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Williams v. State

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

January 30, 2017

CATHERINE WILLIAMS
v.
STATE OF LOUISIANA

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Motion for Reconsideration of the Order Granting Defendant's Rule 50 Motion (Doc. 107) (Doc. 113) filed by Catherine Williams ("Plaintiff), seeking relief from the Court's prior Ruling granting the State of Louisiana's ("Defendant") motion for judgment as a matter of law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 50. Plaintiffs motion is opposed. (Doc. 116). Jurisdiction is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the reasons explained herein, Plaintiffs motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed the instant action against the State of Louisiana on March 17, 2014, alleging that she was not promoted to the ORS II position because of race and seeking recovery under Title VII. (Doc. 1). The matter proceeded to trial, and after a four-day jury trial, Defendant rested its case and orally moved the court to dismiss Plaintiffs claims as a matter of law under Rule 50. (See Doc. 106). After a period of delay attributable to historic flooding in Baton Rouge, the Court reconvened and granted Defendant's re-urged motion for judgment as a matter of law. (See Doc. 107). Specifically, the Court noted that Plaintiff failed to present "sufficient circumstantial evidence to allow a reasonable jury to conclude that" race was a factor in Defendant's decision not to promote Plaintiff to the ORS II position. (Doc. 109 at p. 5). Instead, the Court found that Plaintiffs case relied "almost exclusively on her subjective belief that she was discriminated against." (Doc. 109 at pp. 5 - 6). Accordingly, the Court dismissed Plaintiffs claims with prejudice.

         Through the instant motions, Plaintiff requests that the Court; (1) reconsider its prior ruling pursuant to Rules 52, 60(a), 60(b), and/or 60(d); (2) grant Plaintiffs Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law and award all available sanctions against Defendant pursuant to Rules 26 and 37; or (3) order a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59. (Doc. 113-1 at p. 2). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant perpetrated fraud on the Court by concealing relevant evidence and failing to disclose that a witness committed perjury. (Doc. 113-1 at p. 6). On this basis, Plaintiff requests that the Court issue sanctions under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26 and 37. (Doc. 113-1 at pp. 2 - 22). Plaintiff further asserts that relief is warranted under Rule 60(b)(1) because the Court made a "mistake" in granting Defendant's Rule 50 motion as Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate discrimination. (Doc. 113-1 at p. 22, 25 - 42). Plaintiff also requests that the Court take judicial notice of documents that she did not have an opportunity to present to the Court during trial, including (1) excerpts from the EEOC manual, and (2) a news article concerning allegedly discriminatory statements made by Senator Harry Reid regarding President Barack Obama.[1] (Doc. 113-1 at pp. 22 - 25).

         II. DISCUSSION

         At the outset, the Court finds that Plaintiff is not entitled to relief under Rule 52, which authorizes courts to amend findings in a judgment "[i]n an action tried on the facts without a jury or with an advisory jury,, , ". Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(b) (emphasis added). Although Plaintiffs case did not ultimately go to the jury, this was not a case in which the action was tried without a jury or with an advisory jury, i.e., a bench trial. Instead, Plaintiff presented facts and evidence to a jury before the Court found that Plaintiff failed to provide evidence sufficient to sustain her burden of proof under Title VII. As such, Plaintiff is not entitled to an amended ruling based on Rule 52.

         Nor is Plaintiffs attempt to file, for the first time in these proceedings, a Rule 50(b) motion availing. Plaintiff does not provide a basis upon which she seeks judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 50, which alone is sufficient to deny the motion. However, Plaintiff is prevented from even bringing such a motion, as it is axiomatic that a party may not make a motion for judgment as a matter of law after trial unless it filed such a motion before the case was submitted to the jury. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a) - (b). Here, Plaintiff did not make a Rule 50 motion during trial, and is therefore precluded from making such a motion now that the verdict has been rendered. See Flowers u. Southern Regional Physician Services Inc., 247 F.3d 229, 238 (5th Cir. 2001) ("If a party fails to move for judgment as a matter of law under Federal evidence, that party waives both its right to file a renewed post-verdict Rule 50(b) motion...").

