Court Opinion: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion for June 21

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Editor’s Note: Law Week Colorado edits court opinion summaries for style and, when necessary, length.

Rediger v. Crowther

In December 2008, David Rediger was arrested and prosecuted in Colorado for interference with a public employee in a public building and interference with the staff, faculty or students of an educational institution. Almost a decade later, the Colorado Supreme Court vacated the public-employee conviction for insufficient evidence and reversed and remanded the interference-with-staff charge after finding a constructive amendment. 

On remand, the state trial court granted the prosecution’s motion to dismiss the interference-with-staff charge, thus definitively concluding the prosecution in Rediger’s favor in September 2019. More than two years later, Rediger filed a complaint against Garth Crowther in his official capacity as the sheriff of Conejos County, Colorado, asserting constitutional claims arising from his 2008 arrest and prosecution.

After granting Rediger leave to proceed in forma pauperis, a magistrate judge screened the complaint and ordered Rediger to show cause why his claims shouldn’t be dismissed as untimely under the applicable two-year statute of limitations under the 2009 10th Circuit opinion Vasquez Arroyo v. Starks, explaining the district court may dismiss IFP complaints on statute-of-limitations grounds only if “it is clear from the face of the complaint that there are no meritorious tolling issues, or the court has provided the plaintiff notice and an opportunity to be heard on the issue.”

In his response to the show-cause order, Rediger acknowledged the two-year statute of limitations had expired, but asked the court to apply equitable tolling. In support, Rediger asserted “after his arrest in December of 2008, he suffered extreme physical and psychological issues[] and was fighting for his freedom.” He noted he had “suffered through multiple health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic” and had filed similar claims in early 2020 that were ultimately “dismissed due to technical issues.”

After reviewing Rediger’s response, the magistrate judge determined he was not entitled to equitable tolling and recommended dismissing the complaint as untimely. Rediger didn’t object to the magistrate judge’s report, so the district court adopted it in full and entered judgment for the defendant.

Over a month later, Rediger filed a motion under Rule 60(b)(6), which authorizes a court to grant relief from a final judgment for “any . . . reason that justifies relief.” Essentially restating his equitable-tolling arguments, Rediger stressed he “ha[d] suffered greatly and ha[d] tried for years to move this matter forward” and argued it “offend[ed] justice” to dismiss his complaint without giving him the opportunity to serve Crowther. He asked the district court to set aside the judgment.

In deciding Rediger’s motion, the district court first explained that Rule 60(b) relief is an “extraordinary” remedy reserved for “exceptional circumstances.” It further explained, “Rule 60(b) may not be used to revisit arguments already considered or to raise new arguments that could have been raised previously.” Applying those principles, the district court found no “reason to grant relief from [its] final order and judgment.” In particular, the district court noted it appropriately screened Rediger’s complaint and it had already rejected his equitable-tolling arguments. The district court denied Rediger’s Rule 60(b) motion.

Rediger appealed. His notice of appeal, filed on Dec. 8, 2022, specified he appealed only from the order “entered on November 7, 2022,” which is the order denying Rule 60(b) relief. Because Rediger filed his Rule 60(b) motion more than 28 days after the entry of judgment, that motion did not toll the 30-day deadline to appeal a judgment in a civil case, the 10th Circuit noted. Since Rediger filed his notice of appeal more than 30 days after the underlying judgment, but within 30 days of the order denying his Rule 60(b) motion, it is timely only as to the Rule 60(b) order, the 10th Circuit explained.

Rediger’s appellate brief, however, didn’t address the Rule 60(b) order. Instead, he stated he wanted “a review of the dismissal” and then reasserted the equitable-tolling arguments he first advanced in his response to the district court’s show-cause order. By failing to contest the district court’s Rule 60(b) order, Rediger waived any challenge to it, the 10th Circuit added.

The 10th Circuit affirmed the order denying Rule 60(b) relief for Rediger. It also denied Rediger’s motion to proceed IFP on appeal because he didn’t assert “a reasoned, nonfrivolous argument” in support of his position. 

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