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Delaware Federal Court Examines Standards for Post-Judgment Motions Filed Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b)
Raymond J. Brokenbrough, Jr. v. Capital Cleaners & Launderers, Inc.
Raymond J. Brokenbrough, Jr. v. Capital Cleaners & Launderers, Inc. involved a motion for relief from a final judgment, order, or proceeding pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) and a motion for reconsideration pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), filed by a Plaintiff after summary judgment was entered in favor of the Defendant in Plaintiff’s employment discrimination lawsuit. The United States District Court for the District of Delaware concluded that Plaintiff’s motions were merely an attempt to argue new facts that were inexcusably not presented to the Court at the time the Court entered summary judgment. Thus, Magistrate Judge Christopher J. Burke denied both of Plaintiff’s motions.
By way of factual background, this case arose from an employment discrimination action filed by Plaintiff Raymond J. Brokenbrough, Jr. ("Plaintiff”) against his former employer, Defendant Capital Cleaners & Launderers, Inc. (“Defendant”), in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. On May 19, 2015, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion (the "Memorandum Opinion") granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, which was filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. See Brokenbrough v. Capitol Cleaners & Launderers, Inc., Civil Action No. 13-692-CJB, 2015 WL 2394633 (D. Del. May 19, 2015). In an accompanying Order, the Court ordered that judgment be entered for Defendant and against Plaintiff, and that the case be closed. On June 8, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion seeking relief from a final judgment, order, or proceeding pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), and a motion for reconsideration of the Memorandum Opinion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e).
The Court first addressed Plaintiff’s motion seeking relief from a final judgment, order, or proceeding pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). The Court noted that in support of this motion, Plaintiff explained that his ex-girlfriend (with whom Plaintiff used to reside) obtained a Protection from Abuse Order against him in September 2014, which limited his ability to obtain certain "paper work" and mail that was located at his ex-girlfriend's house, including documents relating to this case. The Court further noted, however, that Plaintiff did not explain with any specificity how those circumstances impacted the result of the case, why it warranted re-opening the case, or why it amounted to grounds for relief from a final judgment, order, or proceeding pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b); Braun v. Gonzales, Civ. No. 11-186-RGA, 2013 WL 1405946, at *1 (D. Del. Apr. 8, 2013). As a result, the Court denied Plaintiff’s motion seeking relief under Rule 60(b) regarding his address issue.
Next, the Court addressed Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration of the Memorandum Opinion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). The Court noted that in support of this motion, Plaintiff listed several facts of record drawn from the factual background section of the Court's Memorandum Opinion, followed by an articulation as to why those facts were not accurate.
The Court began its analysis on this motion by explaining that the purpose of a motion for reconsideration “is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.” See Folks v. Danberg, Civ. Action No. 09-103-GMS, 2012 WL 37228, at *1 (D. Del. Jan. 6, 2012); Max's Seafood Cafe ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999). The Court further explained that a judgment may be altered or amended if the party seeking reconsideration shows at least one (1) of the following grounds: (1) “an intervening change in the controlling law;” (2) “the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court granted the motion for summary judgment;” and/or (3) “the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice.” See Max's Seafood Cafe, 176 F.3d at 677; Folks, 2012 WL 37228, at *l.
Further, the Court noted that a motion to reconsider “may not be used to argue that a court rethink a decision already made, nor may it be used to argue new facts or issues that were inexcusably not presented to the court in the matter previously decided.” See Dupree v. Corr. Med. Servs., Civ. No. 10-351-LPS, 2015 WL 7194438, at *2 (D. Del. Nov. 16, 2015); Folks, 2012 WL 37228, at *1. The Court acknowledged, however, that “reargument may be appropriate where a court has patently misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the court by the parties, or has made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension.” See Dupree, 2015 WL 7194438, at *2; Folks, 2012 WL 37228, at *1.
Turning to the facts of the case, the Court concluded that Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration must be denied. The Court explained that Plaintiff was challenging the accuracy of certain facts which related to instances of negative behavior Plaintiff allegedly exhibited while working for Defendant. The Court noted that these instances included the following: (1) in June 2009, Plaintiff sexually harassed a female co-worker by making sexually suggestive comments to her; (2) in October 2009, Plaintiff stole commission slips from a different employee, and confessed when he was caught; (3) in December 2009, Plaintiff crashed his company delivery truck while on an unauthorized trip, for which he was issued a written reprimand, and was thereafter demoted to a lesser-paying position; and (4) on various occasions, Plaintiff arrived late or did not show up at all for work.
The Court noted that at the time of its decision on Defendant's summary judgment motion, there was nothing in the record to contradict Defendant's evidence, which indicated that those events had occurred and that they had been contemporaneously documented by Defendant's employees. See Brokenbrough, 2015 WL 2394633, at * 1. Accordingly, the Court took those facts into account in explaining why Defendant had put forward reasonable non-discriminatory reasons for its decision to demote and later fire Plaintiff, and why Plaintiff could not point to sufficient evidence to demonstrate that these reasons were a pretext for racial discrimination.
The Court noted that Plaintiff was now contesting that these various events occurred, or suggesting that if they did occur, then they were not as serious as Defendant made them out to be. In doing so, however, the Court noted that Plaintiff failed to point to any identifiable portion of the record that was before the Court at the time of summary judgment to support his contentions. Instead, the Court found that Plaintiff was largely suggesting that evidence that he had not (but could have) made a part of the record earlier in the case would demonstrate that the facts regarding those incidents were different than what Defendant had asserted.
The Court explained, however, that an argument “citing to newly presented ‘facts’ that were available at the time of the original order, but were not then made of record by Plaintiff, could not support the grant of a motion for reconsideration.” See, e.g., Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985) (finding that the district court appropriately did not consider an affidavit containing evidence available prior to summary judgment); Kloth v. S. Christian Univ. Bd. of Dirs., Civ. No. 06-244-SLR, 2007 WL 3036893, at *2 (D. Del. Oct. 17, 2007); Walker v. Carroll, Civ. No. 02-325-GMS, 2003 WL 1700379, at *3-4 (D. Del. Mar. 24, 2003) (denying a plaintiff's motion for reconsideration because the proffered "new" evidence existed at the time of dismissal). Accordingly, the Court denied Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration of the Memorandum Opinion.
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