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West v. Holder

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 16, 2015

ARTHUR S. WEST, Plaintiff,
ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., et al., Defendants.


JOHN D. BATES, District Judge.

Plaintiff Arthur West filed a pro se complaint in January 2014 against the United States Department of Justice and Washington State officials. West claimed the federal government's alleged involvement in Washington's legalization of recreational marijuana use violated several provisions of the United States Constitution (including the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as the Supremacy and Guarantee Clauses), the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), and the Administrative Procedure Act. Am. Compl. [ECF No. 14] at 11-12, 18-19. The supposed federal involvement included a memorandum issued by Deputy Attorney General James Cole, which, according to West, "approv[ed] State recreational marijuana legalization schemes" and subjected states to "coercive federal conditions and requirements." Id. at 11; see also Mem. From James M. Cole (Aug. 29, 2013), available at (hereinafter "Cole Memo").

In August 2014, however, this Court granted the state defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. See West v. Holder, 60 F.Supp. 3d 190, 192 (D.D.C. 2014) (hereinafter "West I"). Then, in February 2015, this Court granted the federal defendants' motion to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), concluding that West had no Article III standing, and that the Department of Justice's exercise of prosecutorial discretion was presumptively unreviewable. See West v. Holder, 60 F.Supp. 3d 197, 204 (D.D.C. 2015) (hereinafter "West II"). In a submission received March 27, 2015, West has asked the Court to reconsider that February decision.[1] That motion is now ripe, but for the reasons explained below, this Court will deny West's motion.


Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly address motions for reconsideration, see Lance v. United Mine Workers for Am. 1974 Pension Trust, 400 F.Supp.2d 29, 31 (D.D.C. 2005), a motion to reconsider a final judgment is generally treated as a Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b) motion, see Anyanwutaku v. Moore, 151 F.3d 1053, 1057 (D.C. Cir. 1998); Roane v. Gonzales, 832 F.Supp.2d 61, 64 (D.D.C. 2011). A similar analysis applies to West's motion under either rule. See Elec. Privacy Info. Cntr. v. U.S. Dept. of Homeland Sec., 811 F.Supp.2d 216, 224 (D.D.C. 2011).

That said, a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend a judgment must be made within twenty-eight days after the entry of judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). The Court does not have the authority to extend this deadline. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(2); Lightfoot v. Dist. of Columbia, 555 F.Supp.2d 61, 65 (D.D.C. 2008) ("District Courts do not have discretion to enlarge Rule 59(e)'s timing requirement."). And here, West's motion for reconsideration was made on March 27, 2015- forty-six days after this Court's final judgment on February 9-which means West's motion is untimely under Rule 59(e).[2]

This leaves Rule 60(b), and this Court will characterize West's motion for reconsideration as a motion for relief from final judgment under that rule. See Computer Prof'ls for Soc. Responsibility v. U.S. Secret Serv., 72 F.3d 897, 903 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (finding that "[a]n untimely motion under Rule 59(e) may be considered as a motion under Rule 60(b)"). "[A] district court enjoys significant discretion in deciding whether to grant or deny a Rule 60(b) motion." Id . And the cases are quite clear that "Rule 60(b) is not a vehicle for presenting theories or arguments that could have been raised previously.'" Walsh v. Hagee, 10 F.Supp. 3d 15, 19 (D.D.C. 2013) (quoting Fund for Animals v. Williams, 311 F.Supp.2d 1, 5 (D.D.C. 2004)). Finally, "[m]otions for reconsideration are disfavored' and granting... such a motion is... an unusual measure.'" Id. at 18 (quoting Cornish v. Dudas, 813 F.Supp.2d 147, 148 (D.D.C. 2011)). West thus bears a heavy burden of proof, as he must demonstrate that there are extraordinary circumstances in this case that justify post-judgment relief. See id.


