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HORNBOSTEL v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

United States District Court for the District of Columbia


February 18, 2004.

PETER A. HORNBOSTEL, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, Defendant

The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROYCE LAMBERTH, District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on defendant's motion to clarify or alter or amend the judgement entered on August 7, 2003.*fn1 Upon consideration of defendant's motion and the record in this case, the motion to clarify or alter or amend the judgment will be granted for the reasons set forth below.

As a threshold matter, a trial court exercises considerable discretion to grant or deny a Rule 59(e) motion. Goulding v. IRS, 1997 WL 47450, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 30, 1997) (citing Figgie Int'l, Inc. v. Miller, 966 F.2d 1178, 1179 (7th Cir. 1992)). The court properly invokes its discretion to grant a Rule 59(e) motion if it finds there is (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence; or (3) the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice. Anyanwutaku v. Moore, 151 F.3d 1053, 1057-58 (D.C. Cir. 1998). Rule Page 2 59(e) motions are generally not granted if the court suspects the losing party is using the motion as a mere instrumentality of arguing the same theory or asserting new arguments that could have been raised prior to final judgment. Taylor v. DOJ, 268 F. Supp.2d 34, 35 (D.D.C. 2003) (citing Kattan v. D.C., 995 F.2d 274, 276 (D.C. Cir. 1993) (citations omitted)).

  The issue before the Court is straight forward. Defendant asserts part of a document was ordered released to plaintiff erroneously. On August 7, 2003, this Court granted plaintiff's motion for summary judgment concerning documents 30, 31, 33, 34(b), 34(c), and 34(d) and accordingly ordered defendant release them to plaintiff. In all other respects, plaintiff's motion was denied. With the exception of the above documents, defendant's motion for summary judgment was granted. Defendant's motion to clarify or alter or amend judgment implicates only document 34(c), folder 3 (entitled "Neighbor's artifacts"). Defendant points to an inconsistency between the Court's August 7 opinion and order as it relates to this document.

  The Court's August 7 opinion noted that "[p]laintiff no longer challenges defendant's invocation of Exemption 6 regarding document 26, document 34(c), folder 3, and the name contained within document 63." Id. at 18. See also Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment at 22 (stating plaintiff "is prepared to waive release of Document 26, third folder (`Neighbor's artifacts') of Document 34(c)"). The Court then denied defendant's motion for summary judgment regarding the aforementioned documents. Document 34(c) was named, without qualification, among these documents. As a result, compliance would mandate defendant release document 34(c) and all of its constituent parts, including folder 3. The Court will grant defendant's Rule 59(e) motion because document 34(c), folder 3 was not in dispute, as plaintiff indicated his willingness to Page 3 waive release thereof. The Court inadvertently ordered document 34(c) fully released to plaintiff without noting folder 3 was not required to be disclosed. Therefore, relief is granted to defendant on the grounds of correcting error. Anyanwutaku, 151 F.3d at 1057-58 (D.C. Cir. 1998). Defendant is hereby relieved from judgment with respect to folder 3 of document 34(c) (entitled "Neighbor's artifacts"). As such, defendant is permitted to withhold said document.


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