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Madden v. Town of New Haven

United States District Court, D. Vermont

September 21, 2015

John Madden, Plaintiff,
v.
Town of New Haven, Vermont, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER (DOCS. 33, 35)

JOHN M. CONROY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

This is a voting-rights case brought pro se by New Haven, Vermont resident John Madden against the Town of New Haven, Vermont (the “Town”). On July 14, 2015, the Court issued an Opinion and Order (O&O) granting the Town’s Motion to Dismiss on the grounds that Madden’s claim was barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion. (See Doc. 31.) Familiarity with the July 14 O&O is presumed. On July 15, 2015, the Court entered Judgment dismissing the case. (Doc. 32.)

On August 11, 2015, Madden filed a Motion to Amend the Judgment. (Doc. 33.) The Town opposes Madden’s Motion and has filed a Motion for Order of Protective Relief. (See Docs. 34, 35.) Madden has filed a Reply in support of his Motion to Amend, combined with an Opposition to the Town’s Motion. (See Docs. 36, 37.) All parties have consented to direct assignment to the undersigned Magistrate Judge. (Docs. 3, 7.) For the reasons discussed below, Madden’s Motion to Amend the Judgment (Doc. 33) is DENIED and the Town’s Motion for Order of Protective Relief (Doc. 35) is DENIED.

I. Madden’s Motion to Amend the Judgment

Madden insists that the Town deprived him and other Town voters of their right to vote, arguing that amending the Town’s Zoning Map requires a town vote by Australian ballot. (See Doc. 33-1 at 3–7.) The Town opposes amendment, arguing that Madden “makes no new assertions of facts, presents no new evidence, and cites no new law or legal argument.” (Doc. 35 at 2.)[1] “A court may grant a Rule 59(e) motion only if the movant satisfies the heavy burden of demonstrating ‘an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.’” Hollander v. Members of Bd. of Regents of Univ. of N.Y., 524 F. App’x 727, 729 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Virgin Atl. Airways, Ltd. v. Nat’l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255 (2d Cir. 1992)).

Here, Madden does not point to any change in controlling law or to any new evidence bearing on the issue of claim preclusion. He persists in his argument that the Vermont Superior Court, Environmental Division erred in its conclusions, and specifically in its conclusion that the Town’s Zoning Map is distinct from its Town Plan Map. As this Court previously explained, however, Madden raised that claim in the Superior Court, Environmental Division; further litigation on that claim is precluded.[2] Accordingly, Madden has not met his burden and his Motion to Amend the Judgment (Doc. 33) is DENIED.

II. The Town’s Motion for Order of Protective Relief

The Town asserts that Madden has engaged in a pattern of burdensome litigation, and that the Court should bar Madden from filing further cases in this Court against the Town without first obtaining leave from the Court. (Doc. 35 at 2–4.) Madden maintains that he has a positive record of civic engagement. (Doc. 37 at 8; Doc. 37-1.)[3] The test for an order like the one the Town seeks is well settled; the Court must consider:

(1) the litigant’s history of litigation and in particular whether it entailed vexatious, harassing or duplicative lawsuits; (2) the litigant’s motive in pursuing the litigation, e.g., does the litigant have an objective good faith expectation of prevailing?; (3) whether the litigant is represented by counsel; (4) whether the litigant has caused needless expense to other parties or has posed an unnecessary burden on the courts and their personnel; and (5) whether other sanctions would be adequate to protect the courts and other parties.

Iwachiw v. N.Y. State Dep’t of Motor Vehicles, 396 F.3d 525, 528 (2d Cir. 2005) (quoting Safir v. U.S. Lines, Inc., 792 F.2d 19, 24 (2d Cir. 1986)).

A. History of Litigation

Even prior to the above-captioned case, Madden had a growing history of pro se litigation in federal court. In 2005, this Court ordered that Madden be required to request leave of the Court before filing further complaints against the courts of the State of Vermont. Madden v. Vt. Envtl. Court, No. 1:04CV312, 2005 WL 1423302, at *2 (D. Vt. June 14, 2005). The Court issued that order after noting that Madden had filed at least three prior federal suits against the Vermont Supreme Court, each of which was dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, with each dismissal affirmed by the Second Circuit. See Id . at *1 (citing Madden et al. v. Vt. Supreme Court, No. 1:00-CV-121; Madden v. Vt. Supreme Court, 1:00-CV-371; Madden v. Vt. Supreme Court, 1:00-CV-462). All of that federal litigation appears to have been related to action in the Vermont Environmental Court and Vermont Supreme Court concerning development within the Town of New Haven.[4]

In 2007, Madden filed suit in this Court against the Town, alleging that the Town violated his constitutional rights by adopting amendments to the Zoning and Subdivision Bylaws on June 27, 2006 despite a petition signed by more than five percent of the Town’s voters calling for a vote on the procedure for adopting such amendments. See Madden v. Town of New Haven, No. 1:07-CV-111, 2008 WL 2483295, at *1 (D. Vt. June 17, 2008). The Court denied the Town’s initial motion to dismiss, but warned that the complaint would be dismissed unless Madden showed good cause for his failure to properly serve the defendants. Madden, 2007 WL 4143209, at *3 (Nov. 19, 2007). The Court granted the Town’s subsequent motion to dismiss, concluding that Madden had failed to show good cause. Madden, 2008 WL 2483295, at *3, appeal dismissed, 359 F. App’x 204 (2d Cir. 2009).

In 2012, Madden filed suit in this Court against the Vermont Public Service Board and the Vermont Supreme Court (and the individual Members of those bodies), alleging that they had deprived him of his rights in the course of their rulings regarding a solar farm in the Town. See Complaint, Madden v. Vt. Pub. Serv. Bd. et al., No. 1:12-cv-129 (D. Vt. June 11, 2012), ECF No. 1.[5] The Court dismissed the complaint because Madden had violated the Court’s June 14, 2005 Order in Madden v. Vermont Environmental Court by filing suit against a Vermont court without seeking leave. Order Dismissing Case, No. 1:12-cv-129 (D. Vt. July 18, 2012), ECF No. 7, motion to alter or amend denied, Aug. 6, 2012, ECF No. 11. Madden appealed, and the Second Circuit dismissed the appeal as frivolous and barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Madden v. Vt. Pub. Serv. Bd., No. 12-3516 (2d Cir. Jan. 17, 2013), ECF No. 65. In a subsequent ...


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