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Aaron v. Dyer

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 22, 2017

JEFFREY AARON, Plaintiff,
v.
JACKIE DYER, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL [Doc. 102]

          Victoria A. Roberts, United States District Judge

          I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Jeffrey Aaron, a prisoner confined in the Michigan Department of Corrections (“MDOC”), filed this case pro se against seven MDOC employees, alleging that they retaliated against him for filing grievances in violation of his First Amendment rights. After the Court ruled on dispositive motions, Aaron retained Solomon Radner as counsel.

         The case proceeded to trial in January 2017 against the four remaining Defendants - Jackie Dyer, Rennia Funches, Kelly Holden and Richard Cady. With consent of the parties, Magistrate Judge David R. Grand conducted voir dire (i.e., jury selection) on January 9, 2017. On January 12, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants, finding no cause of action. The Court entered judgment to that effect on January 17.

         On January 31, 2017, Aaron filed a pro se Motion for New Trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59. [Doc. 102]. On July 6, 2017, well after the motion had been fully briefed, Aaron filed a supplemental pleading with additional evidence that he says he recently discovered. [Doc. 106].

         For the following reasons, Aaron's Motion for New Trial [Doc. 102] is DENIED.

          II. ANALYSIS

         A. Aaron May Proceed Pro Se

         Defendants say the Court should strike Aaron's motion because he filed it himself rather than having counsel file it on his behalf. In his reply brief, Aaron says he has been representing himself since the jury verdict. Therefore, Aaron may proceed without counsel, and the Court will not strike his motion.

         However, Radner and his co-counsel are still listed on the docket as counsel of record for Aaron. So that the docket accurately indicates that Aaron is pro se, the Court TERMINATES Radner and his co-counsel as Aaron's active counsel of record.

         B. Aaron's Motion for New Trial

         The Court may grant a new trial under Rule 59 “for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)(A). “The language of Rule 59(a) has been interpreted to mean that a new trial is warranted when a jury has reached a ‘seriously erroneous' result as evidenced by: (1) the verdict being against the weight of the evidence; (2) the damages being excessive; or (3) the trial being unfair to the moving party in some fashion, i.e., the proceedings being influenced by prejudice or bias.” E.E.O.C. v. New Breed Logistics, 783 F.3d 1057, 1066 (6th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). The Court has broad discretion in deciding whether to grant a new trial. Clark v. Esser, 907 F.Supp. 1069, 1073 (E.D. Mich. 1995). However, a motion for new trial may not be granted unless the moving party establishes that he or she suffered prejudice. Simmons v. Napier, 626 Fed.Appx. 129, 132 (6th Cir. 2015).

         Aaron says he is entitled to a new trial because: (1) he presented evidence proving he was moved in retaliation for filing grievances; (2) Defendant Dyer gave false testimony and is not credible, “as the truth of the matter was as stated in Plaintiff's grievance, ” [Doc. 102, PgID 1006]; (3) the jury had a right to know about a “sham affidavit” and false testimony Defendant Holden gave in another case; (4) the jury should have known that every Defendant has been sued by other prisoners for their conduct involving similar issues; (5) the jury should have heard the testimony of two prison inspectors, and they should have known that he would have called them as witnesses if Defendants would not have indicated they planned to call them as witnesses; and (6) the jury was tainted.

         1. The Verdict is Supported by Sufficient Evidence

         Aaron says the Court should grant a new trial because he proved his case - i.e., that Defendants retaliated against him for engaging in protected conduct.

         Defendants argue that Aaron cannot challenge the sufficiency of the evidence because, although Aaron orally moved for directed verdict during trial, his failure to attach the trial transcript to his motion prevents the Court from determining “what issues, if any, were preserved by that motion.” [Doc. 104, PgID 1021]. In making this argument, Defendants rely on S. Ry. Co. v. Miller, 285 F.2d 202 (6th Cir. 1960), for the proposition that “the question of the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury's ...


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