. On July 1, 1994, the district court of Puerto Rico dismissed all charges against Aybar.
On July 1, 1994, Aybar and Morales-Laboy filed a complaint in federal district court naming numerous defendants and deriving from the prosecution of Aybar and his subsequent termination of employment. The complaint charged Otero-Martinez and Crispin-Reyes with violations of the Federal Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, allegedly for malicious prosecution of Aybar, violation of Aybar's right not to be subject to defamation, and infringement of his right to secure employment. Morales-Laboy alleged a continuous tort and, with Aybar, injury to their conjugal relationship, both stemming from the alleged violations of Aybar's civil rights. Aybar and Morales-Laboy also named the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Pedro Rossello (the Governor of Puerto Rico), Pedro Pierluisi (the Attorney General of Puerto Rico), and Pedro Toledo (the Puerto Rico Superintendent of Police) as defendants both in their official and in their personal capacities. On August 9, 1994, Aybar and Morales-Laboy amended the complaint to increase the damages sought.
On September 13, 1994, the Commonwealth and Pierluisi (in his official capacity) filed a motion to dismiss the claims against them based on the immunity afforded by the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution. On November 30, 1994, Rossello and Pierluisi, in his personal capacity, joined the motion to dismiss and filed a supplemental memorandum in support thereof. On February 7, 1995, Toledo also joined the motion to dismiss. Neither Otero-Martinez nor Crispin-Reyes joined in the motion. Aybar and Morales-Laboy failed to respond to the motion.
On March 15, 1995, the district court for the district of Puerto Rico (Fuste, J.) entered a final judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) dismissing appellants' complaint against all defendants, including Otero-Martinez and Crispin-Reyes. The district court determined that appellants' § 1983 claim against all appellees for malicious prosecution did not state a claim for either a procedural or a substantive due process violation. The district court also found that although appellants' actions may have violated Aybar's Fourth Amendment rights, the applicable one year statute of limitations barred this claim. With respect to appellants' claimed violation of Aybar's right to secure employment, Judge Fuste ruled that Aybar, as an employee of a private corporation, did not possess a property interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court also concluded that defamation alone "cannot be the basis for a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983." The court further indicated that the Eleventh Amendment barred appellants' suit against Puerto Rico, Rossello, Pierluisi, and Toledo. Finally, the court held that appellants' claims against Otero-Martinez were barred because Otero-Martinez enjoyed absolute immunity as a state prosecutor prosecuting the state's case.
On March 31, 1995, appellants filed a motion for reconsideration of this judgment claiming, among other things, that the statute of limitations had tolled because he was a
Undaunted, the appellants then filed a motion, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 52(b) and 59(e), to amend and reconsider the district court's January 30, 1996 order.
Standard of Review
Our standard of review of a dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is well established. We accept all well-pleaded facts as true and we draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the appellants. See Washington Legal Found. v. Massachusetts Bar Found., 993 F.2d 962, 971 (1st Cir.1993). "Because a dismissal terminates an action at the earliest stages of litigation without a developed factual basis for decision, we must carefully balance the rule of simplified civil pleadings against our need for more than conclusory allegations." Id. As we previously have explained, however, "once a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment has been granted, the district court has substantial discretion in deciding whether to reopen the proceedings in order to allow the unsuccessful party to introduce new material or argue a new theory." Mackin v. City of Boston, 969 F.2d 1273, 1279 (1st Cir.1992). "Consequently, we will overturn the trial court's decision on such a matter only if an appellant can persuade us that the refusal to grant favorable reconsideration was a clear abuse of discretion." Id.; see Vasapolli v. Rostoff, 39 F.3d 27, 36 (1st Cir.1994) (explaining that "[w]e review a trial court's motion to alter or amend a judgment for manifest abuse of discretion"); Fragoso v. Lopez, 991 F.2d 878, 886 (1st Cir.1993) ("The trial court's decision on such a motion will be overturned only if the appellant convinces us that the court committed a clear abuse of discretion.").
To determine the scope of this appeal, we first must resolve a threshold issue. Otero-Martinez and Crispin-Reyes argue that Aybar appealed only the district court's order of May 7, 1996, denying their second reconsideration motion. If true, then the only substantive issue for our resolution entails whether or not the district court abused its discretion in determining that Aybar's Fourth Amendment claim was barred due to
"Under Fed. R.App. P. 4(a) timely motions under Rules ... 52(b) and 59 suspend the finality of the original judgment, and the time for appeal from both that judgment and denial of the motions runs from the entry of the order denying the motions." Fiore v. Washington County Community Mental Health Ctr., 960 F.2d 229, 234 (1st Cir.1992); see Fed. R.App. P. 4(a)(4)(B) & (C). In this case, appellants timely filed their first motion for reconsideration of the district court's initial March 15, 1995 order dismissing their claims.
