United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
HORNSBY MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is a motion for new trial filed by pro se Plaintiff
Bobby Charles Byrd. Record Document 154. The Defendants
oppose the motion. Record Document 161. A four-day jury trial
was held in this matter from June 12, 2017, until June 15,
2017. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a
verdict in favor of the Defendants. Byrd then filed this
motion. For the reasons that follow, Byrd's motion is
Rule of Civil Procedure 59 provides that a court may grant a
new trial "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). A court may grant a new
trial if it finds that "the verdict is against the
weight of evidence, the damages awarded are excessive, the
trial was unfair, or prejudicial error was committed . . .
." Seidman v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 923 F.2d
1134, 1140 (5th Cir. 1991) (quoting Smith v. Transworld
Drilling Co., 773 F.2d 610, 613 (5th Cir. 1985)). As
explained by the Fifth Circuit:
Courts do not grant new trials unless it is reasonably clear
that prejudicial error has crept into the record or that
substantial justice has not been done, and the burden of
showing harmful error rests on the party seeking the new
trial. Ultimately the motion invokes the sound discretion of
the trial court, and appellate review of its ruling is quite
Sibley v. Lemaire, 184 F.3d 481, 487 (5th Cir. 1999)
(quoting Del Rio Distributing, Inc. v. Adolph Coors
Co., 589 F.2d 176, 179 n.3 (5th Cir. 1979)).
argues that the Court's failure to appoint counsel to
represent him warrants a new trial. He re-urges the same
arguments put forth in his two motions to appoint counsel
[Record Documents 81 &93], both of which were denied.
Here and in those motions, Byrd argues that the Americans
with Disabilities Act imposes on this Court a duty to appoint
counsel to represent him. The Court has twice rejected that
argument and does so again here. Record Documents 85 &
Court has also found that Byrd's case does not present
exceptional circumstances to warrant appointment of counsel.
See Id. (citing Ulmer v. Chancellor, 691
F.2d 209, 212 (5th Cir. 1982)). Despite ultimately concluding
that Byrd's case did not present exceptional
circumstances,  the Court nonetheless allowed inmate
counsel to play a limited role in assisting Byrd during
trial. In his motion, Byrd notes ways in which he was
disadvantaged by not having an attorney represent him at
trial. The Court acknowledges that most, if not all, pro se
litigants will encounter difficulties in conducting a trial,
but Byrd did, in fact, present and cross-examine witnesses,
introduce evidence, lodge objections, and conduct opening
statements and closing arguments. See Jones v. Ruiz,
478 Fed.Appx. 834, 836 (5th Cir. 2012) (finding no error in a
district court's denial of a new trial based on failure
to appoint counsel). Accordingly, the Court will not grant a
new trial on this ground.
the Court declines to find that Byrd's other complaints
warrant a new trial. As to the potential representation of
Byrd by Harry Johnson, a young and inexperienced local
attorney and member of the venire, the Court believes that
Mr. Johnson's comments regarding enrollment in the case
were disingenuous. Furthermore, Mr. Johnson had no knowledge
of the case and would not have been prepared to move forward
the morning of trial.
complains that he was entitled to a jury instruction on
spoliation of evidence, but he never requested such an
instruction. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 51. The Court declines to grant
a new trial on this ground.
his allegation that prospective jurors may have seen his
ankle irons, the jury was made aware during the course of the
trial that Byrd was an inmate. Furthermore, the Court made
accommodations to prevent the jury from viewing Byrd's
ankle irons as much as possible. Efforts included placing
skirts around the counsel tables and having the jury exit the
courtroom for Byrd to take his place behind the podium and to
get on and off of the witness stand.
Byrd lists a number of difficulties he suffered during trial
as a result of his inmate status. While the Court sympathizes
with these inconveniences, they similarly do not warrant a
foregoing reasons, IT IS ORDERED that the
Plaintiff's motion for new trial [Record ...