Before discussing the merits, it is necessary to clarify the status of this Court's jurisdiction. On April 1, West filed a notice of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. See Notice of Appeal [ECF No. 32] at 1. In the usual case, filing a notice of appeal "confers jurisdiction on the court of appeals and divests the district court of control over those aspects of the case involved in the appeal." Griggs v. Provident Consumer Disc. Co., 459 U.S. 56, 58 (1982) (per curiam). However, if a Rule 60(b) motion and an appeal are pending at the same time, the district court may consider the motion. LaRouche v. U.S. Dep't of Treasury, 112 F.Supp.2d 48, 51-52 (D.D.C. 2000). If the district court decides to grant relief and issue an indicative ruling, the appellant may move the appellate court to remand the case so that relief may be granted. If the district court decides to deny the motion for reconsideration, it has the authority to do so while the appeal is pending. Id . (citing Smith v. Pollin, 194 F.2d 349, 350 (D.C. Cir. 1952)). Therefore, notwithstanding the pending appeal, this Court has the authority to both consider and deny West's motion for reconsideration.[3]

Turning to the merits, then, West argues for reconsideration due to his discovery of "new evidence previously unavailable" and (supposed) "plain error[s]" in the Court's application of the law. Pl.'s Mot. at 1, 8. The provisions relevant to such claims are Rule 60(b)(2), which grants relief due to "newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b), " and Rule 60(b)(6), which grants relief for "any other reason that justifies relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(2), (6); see also Robinson Reeder v. Am. Council on Educ., 674 F.Supp.2d 49, 59 (D.D.C. 2009) (finding that an allegation of "massive errors" is properly characterized as a motion pursuant to Rule 60(b)(6)).[4] But neither provision supports West's motion. First, Rule 60(b)(2) relief is not warranted because West's new evidence is merely cumulative and would not change the outcome of the case. Second, relief under Rule 60(b)(6) is likewise inappropriate because West has not identified any extraordinary circumstances rising to the level of clear error or manifest injustice.


West's "new" evidence does not justify relief from this Court's final judgment. Under Rule 60(b)(2), West must demonstrate: "(1) the newly discovered evidence is of facts that existed at the time of trial or other dispositive proceeding; (2) the party seeking relief was justifiably ignorant of the evidence despite due diligence; (3) the evidence is admissible and is of such importance that it probably would have changed the outcome; and (4) the evidence is not merely cumulative or impeaching." Duckworth v. United States ex rel. Locke, 808 F.Supp.2d 210, 216 (D.D.C. 2011).

West offers new evidence in both his motion for reconsideration and a ninety-two page declaration of "new evidence not available to the plaintiff prior to filing his Motion to Reconsider." Pl.'s Civ. Statement [ECF No. 41] ("Civ. Statement") at 1. That evidence is quite wide-ranging. It includes: additional facts about a marijuana store near the Olympia Food Coop; complaints filed in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado alleging, among other things, that marijuana businesses make bad neighbors; a Washington State Bill Analysis of HB 2000 stating that the Cole Memo is widely interpreted to allow states to proceed with legalization efforts; a Thurston County Superior Court order finding that the Washington State Liquor Control Board violated the Open Public Meetings Act on seventeen occasions; minutes from a Washington law enforcement meeting that involved local and federal agencies; a letter from Washington mayors referring to "eight mandates for legalized marijuana from the federal government"; a 2014 Washington city and county marijuana policy agenda; a declaration by James Barber; Washington State Bill SSSB 5052, which, West claims, imposes hardships on medical marijuana users; and Bill Reports for SSSB 5052 and SSHB 2136 referencing the Cole Memo.[5] Pl's Mot. at 2-3, 10-18, 24-40; see also Civ. Statement at 1-92.

This may be quite a bit of "evidence, " but none of it justifies reconsideration under Rule 60(b)(2). To start, West has not met his burden of proving that (1) the evidence speaks to facts that existed at the time of this Court's dispositive proceeding, and (2) he was justifiably ignorant of such evidence despite due diligence. See Norris v. Salazar, 277 F.R.D. 22, 25 (D.D.C. 2011) (finding party seeking relief under Rule 60(b) bears the burden of proof). For example, the Thurston Superior Court order is dated October 31, 2014; the minutes are from a meeting in 2013; the policy agenda is for 2014; and it is not clear whether the allegedly harmful effect of SSSB 5052 existed at the time of the dispositive proceeding. All of this evidence therefore ...

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