         Plaintiff next seeks relief under various provisions of Rule 60, none of which are availing. First, Plaintiff makes no showing that the ruling contains a clerical mistake or a mistake arising from oversight or omission warranting amendment under subsection (a). Plaintiff further argues that relief is warranted under Rule 60(b)(1) because the Court committed a "mistake" when it granted Defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law and should have considered additional evidence. (Doc. 113-1 at p. 22). Plaintiffs argument is based on her assertion that (1) she was not afforded a full opportunity to request that the Court take judicial notice of "several facts" prior to presenting closing arguments, and (2) her evidence meets the legal burden of proof. (Id.). Neither argument is availing.

         First, Defendant correctly notes that the documents which Plaintiff requests that the Court to take judicial notice of do not establish "adjudicative facts that are not subject to reasonable dispute." Under Federal Rule of Evidence 201(b), a fact is not subject to reasonable dispute if it is either: (1) generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the court, or (2) can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot be reasonably questioned. Fed.R.Evid. 201(b). The sources cited by Plaintiff, however, do not qualify as "adjudicative facts" of which the Court may take judicial notice. Additionally, Plaintiffs request regarding the news article does not include a specific "fact" that has any factual or legal bearing on this case. That is, the Court does not recognize how taking judicial notice "that on January 9, 2010, Senator Reid was quoted as saying privately that now President Obama, as a black candidate for President at the time, could be successful thanks, in part, to his "light-skinned appearance and speaking patterns with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one" might affect this case or might have persuaded the jury on the applicable issues. The Court notes Plaintiffs suggestion that Senator Reid's statement was discriminatory in nature, and her concern that the media reported on Senator Reid's statements "just months before the decision not to promote Ms. Williams." (Doc. 113-1 at p. 28). However, the events reported in this news article have absolutely nothing to do with this case, and the Court will not assume relevance because of the temporal proximity of the news article's publication and employment decisions regarding Ms. Williams.

         Further, the Court declines Plaintiffs request to take judicial notice of selective portions of the EEOC manual. The Court is not aware of other provisions that might have a bearing on the facts presented at trial. Even more troubling is that Defendant had no opportunity to challenge the applicability of the provisions cited. Moreover, Plaintiff fails to clearly state the reasons for which judicial notice of the EEOC plan would have been necessary or helpful if the case had gone to the jury. As such, the Court denies Plaintiffs request to take judicial notice of the offered documents and finds that failure to do so during trial had no bearing on the Court's ruling on Defendant's Rule 50 motion.[2]

         The Court reemphasizes that Plaintiffs evidence failed to meet the legal burden of proof on which the Court granted Defendant's Rule 50 motion; that is, Plaintiffs burden of proving that the reasons offered by Defendant were a pretext for discrimination. Plaintiff places much undue emphasis on the Court's denial of summary judgment on Plaintiffs claims. In the previous Ruling on Defendant's motion for summary judgment, the Court found that Plaintiff satisfied its burden of establishing a prima facia case of discrimination. (Doc. 35 at pp. 16 - 21). However, once Defendant sufficiently provided non-discriminatory reasons for its refusal to promote Plaintiff, Plaintiff failed to satisfy its burden of proving pretext. Such is the basis upon which defendant's Rule 50 motion was granted. (See Doc. 109). Thus, the Court's previous Ruling on Defendant's motion for summary judgment did not establish that Plaintiff was entitled to prevail at trial, and Plaintiffs failure to prove that the offered non-discriminatory reasons were a pretext for discrimination is the ultimate reason she did not prevail.

         Plaintiff also argues that she is entitled to relief under Rule 60(b)(3), which authorizes the Court to relieve a party of an order for "fraud..., misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party", because: (1) Linda Sonnier committed fraud on the witness stand and Defendant's counsel knowingly failed to inform [the Court] after being made aware of such; (2) Defendant intentionally concealed the Job Description for ORS Manager 2 of the Adjudication Unit; and (3) Defendant intentionally concealed Ms. Sonnier's 2009 PPR. (Doc. 113-1 at p. 3).

         A party making a Rule 60(b)(3) motion must establish (1) that the adverse party engaged in fraud or other misconduct, and (2) that this misconduct prevented the moving party from fully and fairly presenting his case. Gov't Fin. Servs. One Ltd. P'ship v. Peyton Place,62 F.3d 767, 772 (5th Cir. 1995) (quotations and citations omitted). The moving party has the burden of proving the misconduct by clear and convincing evidence. Rozier v. Ford Motor Co., 573 F.2d 1332, 1339 (5th Cir. 1978). Because Rule 60(b)(3) "is aimed at judgments which were unfairly obtained [and] not at ...


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