United States District Court, D. Maine
DAVID J. WIDI, JR., Plaintiff,
PAUL MCNEIL, et al., Defendants.
ORDER ON MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION
A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
long-pending lawsuit, the Court addresses the Plaintiff's
motion to be allowed to proceed with numerous claims arising
out of a law enforcement search and seizure that took place
at his residence on November 28, 2008. The Court allows some
of the claims to go forward against some defendants and
rejects other claims against other defendants.
February 11, 2015, the Court issued a forty-seven-page
screening order in which it granted David J. Widi, Jr.'s
motion for leave to amend his complaint as to certain counts
and denied it as to others. Screening Order, Order
Vacating in Part Earlier Order Den. Mot. for Leave to File
Second Am. Compl. as to Served Defs., Order Granting in Part
Mot. to File Second Am. Compl., Order Striking Portions of
the Second Am. Compl., and Order Den. Mot. to Stay (ECF
No. 270) (Screening Order). On May 4, 2015, Mr. Widi
filed a motion asking the Court to reconsider its screening
order. Mot. for Recons. (ECF No. 292) (Recons.
Mot.). On December 8, 2015, the Court issued an order
denying Mr. Widi's motion for reconsideration of its
screening order. Order on Mot. for Recons. and Mot.
Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60 (ECF No. 325) (Recons.
Order). In that order, the Court required Mr. Widi to
produce some documentary evidence to support the allegations
set forth in certain counts in his Second Amended Complaint.
Id. at 1.
March 24, 2016, Mr. Widi responded to the Court's order
and filed a motion asking the Court to reconsider its
December 8, 2015 order denying his motion to reconsider its
screening order. Resp. to Order on Mot. for Recons. and
Mot. Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60 with Accompanying
Documentary Evid. and Mot. for Disc. (ECF No. 351)
(Widi Mot.). The Defendant, Special Agent Paul
McNeil, filed an opposition on April 15, 2016.
McNeil's Opp'n to Pl.'s Resp. to Order on
Mot. for Recons. (ECF No. 354) (McNeil
Opp'n). On May 5, 2016, Mr. Widi filed a reply.
Reply to McNeil's Opp'n to Pl.'s Resp. to
Order on Mot. for Recons. (ECF No. 356) (Widi
Court previously addressed two portions of Mr. Widi's
March 24, 2016 motion. On October 3, 2016, the Court refused
to reinstate the dismissed claims against Defendant Special
Agent McNeil. Order Den. Mot. to Compel Disc. and
Strike (ECF No. 368). On November 21, 2016, the Court
denied Mr. Widi's demand for recusal. Recusal
Order (ECF No. 384). The Court now turns to the
remainder of the claims in Mr. Widi's March 24, 2016
The February 11, 2015 Screening Order
February 11, 2015, the Court issued a screening order,
addressing the claims left unscreened by the Magistrate
Judge's July 13, 2012 screening order. Screening
Order. Mr. Widi's First Amended Complaint contained
fourteen counts and named thirty-five defendants. First
Am. Compl. (ECF No. 15). Mr. Widi's Second Amended
Complaint contained eighteen counts and named fifty
defendants. Second Am. Compl. (ECF No. 191). In its
February 11, 2015 order, the Court granted Mr. Widi's
motion for leave to amend to file a second amended complaint
regarding Count Two (the Excessive Force Claim), Count
Thirteen (the Unlawful Probation Search claim) as against
Detective Kevin Curran only, and Count Eighteen (the Freedom
of Information Act / Privacy Act claim) as against the Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the
Executive Office of the United States Attorney, and the
Office of Information Policy. Screening Order at
46-47. However, the Court did not allow Mr. Widi to proceed
on a number of the counts in the proposed Second Amended
Complaint. Id. at 46.
The Motion to Reconsider and Order on Motion to
4, 2015, Mr. Widi objected to the Court's screening
order. Recons. Mot. On December 8, 2015, the Court
declined to alter its screening order but allowed Mr. Widi
thirty days to move to amend his Second Amended Complaint as
to certain counts. Recons. Order at 1. However,
worried that Mr. Widi was shifting the factual allegations to
respond to the Court's rulings, the Court required him to
produce documentary evidence to support his newest
allegations. Id. at 1, 25.
The Motion to Reconsider the Order on the Motion to
March 24, 2016, Mr. Widi both objected to the Court's
December 8, 2015 reconsideration order and responded to the
Court's order for documentary evidence supporting his
newest allegations. Widi Mot. at 1-27. Mr.
