United States District Court, D. Nebraska
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
F. ROSSITER, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
post-judgment motions are now before the Court, including (1)
plaintiffs Paul Gillpatrick and Niccole Wetherell's
(collectively, “plaintiffs”) Motion to Reconsider
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(a) or 59(e) (Filing
No. 58), (2) the plaintiffs' Motion to Make Additional
Findings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(b) (Filing
No. 63), (3) defendants Scott Frakes, Michele Capps, and
Angela Folt-Oberle's (collectively,
“defendants”) Unopposed Motion for Stay of
Judgment Pending Appeal (Filing No. 65), and (4) the
defendants' Unopposed Motion for Order that
Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs Has Same
Effect under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(4) as a
Timely Motion Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59
(Filing No. 66). The plaintiffs have also moved for attorney
fees (Filing No. 60), which the Court does not consider here.
7, 2019, this Court entered (Filing Nos. 56 and 57) a
Memorandum and Order (“Memorandum and Order”) and
accompanying judgment (“judgment”). Relevant to
the present Memorandum and Order, the Court (1) declared
Nebraska Department of Correctional Services Policy Number
205.04 facially invalid, (2) permanently enjoined the
defendants and their successors and designees from denying
the plaintiffs' request to participate in an electronic
wedding ceremony (“e-wedding ceremony”), and (3)
permanently enjoined the defendants and their successors and
designees from relying on past denials of the plaintiffs'
marriage-intention forms and administrative-grievance forms
to deny their request to participate in an e-wedding
The Plaintiffs' Motions
the plaintiffs' motions first, the Court finds those
motions should be denied. In short, the plaintiffs have asked
the Court for additional “explicit findings” in
its Memorandum and Order they believe are required under the
Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 18 U.S.C.
§ 3626(a)(1)(A). The plaintiffs seek no substantive
changes to the Memorandum and Order, only requesting express
findings using the “functional language” of the
plaintiffs' requested findings are unnecessary. Under the
PLRA, the Court must not grant prospective relief unless it
finds “such relief is narrowly drawn, extends no
further than necessary to correct the violation of the
Federal right, and is the least intrusive means necessary to
correct the violation of the Federal right.” 18 U.S.C.
§ 3626(a)(1)(A). The Court is required to afford
“substantial weight to any adverse impact on public
safety or the operation of a criminal justice system caused
by the relief.” Id. The Court did not parrot
the PLRA's precise language in fashioning the relief in
this case, but the relief ordered fully comports with the
PLRA's specific requirements.
Court carefully balanced these particular plaintiffs'
fundamental right to marry against any adverse impact that
ordering the defendants to allow the plaintiffs'
e-wedding ceremony could result. See Native Am. Council
of Tribes v. Weber, 750 F.3d 742, 754 (8th Cir. 2014).
Under the circumstances in this case, the Court found it
necessary to permanently enjoin the defendants and their
successors and designees from denying the plaintiffs'
request to participate in an e-wedding ceremony because an
e-wedding ceremony is the only possible means for the
plaintiffs to attempt to solemnize their marriage. The Court
made clear its relief is narrow and extends no further than
necessary by limiting it exclusively to these plaintiffs on
the specific circumstances in this case. The Court also
limited its relief by expressing no opinion on the unsettled
question of whether the plaintiffs' e-wedding ceremony
ultimately is valid under Nebraska law.
this relief is the least-intrusive means for the plaintiffs
to exercise their asserted right to marry. Again, the
decision applies only to these plaintiffs. And the Court did
not dictate the means the defendants must use to facilitate
the plaintiffs' e-wedding ceremony, leaving that to the
defendants' discretion. Finally, unlike transporting the
plaintiffs for a traditional ceremony, the defendants agree
an e-wedding ceremony poses no threat to security, order, or
resources at NDCS and have identified no material harm in
facilitating these plaintiffs' e-wedding
ceremony. The relief does not threaten to cause a
significant adverse impact on public safety or the operation
of a criminal-justice system.
Court concludes its Memorandum and Order fully complies with
the PLRA and the PLRA does not command the Court to use any
magic words (or functional language) as the plaintiffs
suggest. Accordingly, the plaintiffs' motions are denied.
The Defendants' Motions
the Court will consider the defendants' unopposed
motions. First, the defendants request the Court to stay the
judgment pending their appeal to the Eighth Circuit. See
generally Fed. R. Civ. P. 62. Second, the defendants ask
the Court to extend their time to appeal based on the
plaintiffs' pending motion for attorney fees.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 58(e) (“[T]he Court may .
. . order that the [attorney fees] motion have the same
effect under Rule 4(a)(4) as a timely motion under Rule
59”). Given that the plaintiffs do not contest either
motion, the ...