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Cooke v. Town of Colorado City

United States District Court, D. Arizona

September 4, 2014

Ronald Cooke, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Town of Colorado City, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

JAMES A. TEILBORG, District Judge.

On March 20, 2014, the jury in this case returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs Ron and Jinjer Cooke (collectively, the "Cookes") and Plaintiff-Intervenor the State of Arizona (the "State"). (Doc. 584). Following this verdict, two issues remain outstanding.[1] First, the Court must rule on the pending motions concerning the State's desire to reopen the evidentiary record in this case and admit evidence discovered after the verdict was reached. Second, the Court must determine whether the State is entitled to equitable relief on its claims and if so, the extent of that relief.

I. Motion to Reopen the Evidentiary Record

The jury returned the verdict in this case on March 20, 2014. (Doc. 584). On June 16, 2014, the State filed its "Motion for Leave to File Motion for Leave to Re-Open the Evidentiary Record" (Doc. 685). In this motion, the State requests that pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rules") 1 and 60(b)(2), (3), and (6) the Court permit the State to file a motion to reopen the evidentiary record to admit newly discovered evidence. ( Id. at 1). The State has attached this latter proposed motion to reopen the record as an exhibit to the first motion. The State's newly-discovered evidence consists of the deposition of Helaman Barlow taken in a related case between the U.S. Department of Justice and Defendants. In that deposition, Barlow repeatedly admitted that he lied during his testimony both in his deposition and trial in this case. E.g., (Doc. 685-1 at 192, 213-14).

The State contends that Rule 60 provides "for judicial relief predicated upon newly discovered evidence, the fraud of an opposing party, and principles of fundamental fairness" and argues that the interests of justice necessitate reopening the evidentiary record to admit Barlow's testimony at his deposition. ( Id. at 11). Rule 60(b) provides that "the court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding" for reasons including newly discovered evidence that could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial, fraud, or "any other reason that justifies relief."

At the time the State filed its motion, there was no final judgment, order, or proceeding in this case from which the Court could grant relief. Rule 60 is inapplicable here. The Court has searched the Rules and is unable to identify a specific rule under which the State's motion may appropriately be brought. Nevertheless, "[w]hile it is not entirely clear which Federal Rule of Civil Procedure authorizes district courts to reopen an evidentiary record prior to judgment, it is clear that district courts have the discretion to grant such a motion: such an application to reopen the record is committed to the sound discretion of the district court." Romeo v. Sherry, 308 F.Supp.2d 128, 138-39 (E.D.N.Y. 2004); see also Keith v. Volpe, 858 F.2d 467, 478 (9th Cir. 1988) (court sua sponte reopened the evidentiary record after trial and before judgment).

In this case, the State was victorious on its claims against Defendants. Barlow's deposition testimony regarding his perjury at trial is not needed to correct the trial record because implicit in the jury's findings was a determination that Barlow's trial testimony was not credible. As the State was victorious despite Barlow's testimony, there is no impetus for reopening the evidentiary record to admit additional evidence supporting the jury's finding. The Court will deny the State's motion. Because the State's proposed motion will not be filed, the Court need not consider the State's supplement to that motion (Doc. 696) and Defendants' motion to strike the supplement (Doc. 698) is moot.

II. Equitable Relief

A. Findings of Fact

On March 20, 2014 the jury returned its verdict in this case making the following findings. First, the jury found by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendants[2] violated the federal Fair Housing Act and the Arizona Fair Housing Act by discriminating against the Cookes in the provision of services or facilities because of religion. (Doc. 584 at 2). On this claim, the jury found that Defendants were jointly and severally liable for damages because they all committed the same unlawful act as, acted in concert with, or acted as an agent or servant of another defendant. ( Id. ) The jury found the damages to Ron Cooke to be $650, 000 and the damages to Jinjer Cooke to be $650, 000. ( Id. )

Second, the jury found by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendants violated the federal Fair Housing Act and the Arizona Fair Housing Act by coercing, intimidating, threatening, interfering with, or retaliating against the Cookes in the enjoyment of their dwelling because (1) of religion or (2) the Cookes asserted rights, or encouraged others to assert their rights, protected by the federal Fair Housing Act or the Arizona Fair Housing Act. ( Id. at 5). On this claim, the jury found that Defendants were jointly and severally liable for damages because they all committed the same unlawful act as, acted in concert with, or acted as an agent or servant of another defendant. ( Id. ) The jury found the damages to Ron Cooke to be $1, 950, 000 and the damages to Jinjer Cooke to be $1, 950, 000. ( Id. )

Third, the jury found by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendants violated the Arizona Fair Housing Act by engaging in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of any right granted by the Act.[3] ( Id. at 8).

The Court agrees with and adopts the jury's findings in this case as its own. The Court also adopts the jury's advisory finding with respect to Defendants engaging in a pattern or practice of resistance ...


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