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Hamilton v. Geithner

May 19, 2009

GARY HAMILTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TIMOTHY F. GEITHNER, SECRETARY OF TREASURY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Gary Hamilton, the plaintiff in this civil lawsuit, seeks compensatory damages and injunctive and declaratory relief against Timothy F. Geithner in his official capacity as the Secretary for the Department of Treasury for alleged unlawful discrimination against the plaintiff by the plaintiff's former employer, the Internal Revenue Service (the "IRS"), on the basis of race and sex pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17 (2000). Civil Complaint (the "Compl.") ¶¶ 1, (i)-(iii).*fn1 On March 28, 2008, the Court entered an order granting in part and denying in part the defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismissing Counts I and II of the plaintiff's complaint with prejudice. Currently before the Court are the plaintiff's motion for partial reconsideration of that order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) and his separate motion for leave to file an amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15.*fn2 After carefully considering the plaintiff's complaint, the Court's prior memorandum opinion accompanying its March 28, 2008 order, as well as the plaintiff's motions and all memoranda of law and exhibits filed in connection with those motions,*fn3 the Court concludes that it must deny the plaintiff's motion for reconsideration and grant his motion for leave to file an amended complaint for the reasons that follow.

I. Background

The Court has previously recounted the undisputed facts of this case in some detail and need not repeat them again here. See Hamilton v. Paulson, 542 F. Supp. 2d 37, 40-42 (D.D.C. 2008) (Walton, J.) (summarizing the undisputed facts pertinent to this case). Suffice to say, the plaintiff, an African-American male and former employee of the Real Estate and Facilities Management department of the IRS, id. at 40, believes that he was not selected for the position of Safety and Occupational Health Manager ("Safety Manager") in 2003 in favor of a white, female employee, Annette Burrell, based on his race and gender, id. at 40-41. He further alleges that "the IRS retaliated against him for filing an EEO complaint based on his non-selection for the Safety Manager position" in 2003 when it selected another white female, Camille Carraway, for a detail as a Safety Manager in January of 2004. Id. at 41. Finally, the plaintiff asserted for the first time in his memoranda of law in opposition to the defendant's motion for summary judgment that he was also discriminated against on the basis of race and sex "based on the selection of Burrell for a detail in the National Office Safety Program in August of 2002." Id.

In a memorandum opinion issued on April 3, 2008, this Court concluded that summary judgment in favor of the defendant was warranted with respect to the plaintiff's 2003 non-selection and 2004 retaliation claims. Id. at 63. Regarding the non-selection claim, the Court found that there was "nothing in the record that would permit a reasonable jury to infer that the defendant's explanation for the selection of Burrell over the plaintiff for the Safety Manager position . . . [was] in any way a pretext for discrimination based on gender or race." Id. at 57. As for the retaliation claim, the Court held that the plaintiff failed to establish a causal connection between his statutorily protected activity (i.e., the initiation of his EEO complaint) and the alleged adverse action taken against him (i.e., his non-selection for the 2002 Safety Manager detail). Id. at 57-61. Finally, the Court declined to rule on the merits of any arguments raised by the defendant with respect to the plaintiff's newly-raised 2002 non-selection claim until the claims were properly alleged in an amended complaint. Id. at 61-62. The Court therefore denied without prejudice the defendant's motion for summary judgment with respect to this "claim" and granted the plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint including the plaintiff's non-selection for a Safety Manager detail in 2002 as a basis for relief. Id. at 62.

The plaintiff filed his motion for reconsideration on April 17, 2008. In support of this motion, he argues that the Court erred in failing to consider "the crucial fact that Burrell, by her own admission, did not possess the requisite 'specialized experience' to be classified at the [GS-14] level." Pl.'s Reconsideration Mot. at 3. The plaintiff also criticizes many aspects of the Court's memorandum opinion, such as (1) the Court's conclusion that the evidence adduced by the plaintiff failed to establish that Burrell had untimely submitted her application for the Safety Manager position (a conclusion the plaintiff characterizes as "almost appalling"), id. at 2-3, (2) the Court's rejection of the plaintiff's anecdotal evidence that his supervisor has promoted white females in lieu of the plaintiff in the past, id. at 4-6, (3) the Court's holding that the hiring process for the Safety Manager position was not, as described by the plaintiff, "purely subjective," id. at 6-7, (4) the Court's alleged "play[ing] down" of "virtually all of [the p]laintiff's evidence," id. at 7, including Burrell's purported inability "to answer certain questions relevant and material to the safety field," id. at 7-8, "[t]he absence of a personnel member at the interview" for the Safety Manager position, the supposed belief of a panelist at that interview "that she was interviewing the candidates for a different position," "[t]he loss of [a] portion of" the interview notes taken regarding the plaintiff, id. at 9, the lack of any indication as to why the plaintiff was not selected for the Safety Manager position in the interviewers' notes, and the alleged "numerous contradictions . . . in the panelists['] testimony," id. at 10, and (5) the Court's reliance on Fischbach v. District of Columbia Department of Corrections, 86 F.3d 1180 (D.C. Cir. 1996), in light of more recent precedent from the District of Columbia Circuit, id. at 11.

