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Thompson v. Department of Interior United States

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

October 10, 2018

EARL THOMPSON
v.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR UNITED STATES, ET AL.

         SECTION: “J” (1)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          CARL J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion to Reconsider the Court's Order Granting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 59) filed by Plaintiff, Earl Thompson. Having considered the motion and legal memoranda, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion should be GRANTED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This litigation derives from Plaintiff's allegation that he was subjected to discrimination on the basis of his race (African American), sex (male), age (date of birth 12/26/50), and retaliation in the workplace in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. (See Rec. Doc. 1). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he was discriminated against when he applied for a GS-09 Petroleum Engineering Technician position in September of 2015, but a Caucasian female with less seniority, expertise, and experience was selected for the position. (See Rec. Doc. 1, at 18).

         On May 21, 2018, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment with a submission date of June 6, 2018. (Rec. Doc. 47). One day before Plaintiff's deadline to submit an opposition to Defendant's motion, Plaintiff sought and this Court granted a motion extending the submission date to June 8, 2018. (Rec. Doc. 53). Nevertheless, Plaintiff failed to timely file an opposition. On June 11, 2018, this Court granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment, dismissing Plaintiff's claims without prejudice.[1] (Rec. Doc. 54). Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment Out of Time (Rec. Doc. 55), which this Court denied (Rec. Doc. 56).

         On June 28, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Reconsider the Court's Order Granting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 59), which Defendant opposes (Rec. Doc. 60).

         PARTIES' ARGUMENTS

         Plaintiff moves this Court to reconsider its June 11, 2018 Order granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment on the basis that Plaintiff's failure to timely file its opposition constituted “excusable neglect” under Rule 60(b)(1). (See Rec. Doc. 59-1, at 3). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the failure to timely file an opposition was due to the death of counsel's aunt on June 9, 2018 and the “relatively recent loss” of several other family members.[2] (See Rec. Doc. 59-1, at 3). Plaintiff's counsel alleges that he “has had grave difficulty focusing on this and other assignments.” (See Rec. Doc. 59-1, at 3). Plaintiff asserts that Defendant would not be prejudiced if this Court granted Plaintiff's motion to reconsider and allowed Plaintiff's memorandum in opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment to be considered on the record. (See Rec. Doc. 59-1, at 3).

         Defendant argues in response that the Court should deny Plaintiff's motion to reconsider because Plaintiff's failure to timely file his opposition amounts to non-action and carelessness as opposed to excusable neglect. (See Rec. Doc. 60, at 2). Defendant notes that the Fifth Circuit has many times upheld the denial of a Rule 60(b) motion due to an attorney's failure to adhere to court deadlines. (See Rec. Doc. 60, at 3).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly allow motions for reconsideration of an order. Bass v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 211 F.3d 959, 962 (5th Cir. 2000). The Fifth Circuit treats a motion for reconsideration challenging a prior judgment as either a motion “to alter or amend” under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) or a motion for “relief from judgment” under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). Lavespere v. Niagara Mach. & Tool Works, Inc., 910 F.2d 167, 173 (5th Cir. 1990), abrogated on other grounds by Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1076 (5th Cir. 1994).

         The difference in treatment is based on timing. If the motion is filed within twenty-eight days of the judgment, then it falls under Rule 59(e). FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e); Lavespere, 910 F.2d at 173. However, if the motion is filed more than twenty-eight days after the judgment, but not more than one year after the entry of judgment, it is governed by Rule 60(b). FED. R. CIV. P. 60(c); Lavespere, 910 F.2d at 173. In the present case, Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration (Rec. Doc. 59) was filed within twenty-eight days of the issuance of the Court's order (Rec. Doc. 54). Accordingly, Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration is treated as a motion to alter or amend under Rule 59(e).

         Altering or amending a judgment under Rule 59(e) is an “extraordinary remedy” used “sparingly” by the courts. Templet v. Hydrochem, Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 479 (5th Cir. 2004). A motion to alter or amend calls into question the correctness of a judgment and is permitted only in narrow situations, “primarily to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.” Id.; see also Schiller v. Physicians Res. Grp. Inc., 342 F.3d 563, 567 (5th Cir. 2003). Manifest error is defined as “[e]vident to the senses, especially to the sight, obvious to the understanding, evident to the mind, not obscure or hidden, and is synonymous with open, clear, visible, unmistakable, indubitable, indisputable, evidence, and self-evidence.” In Re Energy Partners, Ltd., 2009 WL 2970393, at *6 (Bankr.S.D.Tex. Sept. 15, 2009) (citations omitted); see also Pechon v. La. ...


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