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Bennett v. Donovan

United States District Court, District Circuit

December 4, 2013

ROBERT BENNETT, et al., Plaintiffs,
SHAUN DONOVAN Secretary, Housing and Urban Development, Defendant.



Plaintiffs sued Shaun Donovan in his official capacity as the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") challenging the validity of regulations implementing HUD's Home Equity Conversion Mortgage ("HECM") program. (Compl., Mar. 8, 2011 [ECF No. 1].) Initially this Court dismissed plaintiffs' case for lack of standing on redressability grounds. See Bennett v. Donovan, 797 F.Supp.2d 69, 74-78 (D.D.C. 2011). The Court of Appeals reversed. See Bennett v. Donovan, 703 F.3d 582, 590 (D.C. Cir. 2013). On remand, this Court granted summary judgment for plaintiffs holding that HUD regulations violated the Housing and Community Development Act of 1987's requirement that reverse mortgage loan obligations must be deferred until the death of both the homeowner and the homeowner's spouse. Bennett v. Donovan, 2013 WL 5424708, at *5 (Sept. 30, 2013). The Court remanded the case to HUD for further proceedings consistent with that opinion. (Order, Sept. 30, 2013 [ECF No. 43].) Relying on Fed.R.Civ.P. 59 and 65, plaintiffs now seek to amend that remedy to include injunctive relief. (Pls.' Mot. to Alter or Amend J., Oct. 28, 2013 [ECF No. 44] ("Mot."), at 4.) For the reasons stated below, plaintiffs' motion will be denied.


Plaintiffs filed their initial complaint on March 8, 2011. Shortly thereafter, they filed for a preliminary injunction to prevent their mortgagees (lenders) from foreclosing on their homes while the case was pending. (Mot. for Preliminary Injunction, March 31, 2011 [ECF No. 2].) In exchange for plaintiffs withdrawing their preliminary injunction motion, defendants agreed to ask plaintiffs' lenders to suspend any foreclosure actions until the case was resolved and the lenders immediately complied. ( See Mot. at 2; Notice of Withdrawal of Mot. for Preliminary Injunction, April 8, 2011 [ECF No. 11].)

Following remand from the Court of Appeals, this Court issued a Memorandum Opinion on September 30, 2013, granting plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and remanding the case to HUD for further proceedings consistent with that opinion. See Bennett, 2013 WL 5424708, at *7 (Sept. 30, 2013). Though successful on the merits, plaintiffs were dissatisfied with the Court's remedy. Plaintiffs therefore requested that defendant consent to a motion to amend the Court's judgment to require defendant "not to instruct lenders to foreclose" and to "take any action necessary to prevent foreclosures against plaintiffs' homes, " while the agency considered the issue on remand. ( See Mot. at 1-2 & n.1). In the alternative, plaintiffs requested that the defendant agree to make an on-the-record stipulation to this effect. ( Id. at 1 n.1.) In plaintiffs' view, this request was "narrowly tailored to maintain[] the status quo while Defendant complie[d] with the Court's judgment and order." ( Id. at 1.)

Defendants declined to join plaintiffs' motion or enter such a stipulation.[1] ( Id. at 1 n.1; Def.'s Opp. to Pls.' Mot. to Alter or Amend J., Nov. 8, 2013 [ECF No. 45] ("Opp."), at 7.) From defendant's perspective, the agreement to maintain the status quo during the pendency of the litigation was not affected by this Court's September 30 Memorandum Opinion and Order. (Opp. at 6.) Though the agency argues that it "does not possess the statutory authority to compel mortgagees to refrain from foreclosure, " it has "never altered or withdrawn... and has reiterated its request that mortgagees refrain from foreclosure during the period of any remand to HUD." ( Id. (citing Bene Decl.).) As of October 28, 2013, the mortgagees informed defendant that the relevant foreclosure proceedings remain on hold per the Agency's request. (Bene Decl. ΒΆ 6.). Yet, unsatisfied by defendant's assurances, plaintiffs filed the present motion.



A. Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment Under Rule 59(e)

District courts have substantial discretion in ruling on motions under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). Piper v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 312 F.Supp.2d 17, 20 (D.D.C. 2004) ("The district court has considerable discretion in ruling on a Rule 59(e) motion."). Granting such a motion is an unusual measure limited to extraordinary circumstances. See Fields v. Vilsack, 841 F.Supp.2d 282, 285 (D.D.C. 2012) (citing Liberty Prop. Trust v. Republic Props. Corp., 570 F.Supp.2d 95, 97 (D.D.C.2008)). Generally, motions for altering or amending judgment are granted only where the party is able to demonstrate "an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice." In re Navy Chaplaincy, 850 F.Supp.2d 86, 92 (D.D.C. 2012); see also Anyanwutaku v. Moore, 151 F.3d 1053, 1057-58 (D.C. Cir. 1998)). Such motions are "not simply an opportunity to reargue facts and theories upon which a court has already ruled." New York v. United States, 880 F.Supp. 37, 38 (D.D.C.1995).

B. Injunctive Relief Under Rule 65

Though not formally styled as a preliminary injunction motion, plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend judgment also seeks post-judgment injunctive relief under Fed.R.Civ.P. 65. (Mot. at 4). A preliminary injunction under Rule 65 is "an extraordinary remedy that may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief." Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008). The factors a court must consider when determining whether a preliminary injunction is appropriate are: (1) the movant's showing of a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, (2) irreparable harm to the movant, (3) whether there is substantial harm to the non-movant, and (4) public interest. Davis v. Pension Benefit Guar. Corp., 571 F.3d 1288, 1291 (D.C. Cir. 2009). "The basis for injunctive relief in the federal courts has always been irreparable harm and inadequacy of legal remedies." Wisconsin Gas Co. v. F.E.R.C., 758 F.2d 669, 674 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (citing Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 88, 94 (1974)).


Plaintiffs do not seek to amend or alter this Court's judgment on the merits. Rather, they only seek to modify the remedy. ( See Pls.' Reply Mem. in Further Support of Their Mot. to Alter or Amend the J., Nov. 15, 2013 [ECF No. 46] ("Reply"), at 2.) The Court declines ...

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