In his opposition to the plaintiff's motion for reconsideration, the defendant argues that the plaintiff's motion "does precisely what the law prohibits: reargues issues previously considered and rejected by the Court." Def.'s Reconsideration Opp'n at 13. He derides the plaintiff's timeliness argument as "a red herring" that is "not supported by the record," id. at 7, argues that it is inappropriate for the plaintiff to rely upon anecdotal evidence of "white washing" in support of his non-selection claim, id. at 8-10, defends the purported subjectivity of the hiring process for the Safety Manager position in 2003, id. at 11-12, and argues that the Court should reject the plaintiff's remaining arguments "for the same reasons that the Court rejected [those same] arguments in [the plaintiff's] opposition to [the d]efendant's motion for summary judgment," id. at 12. The plaintiff contests each of these arguments in his reply memorandum, Pl.'s Reconsideration Reply at 5-11, and points out that the defendant "utterly fails" to refute his argument that Burrell was not qualified for the Safety Manager position under binding Office of Personnel Management ("OPM") regulations, id. at 2.

Less than a month after filing his motion for reconsideration, the plaintiff filed a separate motion for leave to file an amended complaint in conformance with the Court's instructions in its memorandum opinion. Pl.'s Amendment Mot. at 1. Notwithstanding the fact that the Court had already granted the plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint, the defendant filed an opposition to that motion on June 2, 2008, arguing that the amendment proposed by the plaintiff would be futile because the plaintiff has not exhausted the administrative remedies necessary to raise a viable claim for discrimination based on his non-selection for the Safety Manager detail in 2002, Def.'s Amendment Opp'n at 4-9, that the relief requested by the plaintiff in his proposed amended complaint exceeds the scope of the amendment permitted by the Court in its memorandum opinion, id. at 10, and that the Court erred in concluding that it was required to permit the plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint pursuant to Wiley v. Glassman, 511 F.3d 151 (D.C. Cir. 2007), Def.'s Amendment Opp'n at 11-14. The plaintiff disputes each of these points in his reply. Pl.'s Amendment Reply at 2-11.

II. Standard of Review

As the Court previously noted, the plaintiff seeks both partial reconsideration of this Court's earlier ruling on the defendant's summary judgment motion and leave to amend his complaint. Although not explicitly referenced by the plaintiff, Rule 54(b) governs the Court's consideration of his motion for reconsideration because of the interlocutory nature of the Court's March 28, 2008 order,*fn4 while Rule 15(a) controls his motion for leave to file an amended complaint. The Court therefore discusses the standard of review under each rule.

A. Motion for Reconsideration under Rule 54(b)

"[I]nterlocutory orders are not subject to the law of the case doctrine and may always be reconsidered prior to final judgment." Filebark v. U.S. Dep't of Transp., 555 F.3d 1009, 1013 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). Thus, "[t]he standard of review for interlocutory decisions differs from the standards applied to final judgments under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b)." Williams v. Savage, 569 F. Supp. 2d 99, 108 (D.D.C. 2008). "In particular, reconsideration of an interlocutory decision is available under the standard, 'as justice requires.'" Judicial Watch v. Dep't of Army, 466 F. Supp. 2d 112, 123 (D.D.C. 2006).

"'As justice requires' indicates concrete considerations by the [C]court . . . ." AFL-CIO v. Bullock, Civ. Action No. 03-79 (EGS), 2009 WL 841138, *4 (D.D.C. Mar. 31, 2009). These considerations "include whether the Court 'patently' misunderstood the parties, made a decision beyond the adversarial issues presented, made an error in failing to consider controlling decisions or data, or whether a controlling or significant change in the law has occurred." Isse v. Am. Univ., 544 F. Supp. 2d 25, 29 (D.D.C. 2008). Further, "for justice to require reconsideration, logically, it must be the case that[] some sort of 'injustice' will result if reconsideration is refused. That is, the movant must demonstrate that some harm . . . would flow from a denial of reconsideration." Cobell v. Norton, 355 F. Supp. 2d 531, 540 (D.D.C. 2005).

"Even if the appropriate legal standard does not indicate that reconsideration is warranted, the Court may nevertheless elect to grant a motion for reconsideration if there are other good reasons for doing so." Isse, 544 F. Supp. 2d at 29 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). However, "while the law of the case doctrine does not necessarily apply to interlocutory orders, district courts generally consider the doctrine's underlying rationale when deciding whether to reconsider an earlier decision." Malewicz v. City of Amsterdam, 517 F. Supp. 2d 322, 328 (D.C. Cir. 2007). The Court therefore considers the plaintiff's motion "subject to the caveat that, where litigants have once battled for the Court's decision, they should neither be required, nor without good reason permitted, to battle for it again." Lemmons v. Georgetown Univ. Hosp., 241 F.R.D. 15, 22 (D.D.C. 2007) (Walton, J.) (quoting Judicial Watch, 466 F. Supp. 2d at 123 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted)).

B. Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint under Rule 15(a)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that leave to amend a pleading "shall be freely given when justice so requires." As the Supreme Court ...


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