Widi's first contention is that in performing its
screening review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court
erred in imposing a summary judgment standard against him.
Id. at 1-3. Mr. Widi next objects to the Court's
analysis of Bailey v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 1031
(2013). Widi Mot. at 3-5. Mr. Widi also objects to
the Court's conclusions about the timeliness of his
claims against Special Agent McNeil. Id. at 5-9. Mr.
Widi responds to the Court's stated concerns about his
allegations against Officer Moya of the EPD. Id. at
9-12. He also explains his ownership of the van. Id.
at 12-14. Next, he argues that the search warrant in this
case did not authorize a sniff search of the van.
Id. at 14-16. Mr. Widi turns to the grey trailer and
explains why he contends the search was impermissible.
Id. at 16-18. Mr. Widi next addresses the seizure of
the motorcycle and why he contends the seizure was
impermissible. Id. at 18-21. Mr. Widi then reviews
his defamation claim and argues that his allegations meet
legal standards. Id. at 21-23. Mr. Widi reargues the
Court's order on the motion for summary judgment in the
probation search. Id. at 23-25. Finally, Mr. Widi
contests the Court's ruling on prosecutorial immunity.
Id. at 25-27.
Special Agent McNeil's Opposition
Agent McNeil opposed Mr. Widi's motion for
reconsideration. McNeil Opp'n. First, Special
Agent McNeil contends that Mr. Widi failed to comply with the
time deadlines of the Court's rules and orders.
Id. at 4-6. Next, Special Agent McNeil defends the
Court's decision to require Mr. Widi to present some
documentary evidence confirming the allegations in his second
amended complaint. Id. at 6-10.
David Widi's Reply
5, 2016, Mr. Widi filed a reply. Widi Reply. Mr.
Widi reiterates his arguments about the Court applying a
summary judgment standard to his motion to amend the
complaint. Id. at 2-4. He then accuses Special Agent
McNeil of twisting facts and misleading the Court concerning
the timeliness of his filings. Id. at 4-5. Mr. Widi
also addresses both the motorcycle and van counts.
Id. at 5-8. Finally, he turns to the Right to
Financial Privacy count. Id. at 8-10.
objection, Special Agent McNeil argues that Mr. Widi's
motion for reconsideration is untimely. McNeil
Opp'n at 4-5. Mr. Widi replies that he has had
difficulty receiving his legal mail due to the policies of
the Federal Correctional Institute Pollock. Widi
Reply at 4-5. The Court is aware that Mr. Widi, as well
as other inmates, have experienced difficulty obtaining legal
mail sent to them by the Clerk's Office in the District
of Maine because the name of the Clerk of Court did not
appear on the return address. Order Dismissing Mot. for Ct.
Intervention and Granting Mot. to Enlarge Time to File
Resp. (ECF No. 227); United States v.
Nóbrega, No. 1:10-cr-00186-JAW, Order on
Def.'s Mot. Concerning the Warden's Mail
Practices (ECF No. 357). In light of this difficulty,
the Court is unable to conclude that Mr. Widi failed to
timely comply with the deadlines because it is unclear when
he actually received the Court's orders.
Applying a Summary Judgment Standard to a Screening
Court rejects Mr. Widi's accusation that by requiring him
to produce some documentary evidence of his newest
allegations, it is applying a summary judgment standard to
its screening authority under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and his
motion for leave to amend under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 15(a). The Court is doing nothing of the kind.
Instead, the Court is attempting to manage the litigation
that Mr. Widi filed on June 13, 2012, over three years
ago-making it the second oldest civil case assigned to this
Judge-so that frivolous claims are ejected and only
potentially meritorious claims proceed.
significantly, based in part on the Court's past
experience with Mr. Widi, the Court became concerned that Mr. Widi
was tailoring his factual allegations to meet the Court's
rulings. The clearest example is his allegation concerning
ownership of his company van. In its February 11, 2015
screening order, the Court observed that in his Second
Amended Complaint, Mr. Widi listed Widi Tile Company LLC as a
party plaintiff and had asserted claims on its behalf for an
allegedly illegal seizure of the company van. Screening
Order at 37-39 (citing Second Am. Compl. at
25-26). In its screening order, the Court ruled that Mr. Widi
could not proceed with a claim on behalf of his incorporated
business. Id. In response, Mr. Widi changed his
allegation to assert that he, not Widi Tile Company LLC, was
the true owner of the company van. Recons. Mot. at
9-10. The Court was naturally skeptical about this change in
allegation, and before allowing Mr. Widi to proceed with his
newest allegation of the ownership of the company van, the
Court required Mr. Widi to produce some documentary evidence
as to the true owner. Recons. Order at 12-16. As Mr.
