United States District Court for the District of Columbia
February 18, 2004.
PETER A. HORNBOSTEL, Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROYCE LAMBERTH, District Judge
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
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
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.