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Hoffman v. District of Columbia

August 11, 2010

ANGELA HOFFMAN ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document No. 45

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE PLAINTIFFS'MOTION FOR RELIEF UPON RECONSIDERATION & RECUSAL

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the court on the plaintiffs' motion for relief upon reconsideration of this court's February 4, 2010 order, in which the court denied the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment and granted the District of Columbia's motion to dismiss as conceded. The plaintiffs contend that the court erred in reaching these conclusions and that the court's behavior evidences a bias in favor of the defendant, requiring recusal of the undersigned judge. Because the plaintiffs have not identified any basis for reversing the court's prior ruling and have failed to demonstrate any basis for recusal, the court denies the plaintiffs' motion.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND*fn1

The plaintiffs allege that on July 31, 2008, they were attending a birthday party at a residence rented by plaintiff Angela Hoffman and owned by plaintiff Melvin Gresham, a captain in the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD"). Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 4, 20. During the party, agents of the MPD and the Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA") raided the residence, allegedly as part of scheme to retaliate against Captain Gresham because of his purported whistleblower activities. Id. ¶¶ 11, 13.

In November 2008, the plaintiffs commenced this action, asserting fourteen federal and state law claims against the District of Columbia and the United States. See generally Compl.; Am. Compl. More specifically, the plaintiffs asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 for violations of their Fifth Amendment rights, the D.C. Whistleblower Act, D.C. CODE §§ 1-615.51, and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, id. 2-1401.01 et seq. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 39-51, 74-79. The plaintiffs also asserted a bevy of common law tort claims against the defendants.*fn2 Id. ¶¶ 52-73, 80-82.

On June 9, 2009, the plaintiffs moved for partial summary judgment on their claims against the District. See generally Pls.' Mot. for Partial Summ. J. The plaintiffs based their motion on the fact that the District of Columbia Housing Authority ("DCHA") had conducted a hearing in April 2009 to consider whether the agency had wrongfully terminated plaintiff Hoffman from the Housing Choice Voucher Program ("HCVP"). See id., Ex. 1 ("DCHA Decision") at 1. The plaintiffs argued that the hearing officer's decision was entitled to res judicata effect and established the District's liability to the plaintiffs. See generally Pls.' Mot. for Partial Summ. J. The District filed its opposition to the plaintiffs' motion on July 13, 2009. See generally District's Opp'n to Pls.' Mot. for Partial Summ. J.

On July 22, 2009, the District moved to dismiss all claims against it. See generally District Mot. to Dismiss. The plaintiffs failed to file a timely opposition or request leave to late file an opposition. On February 4, 2010, the court denied the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment, concluding that based on the applicable municipal regulations, the DCHA hearing officer's decision did not constitute a final adjudication on the merits entitled to res judicata effect. See Mem. Op. (Feb. 4, 2010) at 9-11. Furthermore, the court granted the District's motion to dismiss as conceded because the plaintiffs had not filed an opposition to the motion. Id. at 11-14.

On February 10, 2010, the plaintiffs filed the motion for relief upon reconsideration and recusal now before the court. See generally Pls.' Mot. for Relief Upon Recons. ("Pls.' Mot."). The plaintiffs contend that the court erred in denying their motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that the DCHA hearing officer's decision was entitled to res judicata treatment and conclusively established the District's liability to the plaintiffs. See id. at 7-9. The plaintiffs further argue that the court erred in granting the District's motion to dismiss and contend that recusal is necessary because of the court's bias against the plaintiffs. See id. at 9-15. The District opposes the plaintiffs' motion, see generally Def.'s Opp'n, which is now ripe for adjudication. The court therefore turns to the applicable legal standards and the parties' arguments.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Relief Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)

In its discretion, the court may relieve a party from an otherwise final judgment pursuant to any one of six reasons set forth in Rule 60(b). FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b); Lepkowski v. Dep't of Treasury, 804 F.2d 1310, 1311-12 (D.C. Cir. 1986). First, the court may grant relief from a judgment involving "mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect." FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b)(1). Relief under Rule 60(b)(1) turns on equitable factors, notably whether any neglect was excusable. Pioneer Inv. Servs. Co. v. Brunswick Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 507 U.S. 380, 392 (1993). Second, the court may grant relief ...


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