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Terrebonne Parish NAACP v. Jindal

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

November 5, 2018

TERREBONNE PARISH BRANCH NAACP, ET AL.
v.
PIYUSH (“BOBBY”) JINDAL, the GOVERNOR of the STATE OF LOUISIANA, in his official capacity, ET AL.

          RULING

          SHELLY D. DICK CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the Defendant Attorney General (“Defendant”).[1] Defendant seeks relief under Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure from the Court's previous Ruling of August 17, 2017.[2]Plaintiffs have filed an Opposition to this motion.[3] For the reasons set forth below, the motion shall be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Honorable James J. Brady presided over an eight-day bench trial from March 13-20 and April 26-28, 2017.[4] The Court heard from 27 witnesses, and over 350 exhibits were admitted into evidence.[5] Following the bench trial, the Court issued a ninety-one page Ruling wherein it held that at-large voting for the 32nd JDC deprives black voters of the equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and in violation of the United States Constitution.[1] The Court had previously bifurcated the issues of liability and remedy.

         Subsequent to this Ruling, Defendants moved to stay the case pending an appeal to the Fifth Circuit.[2] The Court denied the Motion to Stay, rejecting the Defendants' argument that the Court's Ruling had the “practical effect” of an injunction warranting a stay under Rule 62(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[3] Thus, the Parties began briefing the remedy issue for the Court.

         Sadly, on December 9, 2017, the Honorable James J. Brady passed away. This case was reassigned to the undersigned on January 5, 2018.[4] On February 21, 2018, the Court held a Status Conference to discuss the posture of the case, and the Court ordered the Parties to submit briefs on the efficacy of a remedy by June 28, 2018.[5] The Court also advised that, if no Bill was passed during the 2018 regular Legislative Session, the Court would hold another Status Conference.[6] No such action was taken by the Legislature; thus, the Parties filed the briefs ordered by the Court.

         On July 9, 2018, nearly a year after the Court's Ruling, Defendant filed this Motion for Reconsideration pursuant to Rule 60(b)(6) based on the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Abbott v. Perez.[7] Defendant seeks relief under Rule 60(b)(6), any other reason that justifies relief, arguing that Abbott is “new, applicable, and controlling authority that was released after this Court issued its Ruling, ” thus, “it creates an extraordinary circumstance justifying relief from the judgment of the Ruling[.]” Plaintiffs oppose this motion arguing that Defendant misinterprets Abbott, and Abbott does not constitute a change in the intervening law applicable to this case, nor does it warrant reconsideration of the Court's previous Ruling.[1]

         II. RELIEF FROM JUDGMENT UNDER RULE 60(b)

         Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a court to relieve a party from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons: “(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or (6) any other reason that justifies relief.”

         “Several factors shape the framework of the court's consideration of a 60(b) motion: ‘(1) That final judgments should not lightly be disturbed; (2) that the Rule 60(b) motion is not to be used as a substitute for appeal; (3) that the rule should be liberally construed in order to do substantial justice; (4) whether the motion was made within a reasonable time; (5) whether-if the judgment was a default or a dismissal in which there was no consideration of the merits-the interest in deciding cases on the merits outweighs, in the particular case, the interest in the finality of judgments, and there is merit in the movant's claim or defense; (6) whether there are any intervening equities that would make it inequitable to grant relief; and (7) any other factors relevant to the justice of the judgment under attack.'”[1]

         The Court has carefully considered both Judge Brady's previous Ruling and the Supreme Court's decision in Abbott, and the Court finds that reconsideration is unwarranted. Defendant Caldwell particularly focuses on Judge Brady's alleged heavy reliance on Louisiana's long history of using certain electoral systems to dilute the black vote.[2] However, the Ruling is clear that Plaintiffs met the three Gingles preconditions and, further, the history of voting discrimination in the state or jurisdiction being challenged was but one of several factors to consider the “totality of the circumstances” for purposes of determining vote dilution.[3] The record is replete with numerous other bases that informed the Court's determination of discriminatory motive in this case. Further the Court's analysis was appropriate under Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Dev. Corp., [4] which was not overruled by Abbott but in fact quoted throughout.

         Accordingly, the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the Defendant Attorney General is DENIED.[1] This matter shall proceed to the remedy phase as set forth previously by the Court.

         IT ...


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