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Leadership Conference on Civil Rights v. Gonzales

March 20, 2006

LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE ON CIVIL RIGHTS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Signed by Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on the Defendants' Motion [49] to Alter or Amend Judgment and to Stay the Production of Court Ordered Documents. Upon consideration of defendants' motion, the opposition thereto, the reply, the applicable law, and the entire record in this case, the Court will deny the defendants' motion.

I. Background

Plaintiff, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, submitted six FOIA requests addressed to the Department of Justice's Criminal Division seeking records of communications concerning the monitoring of federal elections from 1988 to the present. On December 9, 2005, this Court determined that Justice properly withheld portions of certain documents under FOIA. However, the Court also determined that portions of certain documents containing paralegal names and phone numbers could not be withheld under either: (1) FOIA Exemption 6, because the information is not similar to a "personnel" or "medical" file as is required by Exemption 6; or (2) under FOIA Exemption 7(C) because the records were not compiled for law enforcement purposes. See Mem. Op. at 13-14 (Dec. 9, 2005). Thus, the Court ordered that defendants expedite the processing of plaintiff's FOIA requests and produce the requested records to plaintiffs as soon as practicable, but no later than September 28, 2006. See Order (Dec. 9, 2005).

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e), on December 23, 2005 defendant filed a motion to alter or amend the Court's Order requiring the release of the paralegal names and telephone numbers, and requested a stay of the Order in anticipation of an appeal. On February 6, 2006, defendants filed a notice of appeal. On February 17, 2006 plaintiff filed a motion to expedite consideration of defendants' Rule 59(e) motion.

II. Applicable Law

A. Rule 59(e)

A court has considerable discretion under Rule 59(e). Alteration or amendment of a judgment is extraordinary relief that need not be granted unless the district court concludes: (1) that there has been an intervening change of controlling law; (2) that new evidence is available; or (3) that amendment is needed to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice. Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (per curiam). A Rule 59(e) motion is neither a means to reargue facts and legal theories upon which a court has already ruled, New York v. United States, 880 F. Supp. 37, 38 (D.D.C. 1995), nor a vehicle to present arguments or evidence that could have been advanced earlier. Kattan v. District of Columbia, 995 F.2d 274, 276 (D.C. Cir. 1993); W.C. & A.N. Miller Cos. v. United States, 173 F.R.D. 1, 3 (D.D.C. 1997).

B. The Pending Appeal

Rule 59(e) requires that a party request alteration or amendment of a judgment within 10 days of the entry of the judgment. FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e). A notice of appeal "confers jurisdiction on the court of appeals and divests the district court of control over those aspects of the case involved in the appeal." United States v. DeFries, 129 F.3d 1293, 1302 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (citing Griggs v. Provident Consumer Discount Co., 459 U.S. 56, 58 (1982) (per curiam)). A district court may deny, but cannot grant, a Rule 59(e) motion pending after the filing of a notice of appeal. If the court is inclined to grant such a motion while the appeal is pending, "the District Court indicates that it will grant relief, [and] the appellant may move the appellate court for a remand in order that relief may be granted." Hoai v. Vo, 935 F.2d 308, 312 (D.C. Cir. 1991).

When defendant filed its notice of appeal on February 6, 2006, this Court was divested of jurisdiction over the matters on appeal. Under Hoai, this Court may consider defendants' Rule 59(e) motion while the appeal is pending. The Court has considered defendants' motion and, for the reasons set forth below, concludes that the motion will be denied.

III. Discussion

In order to prevail on a Rule 59(e) motion, there must be an intervening change of controlling law, new evidence, clear legal error or manifest injustice. Defendants fail to show ...


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