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Franco v. District of Columbia

October 10, 2006

SAMUEL FRANCO ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



Document No. 18

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE PLAINTIFFS'MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND JUDGMENT*fn1

I. INTRODUCTION

The plaintiffs,*fn2 leaseholders of property in Skyland Shopping Center in the District of Columbia, challenge legislation authorizing the defendants to exercise eminent domain over their property. The court previously granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, concluding that the plaintiffs' claims were not ripe. Specifically, the court ruled that no taking had occurred and that the plaintiffs had not exhausted state procedures for seeking relief. The matter is before the court on the plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend its judgment. As to the first prong of the court's ruling, the plaintiffs now assert, and the defendants concede, that during the pendency of this case, defendant National Capital Revitalization Corporation ("NCRC") exercised a taking of the plaintiffs' leasehold interest. As to the second prong, the plaintiffs assert that the court improperly concluded that they must exhaust state court remedies because the taking was facially unconstitutional and because they seek equitable relief and monetary damages rather than compensation. Although the defendants properly exercised a public-use taking of the plaintiffs' leasehold interests, the plaintiffs have not exhausted state court remedies, and their claims are still not ripe. Accordingly, the court did not commit a clear legal error in dismissing the plaintiffs' claims, and the court declines to alter or amend its judgment.

II. BACKGROUND*fn3

A. Factual History

The plaintiffs are tenants of property located in the Skyland Shopping Center ("Skyland Center") in Southeast Washington, D.C. Am. Compl. ¶ 2. In 2004, deeming the condemnation of the Skyland area "necessary and desirable for the public," the District of Columbia Council passed the "Skyland Legislation," authorizing defendant NCRC to condemn property in the Skyland Center. D.C. Code § 2-1219.19.

B. Procedural History

On May 26, 2005, the plaintiffs filed suit to challenge the legislation authorizing defendant NCRC to exercise eminent domain on the Skyland Center. See Compl. On March 22, 2006, the court dismissed the plaintiffs' amended complaint because their claims were not ripe. Mem. Op. (Mar. 27, 2006) ("Mem. Op.") at 15. On April 5, 2006, the plaintiffs filed a motion to alter or amend the court's order on the grounds that defendant NCRC initiated eminent domain proceedings against the Skyland Center in July 2005, and that the court erred in ruling that the plaintiffs were required to exhaust state procedures. Pls.' Mot. at 2. The defendants oppose the plaintiffs' motion, arguing that the plaintiffs must still exhaust state court procedures, and that the plaintiffs' claims are otherwise not properly before the court. Defs.' Opp'n at 2. The court now turns to the plaintiffs' motion.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for a Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment Pursuant to Rule 59(e)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) provides that a motion to alter or amend a judgment must be filed within 10 days of the entry of the judgment at issue. FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e); see also Mashpee Wamponoag Tribal Council, Inc. v. Norton, 336 F.3d 1094, 1098 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (stating that a Rule 59(e) motion "must be filed within 10 days of the challenged order, not including weekends, certain specified national holidays (including Christmas Day and New Year's Day), or any other day appointed as a holiday by the President"). While the court has considerable discretion in ruling on a Rule 59(e) motion, the reconsideration and amendment of a previous order is an unusual measure. Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (per curiam); McDowell v. Calderon, 197 F.3d 1253, 1255 (9th Cir. 1999). Rule 59(e) motions "need not be granted unless the district court finds that there is an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear legal error or prevent manifest injustice." Ciralsky v. Cent. Intelligence Agency, 355 F.3d 661, 671 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (quoting Firestone, 76 F.3d at 1208). Moreover, "[a] Rule 59(e) motion to reconsider is not simply an opportunity to reargue facts and theories upon which a court has already ruled," New York v. United States, 880 F. Supp. 37, 38 (D.D.C. 1995), or a vehicle for presenting theories or arguments that could have been advanced earlier. Kattan v. Dist. 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 Court's Dismissal of the Plaintiffs' Claims is Not in Clear Legal Error*fn4

In its March 27, 2006 ruling, the court dismissed the plaintiffs' claims as not ripe because a public use taking had not occurred and the plaintiffs had not sought just compensation in state court. Id. at 13. The plaintiffs now challenge the court's ruling, arguing that the defendants did not effect a public use taking and that they need ...


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