The appellants, however, did not timely appeal the underlying judgment. Fed. R.App. P 4(a)(1) dictates that "the notice of appeal required by Rule 3 must be filed with the clerk of the district court within 30 days after the date of entry of the judgment or order appealed from." While an initial motion for reconsideration filed within ten days of the entry of the final judgment tolls the period in which a litigant must file a notice of appeal, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e); Fiore, 960 F.2d at 234; Feinstein v. Moses, 951 F.2d 16, 18 (1st Cir.1991), a subsequent motion for reconsideration served within ten days of the order denying the initial motion for reconsideration but more than ten days after the entry of the original judgment does not toll "the time for appealing from that judgment," Acevedo-Villalobos v. Hernandez, 22 F.3d 384, 389 (1st Cir. 1994); see Glinka v. Maytag Corp., 90 F.3d 72, 74 (2d Cir.1996) ("Allowing subsequent motions to repeatedly toll the filing period for a notice of appeal would encourage frivolous motions and undermine a fundamental canon of our legal system, to promote the finality of judgments."); Wright v. Preferred Research, Inc., 891 F.2d 886, 889 (11th Cir. 1990) ("Both the language and purpose of Rule 4(a)(4) indicate that the time for appeal is postponed only by an original motion of the type specified. I.e., a motion to reconsider an order disposing of such a motion will not further postpone the time to appeal.") (quoting 9 Moore's Federal Practice ¶ 204.12); Charles L.M. v. Northeast Indep. Sch. Dist., 884 F.2d 869, 870 (5th Cir. 1989) ("[T]he second motion was a successive motion for reconsideration, condemned by well-established authority in this and other circuits.... [T]he filing of the second motion did not toll the running of the thirty-day time for appeal....").
In this case, the district court dismissed appellants' amended complaint on March 15, 1995. Appellants filed their initial motion for reconsideration on March 31, 1996, thus tolling Rule 4's thirty day appeal period. The district court denied appellants' motion for reconsideration on January 30, 1996. Because the appellants' second motion for reconsideration — filed on February 13, 1996 — was not filed within ten days of the initial judgment — the thirty day appeal period of Rule 4 expired well before appellants filed their May 16, 1996 notice of appeal. We thus lack appellate jurisdiction to consider an appeal of the district court's March 15, 1995 dismissal of the appellants' complaint. See Glinka, 90 F.3d at 74; Hernandez, 22 F.3d at 390; Wright, 891 F.2d at 889; Charles
Because this appeal "concerns only the Rule 59(e) denial,
The district court concluded that the appellants made representations that led it to believe that they were married at the time of the alleged constitutional violations. Specifically, appellants "alleged damages to their conjugal partnership.... Morales alleged damages stemming from the alleged malicious prosecution of her husband." Moreover, according to the district court, appellants had several opportunities to clarify their pleadings, but failed to do so when they amended their complaint or when they failed to respond to the motion to dismiss. Consequently, the district court ruled that it "reasonably
We consider the district court's decision in light of the law governing the disposition of a Rule 59(e) motion.
Moro v. Shell Oil Co., 91 F.3d 872, 876 (7th Cir.1996) (citations omitted); see Vasapolli, 39 F.3d at 36-37; Hayes v. Douglas Dynamics, Inc., 8 F.3d 88, 91 n. 3 (1st Cir.1993); F.D.I.C. v. World Univ. Inc., 978 F.2d 10, 16 (1st Cir.1992); National Metal Finishing Co., Inc. v. BarclaysAmerican/Commercial, 899 F.2d 119, 123 (1st Cir.1990). In this case, we do not question that appellants directed the district court to a "manifest error of fact" in their second reconsideration motion: Contrary to the district court's determination, appellants were not married during the period in question.
That the appellants illuminated an error of fact, however, does not necessitate that we reverse the district court's decision. "Except for motions to amend based on newly discovered evidence, the trial court is only required to amend its findings of fact based on evidence contained in the record. To do otherwise would defeat the compelling interest in the finality of litigation." Fontenot v. Mesa Petroleum Co., 791 F.2d 1207, 1219 (5th Cir. 1986); see Lyons v. Jefferson Bank & Trust, 793 F.Supp. 989, 991 (D.Colo.1992), aff'd in part, rev'd in part, 994 F.2d 716 (10th Cir. 1993). In the instant case, as in Fontenot and Lyons, the district court
Fontenot, 791 F.2d at 1220; see Vasapolli, 39 F.3d at 36-37 ("Unlike the Emperor Nero, litigants cannot fiddle as Rome burns. A party who sits in silence[and] withholds potentially relevant information ... does so at his peril."); Hayes, 8 F.3d at 91 n. 3 (noting that "none of the information presented [to the district court in support of plaintiff's motion for reconsideration] was new, nor was it unavailable when the summary judgment was filed"); World Univ., 978 F.2d at 16 (indicating that there was no reason why appellant could not have asserted its argument before the district court and appellant's argument did not present newly discovered evidence).
In this case, as in Fontenot, Vasapolli, Hayes, and World Univ., the evidence that appellants submitted to support the argument they advanced for the first time in their second motion for reconsideration was neither new nor unavailable at the time the district court entered judgment on March 15, 1995. In their motion to dismiss, Rossello, Pierluisi, and Toledo argued that the one year statute of limitations period for appellants' Fourth Amendment claim had expired. The appellants chose not to defend against this motion, and thus did not reveal the fact that Aybar's minority status tolled the statute
In light of these circumstances, we find that the district court did not clearly abuse its discretion in denying appellants' second motion for reconsideration. See Vasapolli, 39 F.3d at 27; Hernandez, 22 F.3d at 391; Hayes, 8 F.3d at 91 n. 3; Fragoso, 991 F.2d at 888; World University, 978 F.2d at 16; Figgie Int'l, Inc. v. Miller, 966 F.2d 1178, 1180 (7th Cir.1992); Fontenot, 791 F.2d at 1220. We thus affirm the district court's decision to deny appellants' second motion for reconsideration.