Widi had added new allegations to his other counts, the Court
applied the same principle to them as well, requiring him to
produce some evidence beyond his own say-so that the factual
allegations were true. The Court is not convinced that it
should reconsider this part of its order on Mr. Widi's
motion to reconsider.
United States v. Bailey
Widi also objects to the Court's conclusions about
whether Special Agent McNeil was entitled to qualified
immunity. Widi Mot. at 3-5. On September 23, 2013,
the Court dismissed Mr. Widi's claim against Special
Agent McNeil on the basis of qualified immunity, concluding
that at the time of Mr. Widi's arrest, the controlling
precedent from the United States Supreme Court allowed the
arrest of occupants incident to the execution of a search
warrant. Order Den. Pl.'s Mot to Stay; Den. Pl.'s
Mot. to Strike; and Granting Def. McNeil's Mot. to
Dismiss at 13-14 (ECF No. 170). In its February 11, 2015
screening order, the Court applied this same principle to
other Defendants. Screening Order at 31-32. On May
4, 2015, Mr. Widi again objected to the Court's
reasoning. Recons. Mot. at 1-4. On December 8, 2015,
the Court issued a third opinion on the issue of qualified
immunity. Recons. Order at 2- 5. On March 24, 2016,
Mr. Widi objected a third time to the Court's ruling.
Widi Mot. at 3-5. For the reasons the Court has
repeatedly explained, the Court rejects Mr. Widi's
United States v. Bailey claim.
Excessive Force Claim Against Elliot Police Officer Elliott
reconsideration order of December 8, 2015, the Court allowed
Mr. Widi to amend his Second Amended Complaint if he could
present the Court with roughly contemporaneous evidence
against Officer Elliott Moya that would provide a foundation
for his allegations. Recons. Order at 5-7. On March
24, 2016, Mr. Widi submitted a memorandum with an appendix
that he claims substantiates his allegations of excessive
force against Officer Moya, which is set forth in Count Two
of his Second Amended Complaint. Widi Mot. at 9-12.
The Court has reviewed the appendix and agrees that there is
sufficient evidence to allow Mr. Widi to proceed with his
excessive force claim against Elliot Police Department
Officer Elliott Moya. The Court previously expressed its
substantial reservations about a tight handcuff claim,
without more, as the basis of a lawsuit against the officer.
Screening Order at 35 n.7. Nevertheless, based upon
the current state of the law, Mr. Widi may proceed against
Ownership of the Company Van
reconsideration order, the Court allowed Mr. Widi to amend
his Second Amended Complaint if he could provide the Court
with documentary evidence that he, not Widi Tile Company LLC,
was the owner of the van seized in November 2008. Recons.
Order at 12-17. The Court reviewed Mr. Widi's
appendix and agrees that he has presented sufficient evidence
for the Court to conclude for purposes of judicial screening
of his allegations that he was the owner of the seized van in
The First Sniff Search
screening and reconsideration orders, the Court addressed
Counts Three, Four, Five, and Six of the Second Amended
Complaint. Screening Order at 36-39; Recons.
Order at 10-17. Count Three alleges that law enforcement
engaged in an illegal sniff search of his company van while
they executed the November 28, 2008 search of his residence
but that the sniff test came back negative. Second Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 76-82. Count Four alleges that law
enforcement seized the van by loading it on a flatbed causing
Mr. Widi to suffer business damages. Id.
¶¶ 83-91. Count Five alleges that on November 30,
2008, law enforcement conducted a second sniff search of the
van, which came back positive. Id. ¶¶
92-98. Count Six alleges that law enforcement improperly
obtained a search warrant of the van by omitting reference to
the first negative sniff. Id. ¶¶ 99-104.
In its reconsideration order, the Court stated that if Mr.
Widi demonstrated that he, not Widi Tile Company LLC, owned
the van, it would reinstate Counts Four, Five and Six of the
Second Amended Complaint. Recons. Order at 16-17.
not enough for Mr. Widi. He demands that the Court reinstate
Count Three, which alleged that law enforcement engaged in an
illegal sniff search of the van while executing the search
warrant on November 28, 2008. Recons. Mot. at 14-
16. He points out that his van was parked in a parking lot
behind his apartment building and was not visible from the
street. Id. at 15. Thus, he argues that his van was
located in a “constitutionally-protected area, ...