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American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v. Brothers

October 25, 2007

AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RINGLING BROTHERS AND BARNUM & BAILEY CIRCUS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pending before the Court is plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration or Alternatively Partial Reconsideration, defendant's Motion for Reconsideration, or, in the Alternative, for Certification Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), and plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Complaint Adding Three Former Ringling Brothers Employees as Additional Plaintiffs. For the reasons stated below, plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration is denied, defendant's Motion for Reconsideration is granted in part and denied in part, and plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Complaint is denied.

I. MOTIONS FOR RECONSIDERATION

On August 23, 2007, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting in part and denying in part defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Specifically, the Court granted summary judgment to defendant as to elephants subject to a captive-bred wildlife ("CBW") permit and denied summary judgment as to elephants for which defendant claimed a "pre-Act" exemption. Defendant has filed a motion for reconsideration challenging the Court's decision regarding the "pre-Act" elephants and plaintiff has filed a motion for reconsideration challenging the Court's decision regarding the CBW permit elephants.

A district court may revise its own interlocutory rulings "at any time before the entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and liabilities of all the parties." Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b). The standard of review for interlocutory orders differs from the standard of review for final judgments under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60. See, e.g., Campbell v. United States DOJ, 231 F. Supp. 2d 1, 7 (D.D.C. 2002) (citing cases). The primary reasons for amending a judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) are "an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice." Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996). The Court may reconsider any interlocutory judgment "as justice requires." Childers v. Slater, 197 F.R.D. 185, 190 (D.D.C. 2000).

A. Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration

Plaintiffs ask the Court to amend its prior ruling granting summary judgment as to the CBW permit elephants because the Court made a "clear error." First, plaintiffs argue that a principal decision on which the Court relies, Atlantic Green Sea Turtle v. County Council of Volusia County, No. 6:04-cv-1576-Orl-31KRS, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38841, 2005 WL 1227305 (M.D. Fla. May 3, 2005), was vacated by the Eleventh Circuit. Plaintiffs made this same argument in their opposition to defendant's motion for summary judgment and the Court rejected that argument. The Court agrees with defendant that the Middle District of Florida's May 3, 2005 opinion does not appear to have been vacated on the merits even if the action was later dismissed as moot. Even assuming the Atlantic Green Sea Turtle opinion has been vacated, this Court has undertaken its own independent analysis of the statutory language at issue in granting defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to the CBW permit elephants.

Plaintiffs also contend that the Court erred by not expressly addressing plaintiffs' separate claim that defendant is violating Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act ("ESA"). Motions for reconsideration "are not simply an opportunity to reargue facts and theories upon which a court has already ruled." Black v. Tomlinson, 235 F.R.D. 532, 533 (D.D.C. 2006) (internal quotations omitted). The Court finds that this argument by plaintiffs is "little more than a rehash of the arguments" previously argued and rejected by the Court. Id. Accepting plaintiffs' argument would be the equivalent of placing permit enforcement or permit revocation within the hands of private citizens and the statute does not go that far. The Court leaves enforcement of permits to the Secretary of the Interior as the grantor of such permits. Accordingly, the Court denies plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration.

B. Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration

Defendant asks the Court to reconsider the portion of its Memorandum Opinion that denied summary judgment as to the so-called "pre-Act" elephants because defendant claims that the Court overlooked two arguments relied on by defendant in its motion. First, defendant argues that the Court committed legal error by improperly interpreting Bennett v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154 (1997). Second, defendant indicates that the Court did not address its standing argument with respect to Tom Rider. Finally, in the event the Court denies its motion, defendant alternatively asks the Court to certify this issue for interlocutory appeal.

1. Bennett v. Spear

The Court rejects defendant's argument regarding Bennett. Defendant is simply trying to rehash the same point that it argued in its Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendant's argument does not undermine the Court's confidence in its prior ruling.

Accordingly, defendant's Motion for Reconsideration is denied as to its ...


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