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Bryce A. Cromartie v. District of Columbia

August 30, 2011

BRYCE A. CROMARTIE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

(August 30, 2011)

Plaintiff Bryce Cromartie ("Plaintiff") filed this action against Defendants Miguel Rodriguezgil and J. Brown, both Metropolitan Police Officers, and the District of Columbia asserting claims for false arrest, assault & battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and deprivation of his civil rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Presently pending before the Court is Plaintiff's [30] Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment. Plaintiff asks the Court to reconsider its August 6, 2010 order granting summary judgment for Defendants. The Court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment as conceded because Plaintiff failed to file a timely opposition, and the Court alternatively ruled that Defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law based on the factual record produced by Defendants, which went unrebutted by Plaintiff. In his motion to alter or amend the judgment, Plaintiff argues that his failure to file a timely opposition was the result of a technical error and that the record produced by Defendants does not support an award of summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, the Court shall DENY Plaintiff's motion to alter or amend the Court's judgment of August 6, 2010.

I. BACKGROUND

This case was removed to this Court from the Superior Court for the District of Columbia by Defendants on July 22, 2009. After Defendants filed their answer to the complaint, the Court held an Initial Scheduling Conference on September 14, 2009 and issued a Scheduling and Procedures Order setting forth deadlines for the completion of discovery. See Docket No. [9]. Pursuant to that scheduling order, discovery was to be completed by February 26, 2010. The Court also referred the parties to the Court's ADR program for mediation. On March 12, 2010, the Court held a Status Hearing in which the parties indicated that ADR had been unsuccessful and that discovery had not been completed. See Min. Order (Mar. 12, 2010). The Court issued an order adopting the deadlines proposed by the parties for the completion of discovery and scheduled a Status Hearing for April 16, 2010. See Min. Order (Mar. 18, 2010).

The parties were unable to complete discovery without incident. On April 1, 2010, Defendants filed a [14] Motion to Compel further deposition testimony from Plaintiff and a [15] Motion for Protective Order to maintain the confidentiality of certain information responsive to Plaintiff's requests for production of documents. Pursuant to LCvR 7(m) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(1), Defendants' counsel certified that she attempted in good faith to resolve these issues with Plaintiff's counsel by notifying him by email but stated that he did not respond to her emails or to her follow-up phone messages. The Court ordered Plaintiff to file a written response to these motions, and Defendants filed oppositions to these motions on April 9, 2010. On April 16, 2010, the Court held a Status Hearing in which the parties discussed their various discovery disputes. See [21] Order (Apr. 16, 2010). The Court granted Defendants' Motion to Compel further deposition testimony from the Plaintiff on the ground that Plaintiff's counsel had improperly obstructed Defendants' counsel's questioning. During the Status Hearing, the parties suggested that the continued deposition be taken at the courthouse with a judge available to resolve any objections asserted by Plaintiff's counsel. Accordingly, the Court ordered the parties to confer and agree on a date for the deposition and then contact the Court to make further arrangements. See id. The Court scheduled a further Status Hearing for May 27, 2010.

The parties ultimately scheduled the continued deposition of Plaintiff for May 24, 2010, and it was conducted in a spare courtroom in the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse. Although the parties initially proceeded without a judge present, the parties were unable to complete the deposition without contacting this Court's chambers to resolve objections asserted by Plaintiff's counsel. This Court presided over the remainder of the deposition.

On May 27, 2010, the Court held a Status Conference with counsel for both parties present. During the hearing, Defendants indicated that they planned to file a dispositive motion. Accordingly, the Court set forth the following briefing schedule (requested by the parties), which the Court also memorialized in a written order: Defendants shall file their Motion for Summary Judgment on or before July 9, 2010; Plaintiff shall file his Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on or before July 23, 2010; and Defendants shall file their Reply in support of their Motion for Summary Judgment on or before August 2, 2010. See [23] Order (May 27, 2010). The Court's Order also reminded the parties of their duty to comply with Local Rule LCvR 7(h) regarding motions for summary judgment. See id. On July 9, 2010, Defendants filed a [24] Consent Motion for Additional Time to Move for Summary Judgment, citing Defendants' counsel's illness. Defendants agreed to complete the motion over the weekend and file on Monday, July 12, 2010. Defendants also stated that they "will work cooperatively with plaintiff if the delay in filing causes him to need additional time to respond to the motion." The Court granted the motion for extension of time in a minute order, allowing Defendants to file their motion on July 12, 2010. See Min. Order (July 9, 2010). Because Plaintiff did not request an extension of time for his opposition, the Court did not change the other deadlines set by the Court.

On July 12, 2010, Defendants filed their [25] Motion for Summary Judgment. In their motion, Defendants argued that (1) Plaintiff's constitutional claims fail because Defendants Rodriguezgil and Brown had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff, did not use excessive force, and were entitled to qualified immunity; (2) Plaintiff's common law claim for false arrest fails because defendants Rodriguezgil and Brown had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff and a reasonable officer could believe that their actions were legal; (3) Plaintiff's common law assault and battery claim fails because Defendants Rodriguezgil and Brown used no more force than necessary to arrest Plaintiff; and (4) Plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress fails because Plaintiff cannot prove that Defendants intended to cause him severe emotional distress or that Defendants' conduct was so extreme and outrageous that it caused Plaintiff severe emotional distress.

Plaintiff failed to file a timely opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. According to the schedule ordered by the Court, Plaintiff's opposition was due on or before July 23, 2010.*fn1 On August 6, 2010-two weeks after Plaintiff's opposition was due-the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment as conceded. The Court exercised its discretion to enforce Local Civil Rule 7(b), which provides as follows:

Within 14 days of the date of service or at such other time as the Court may direct, an opposing party shall serve and file a memorandum of points and authorities in opposition to the motion. If such a memorandum is not filed within the prescribed time, the Court may treat the motion as conceded.

LCvR 7(b). The Court alternatively reviewed the merits of Defendants' motion for summary judgment based on the factual record provided by Defendants and which Plaintiff had failed to rebut. The Court ruled that there was probable cause for Plaintiff's arrest based on his admissions that he disobeyed Defendant Rodriguezgil's instructions to be quiet and continued to argue with him. The Court also ruled that according to Plaintiff's own description of events, the force used on him did not amount to force that a reasonable officer would find to be excessive in light of the circumstances. Finally, the Court ruled that there was no evidence in the record of outrageous conduct that could support Plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Accordingly, the Court alternatively ruled on the merits that Defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Plaintiff's motion to alter or amend the judgment is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). Rule 59(e) allows a district court to correct its own mistakes in the period immediately following the entry of a mistaken order. White v. N.H. Dep't of Emp't Sec., 455 U.S. 445, 450 (1982). "A Rule 59(e) motion is discretionary and 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 error or prevent manifest injustice." Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks omitted). A motion to reconsider under Rule 59(e) "is [neither] . . . an opportunity to reargue facts and theories upon which a court has already ruled nor a vehicle for presenting theories or arguments that could have been advanced earlier." SEC v. Bilzerian, 729 F. Supp. 2d 9, 14 (D.D.C. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). ...


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