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William E. Shea v. Hillary Clinton

March 23, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge


Before the Court are defendant's Motion for Reconsideration [93] and plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration of Four Matters [85] ("Shea Mot. Recons."). Each party requests reconsideration of the Court's denial of cross-motions for summary judgment, and each party requests reconsideration of part of the Court's order granting defendant's Motion for Leave to File and denying defendant's Motion to Strike. See generally Aug. 11, 2009 Mem. Order [69]; Feb. 2, 2010 Order [78]. At an April 6, 2011 status hearing, Judge Sullivan*fn1 stayed the proceedings until defendant's Motion for Reconsideration was fully briefed and addressed by the Court. Subsequently, plaintiff's Motion of Application of Judicial Estoppel to Defendant's Rule 56(f) Motion ("Estoppel Motion") [106], defendant's Consent Motion to Enlarge Time to Respond [107], and plaintiff's Motion for Clarification [108] were filed. Upon consideration of the parties' motions and supporting briefs, as well as the record upon which the original orders were based, the court will deny each party's Motion for Reconsideration, will grant defendant's Consent Motion to Enlarge Time to Respond, and will deny plaintiff's Motion for Clarification as moot.


This case is a long-running employment discrimination case in which Mr. William Shea ("Shea") alleges that the State Department ("State") violated his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq.). See generally Compl. [1].

A.Basis for the Complaint

State's Mid-Level Minority Hiring Program ("MLAAP") was in force when Shea was hired in 1992. See Mem. P. & A. Supp. Def.'s Mot. Recons. ("State Recons. P. & A.") at 3 (noting that the MLAAP ran from 1987 to 1993). Mid-level hiring allowed a Foreign Service candidate to be hired directly into a higher grade rather than into an entry-level grade. See Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. ("State MSJ") [46] Statement of Material Facts Not in Genuine Dispute ("State Mat. Facts") ¶ 6. Mid-level hiring required either a "certification of need" that an outside hire was required, or membership in one of a set of specified minority groups under the MLAAP.*fn2

See id. ¶ 7. Candidates for mid-level hiring were also required (a) to have substantial professional experience, (b) to receive a passing grade on an oral examination, and (c) to pass a background check. See id. ¶ 8. Shea alleged that he would have passed the screening process but was excluded from consideration for mid-level hiring solely on the basis of his race, as there was no certification of need. See Compl. ¶ 6. Specifically, Shea alleged harm because his hiring at entry-level rather than mid-level has subjected him to lower pay and fewer promotion opportunities than members of minority groups admitted under the MLAAP, on an ongoing basis, in violation of his rights under Title VII. See id. Shea also alleged constitutional violations, but the Court dismissed that claim, and Shea did not appeal the dismissal, State Recons. P. & A. at 8 n.5, so the Title VII claim is the only one before the Court.

B.Procedural History

The Court originally granted State's Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, on the basis that the statute of limitations had expired. See Sept. 30, 2003 Order [15]; Sept. 30, 2003 Mem. [16]. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed and remanded. Shea v. Rice, 409 F.3d 448 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (holding that each time an employer pays an employee less than another for a discriminatory reason, that pay event is a discrete discriminatory event with its own statute of limitations).

In light of the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007), which brought the D.C. Circuit's analysis into question, this Court granted State's Motion for Summary Judgment. Nov. 21, 2008 Order [64]; Nov. 21, 2008 Mem. [63]. While this case was again on appeal, Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-2, 123 Stat. 5 (2009), which abrogated the Supreme Court's holding in Ledbetter. The D.C. Circuit remanded for reconsideration in light of the intervening change of law. Shea v. Clinton, No. 08-5491, 2009 WL 1153448, at *1 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 2, 2009). This Court then denied the remaining portions of both parties' Motions for Summary Judgment. Aug. 11, 2009 Mem. Order [69]. State's subsequent Motion for Reconsideration was denied. Aug. 20, 2009 Order [71].

The parties have been in discovery since that time. Shea filed a new Motion for Summary Judgment*fn3 [74] and a subsequent Motion for Reconsideration [85] of the denial of his original Motion for Summary Judgment. On March 9, 2011, Judge Sullivan stayed proceedings in this case pending a status hearing on April 6, 2011, at which the parties were to address Shea's Motion for Reconsideration and answer the Court's questions regarding discovery. On April 5, 2011, State filed a second Motion for Reconsideration [93] of the denial of their Motion for Summary Judgment. At the April 6, 2011 hearing, Judge Sullivan extended the stay pending the parties fully briefing State's Motion for Reconsideration. See Apr. 8, 2011 Minute Order. The parties' motions for reconsideration and the subsequent motions filed after the stay are now before the Court.


A.Legal Standard

Both of the parties' motions for reconsideration request that the Court reevaluate its earlier interlocutory orders pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). State Recons. P. & A. at 1; Shea Mot. Recons. at 1. A court's interlocutory orders "may be revised at any time before the entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities." Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b). "[R]elief upon reconsideration . . . pursuant to Rule 54(b) is available 'as justice requires.'" Hoffman v. Dist. of Columbia, 681 F. Supp. 2d 86, 90 (D.D.C. 2010) (quoting Childers v. Slater, 197 F.R.D. 185, 190 (D.D.C. 2000)). Although Rule 54(b) provides the court with significant discretion, "in order to promote finality, predictability and economy of judicial resources, 'as a rule [a] court should be loathe to [revisit its own prior decisions] in the absence of extraordinary circumstances such as where the initial decision was clearly erroneous and would work a manifest injustice.'" Pueschel v. Nat'l Air Traffic Controllers' Ass'n, 606 F. Supp. 2d 82, 85 (D.D.C. 2009) (quoting Lederman v. United States, 539 F. Supp. 2d 1, 2 (D.D.C. 2008)). Clear errors of law are grounds for reconsideration of a prior order. See Nat'l Ctr. for Mfg. Sciences v. Dep't of Def., 199 F.3d 507, 511 (D.C. Cir. 2000). "Reconsideration may be warranted where there was a patent misunderstanding of the parties, where a decision was made that exceeded the issues presented, where a court failed to consider controlling law, or where a significant change in the law occurred after the decision was rendered. The moving party has the burden of showing that reconsideration is warranted, and that some harm or injustice would result if reconsideration were to be denied." Pueschel, 606 F. Supp. 2d at 85 (internal citations omitted).

B.Application of the Legal Standard

Both parties filed their motions for reconsideration after this case was transferred from Judge Robertson to Judge Sullivan. See Pl.'s Reply to Def.'s Opp. to Pl.'s Mot. Recons. [89] at 2 (noting that Shea filed his motion to allow Judge Sullivan to "fix legal errors [of] the previous judge."); Apr. 6, 2011 Tr. at 13 (explaining that State filed its motion despite internal debate over the propriety of doing so based on the change of judge). Parties should not use motions for reconsideration to attempt to relitigate matters already settled. See Solomon v. Univ. of S. Cal., 255 F.R.D. 303, 305 (D.D.C. 2009) (such motions "may not be used to relitigate old matters" (internal citations and quotations omitted)). This is State's second request for reconsideration of the legal standard under which the MLAAP should be analyzed, see generally Def.'s Mot. Recons. [70], and normally this request would be denied outright. However, because the prior motion was denied without a supporting memorandum, Aug. 20, 2009 Order [71], the Court is entertaining this particular question again in order to more fully explain its reasoning. The Court is applying ...

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